Today the 2015 Indie Travel Challenge challenged us to donate 3 items and write about it. Turns out I’m a master at giving things away, so I’m going to let you in on why I usually prefer to donate stuff than sell it.
First, I’m not a minimalistic person.
I like funky thrift store clothes. I like having nice kitchen stuffs. I like that pretty pair of high heels I’ll wear that one time 8 months ago I actually dressed up. So when I’m stationary, I like to have things – but eventually I look at my things and go “Oh my god, when did I get all this stuff?” Once I realize I can’t fit my life in my car, I start to freak out and need to purge.
Giving away items is surprisingly freeing.
There is suddenly less clutter, you are able to move easier. I also like the internal debate of “I might want this. Will I actually ever use this? Can I sell it? Will someone else use it more than me? Do I really want to carry that?”. It’s like a game of wills with myself and I like games of will.
Now I’m a big proponent of donating things, usually because I wait until the last minute and don’t have time to sell items. I also would rather give my items to someone who needs them, then sell them to the highest bidder. But I recently had a yard sale because I needed money. For a few hours each over two days, I put all my clothes and random items on the lawn and hung out with my roommate and our puppy, drank coffee, and played worked on social media on my phone – instead of doing these exact same things on the couch in the living room. It took very little effort, maybe an hour each day to set up and break down, and I made $80 (which isn’t bad for a bunch of girl clothes and some costume trimmings). It can be boring in between people coming to snatch up your unwanted items, but yard sales are effortless. And since this was a “please take my stuff” yard sale (versus a “I want to make money” yard sale) my ‘right price’ was $1 for just about everything. The 3 items that weren’t a dollar were so ridiculously cheap, people didn’t even try to haggle.
(Bonus, I met a neighbor who has traveled and lived all over the world, and told us stories of her adventures for an hour. Super inspiring & interesting).
But after a yard sale, you will undoubtedly have items left over. What do you do with those?
Donating isn’t usually a just ‘walk in drop your stuff’ event. Many times the person working is either passionate about the cause you are donating too, or someone the charity helped, and this is their way of paying it back. When you donate to these people, their sincere gratefulness is infectious, and you leave understanding that you just helped someone.
You don’t just have to donate to the bigger chains, like Salvation Army or Savers either. I once donated an entire darkroom setup to a teacher at a school in Vegas, whom I learned about from a random person (now friend) at work. This teacher, on his own, ran a school photo lab for 30 kids but they only had 4 enlargers (one of which had recently broke). When I heard this, I knew my darkroom kit would much better be used and appreciated by a classroom of students than sold to some random person on eBay who may never actually use it.
My preference of giving away versus selling was instilled on me as a child.
When I was in kindergarten my mom volunteered at one of those ‘Secret Santa‘ places that collects toys for poor kids. I went in with her a couple times to play with the toys make sure the toys work. I saw behind the scenes of this organization; people dropping stuff off, others, like my mom, sorting through them, and piles of toys that would turn into Christmas for kids. I learned that there were kids my age whose families didn’t have money for toys, and without these, they would have no Christmas. I remember thinking how sad it would be to have no Christmas.
Sometime later, 5 or 6 year old me packed up some of my toys, including my favourite doll, and with tears in my eyes, brought them downstairs for mom to give to poor kids. My mom tried to tell me I didn’t have to do this, and I could keep my doll, but all I could think of was another girl NOT having a doll. My doll made me so happy. I wanted another girl to be that happy too.
I bawled the whole time I gave my doll away.
(My eyes are actually tearing up right now writing this. No joke. To the point I’m actually blinking back tears while sitting, writing this in a coffee shop in Medellin, Colombia. I don’t even remember what the doll looked like anymore, but I vividly remember how I felt that day. I don’t know if I was sadder that I would never see my doll again, or that there were girls, just like me, who had never owned a doll before).
I didn’t know until I got much older that this year, this same year I’m giving away my favourite items and mom is volunteering to make sure kids have Christmas, my parents were going through a tough time and didn’t have any money for Christmas themselves. Christmas morning the doorbell rang and my parents opened it to find toys and food to cook dinner on our porch. We know it was mom’s friend who also worked at the Secret Santa place, (even though she denies it to this day). It was much later in life, when I learned about this, I realized that even when my parents didn’t have presents for us, and weren’t always sure how we’d eat, they were still helping others, and teaching us kids to count our blessings. Because some kids have never owned a toy.
So donating things has been instilled in me since I was a child. When trying to figure out what to do with all your stuff before a big trip (or anytime really), sit back, look at it, look at how much you rarely use, or what you really don’t need, and think about how much it could help another person. Think about someone who has never had anything and how stuff you could live without. Then give that shit away.
Because everything you donate could literally be some child’s Christmas or birthday.
About Dani Blanchette
I am a freelance travel and music photographer and creator of GoingNomadic.com.
I love music, food, and exploring cities without guidebooks. I’ve flown a helicopter, hitchhiked down the east coast USA, and once snuck into the back of a zoo (in Serbia) and pet a lion.
I am always up for an adventure, and sometimes I videotape them.