Thrift stores have been closed for about a month now. That’s a sentence I thought I’d never write, but knee-deep into COVID-19 with no relief in sight, we’re all just hoping that things get better. I’m publishing this a month after I’m writing this, so maybe things will have gotten better. It’s hard to say. I went to drive around yesterday and look at what’s changed, specifically, whether thrift stores received any illegally dumped donations.
I had been scanning barcodes on books and other media I wanted to get rid of and the two boxes I’ve abstracted in the photo below represent the media I wanted to donate below and the media I wanted to sell above. With these COVID-19 current events, thrift stores are temporarily [as of this writing] closed. Will they reopen after this essay publishes? Should I just recycle or throw out everything instead of donate it?
Go to thrift stores when they open and you might find these rolling trash bins. When these larger stores have sales, like ‘green tags are 50% off this week only,’ the week after, when it’s blue-tag-week, those unsold green tag items get thrown in these bins to be destroyed. Don’t let your hoarding empathies kick in. Buy something if you need it or love it, but not just because it’s cheap or it might be destroyed.
I have acquired many books I want to read, yet my mind constantly encourages me to visit more thrift stores, bookstores, and acquire – rather than read – more. Is it, then, easier to own than read? What if we adjust our thinking away from “acquiring” to “finishing” as the biggest obstacle in completing tasks? We can oversaturate our task-acquisition to anything we want making us spoiled by choice. What if we oversaturate our task-finishing time instead?
The saddest thing about browsing through thrift stores is seeing these mementos of lives once lived. Family photos and personalized notes written with love are heart-breaking, but all part of the general progression of life. Every rainfall destroys priceless artifacts. When I think about my time working in a thrift store, I remember the priority for the sorters was speed. The furniture department worried about quality, but for the miscellaneous items, just price and go.
In 2013, ‘I was unemployed and looking for work, so I thought it would be a good idea to work at a thrift store. I thought it would be fun. I was wrong.’ I’ve written about some of these experiences years later, but I uncovered this essay from that time, so let’s read, together, my thoughts on working there. I’ll edit anything out that’s too personal or too weird, otherwise, this was how it was like…
I might actually be in the clear now to move into a one-bedroom apartment, having sacrificed my yearly outing to a concert festival for downsizing my storage room nicknamed “Zeal.” It’s such a relief knowing I will not be a slave to materialism, but the cost is giving up certain events like this over the next few months… I wasn’t really aching to go, but if my schedule were freer, I absolutely would have gone.
Each motherboard is a different puzzle to both assess for resale value and dismantle for scrap value. Sometimes you’d get the old school ones where the soldered-on batteries and huge heat sinks would be a pain to snap off. Other times you’d develop a rhythm after scraping your hundredth slightly-outdated board. What surprised me about the recycling company most was how infrequently we’d consider selling them online. Waiting for $20 versus getting a quick X-cents/pound, perhaps?
I can only speak from my experiences working at a big-box thrift store for a few months, years ago, but I’ll never forget baling thousands of pounds of clothing per hour, and despite putting in my best efforts, still being a slower worker than a man well past retirement age. So when I donate my depreciated clothing, I/they don’t care if it’s worn or damaged: they’ll bale everything except soiled materials and sell them overseas.
I don’t believe in the power of donating to companies to provide for my community. After throwing myriad items into the trash compactor, some better than what I own, and watching these kind-hearted gestures from you and me become destroyed for no other reason than because these items were old stock or didn’t sell, while I may still donate and buy from thrift stores, it’s with all altruistic façades removed. Sobriety is like that, too.