I recently visited a local, small-town museum (which shall remain anonymous) and when visiting with one of the docents about what I do, we began chatting about antiques, and the topic of donations came up. She confessed that the museum had an entire basement filled with antiques that were donated by locals, none of which are on display. They try to be selective, she said, but it’s hard to turn folks down. So these antiques have become a burden to the museum society, not a blessing. These antiques are now something to be stored, not something that is treasured.
It can be hard to let go of your stuff, and even harder when you don’t really know what to do with it. You don’t want to throw it out, so I think folks donate their items to charity or a local museum as a way of making themselves feel better.
Ask yourself: are you donating things that can actually be put to use by the organization? Are the items you are donating broken, stained, dusty, dirty or out of date? If so, you are simply shifting the burden of throwing out those objects from yourself to the charity. You are not blessing them with your donation – you are burdening them with another problem to deal with.
One method I use in my personal life, if I have an odd object that doesn’t seem like an easy donation to make (yet likely doesn’t have a lot of re-sale value), is I give it away for “free.” You can set things out on the curb with a FREE sign and you’d be amazed what gets picked up. You can also list things online (Craigslist or Facebook) for free and set it out on the curb for pick up. This way, I feel that someone who really wants this item, and can make use of it, is getting it directly.
I did this recently with a collection of old, poor-condition books in Norwegian that came from my parent’s house (passed down from grandparents and great-aunts and uncles). These books had torn covers, mold issues, and were written in a language that no one in my family speaks anymore. I wasn’t going to do anything with them, and I figured that there were people out there who might like to look through them, re-sell them, or do some kind of craft project with them. I didn’t care – as long as they were out of my house! So I listed them for free and within 24 hours they were picked up and on to live their next chapter with someone who intentionally wanted them enough to come and pick them up.
So the next time, before you donate something, truly ask yourself if this item will be a blessing or a burden to the person or organization you are donating it to.