Donating Your Unwanted Clothes: Why Charity Shops Aren’t The Solution

image of bags dumped outside charity shop

Regularly donating stuff to the charity shop is not a sustainable solution for ridding your home of clutter.

It may not have escaped your attention that most charity shops are now inundated with stuff, fast fashion in particular. These days, I always ask if they are accepting donations before I drop anything off and, 70% of the time, they aren’t. I’ve also found that those that are accepting donations often don’t have a choice and are towing the head office party line. Many now have signs stating that they are unable to accept further donations. Whilst I do still contribute to charity, I’ve held back from taking my unwanted belongings to high street branches.


Never, ever leave your unwanted clothes outside a charity shop just because it’s closed and your time poor, or don’t want the hassle of having to come back another time. It is fly-tipping and illegal. Not to say downright irresponsible and unethical and highly inconsiderate towards the volunteers who have to sift through the bags and piles of unwanted stuff. I’ve seen it all too often and it’s up there with leaving clothes in front of charity bins in car parks (the worst offenders are duvets left out in the rain and not even bagged up).

So what’s the solution?

I hate to say it, but don’t amass the stuff in the first place. I accept that this may not be a helpful solution in the short-term, particularly if you’re making a concerted effort to declutter and I would of course not want to discourage you from doing that. Here are a couple of workarounds:

  • charity bins in car parks (if they’re not already full)
  • take advantage of the charity bags posted through the letterbox – the target market for your donations
  • weigh-in your unwanted clothes and make a bit of cash – you won’t get much per kg but at least your clothes are being sent where they’re needed
  • clothes swap events
  • donations to friends and family
  • send your clothes abroad
  • in-shop donations – Marks & Spencer, TK Maxx both advocate this

Since 2008 the M&S and Oxfam Shwopping partnership have collected 20 million+ items, worth an estimated £16m for Oxfam’s work


logo for marks and spencer shwopping initiative

Every item you add to one of Marks & Spencer’s Shwop boxes is either resold, reused or recycled. This allows Oxfam to fund all sorts of vital projects around the world and helps put an end to poverty.

So next time you’re clearing a space in your wardrobe, drop any unwanted clothes into your bag and drop them off in a Shwop box at your nearest M&S.

TK Maxx donates your unwanted clothes, accessories, and homewares to Cancer Research UK. The charity then sells them in their high street shops. This raises vital funds for life-saving research to help beat children’s cancers. If they cannot be sold, they are repurposed or recycled.

What to do?

Not living a life of mindless accumulation. Rid your life of stuff and maintain it. Buy the best quality clothes you can afford and which will last, not unethically-manufactured fast fashion (either new from shops or second-hand from charity shops or clothes-swap events). Regular charity donations are not a solution to the problem. The solution lies with you.

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