How To Do Charity Right At Christmas


Let’s be real here. It’s Christmas. It’s not always like the TV movies promise. You’re going to schlep home to your family and yes, parts of it will be magical, the lights will twinkle and you’ll be suffused with yuletide cheer and goodwill to all men.

And a lot of it will be about wrapping and unwrapping underwear with an open mouth grin that you hope to God closely approximates gratitude and familial regard.

For instance, this year I underwent a ritual that will be familiar to all those who are products of a somewhat problematic divorced family setup: Fake Pre-Christmas.

The Present Problem

Well, the thing about Fake Pre-Christmas is that its expectational weight is even higher than at regular Christmas – because the setup is, by definition, contrived the need for everyone to have a Cheery Good Time to counteract this unspoken feeling is very, very high. To be honest, even the waiters at the Holiday Inn where we convened were beginning to feel the pressure. You cannot refuse anything at Fake Christmas. The gifts must be ostentatious, arrive in multiples and the thank-yous must be sincere.

It also means you end up laden with a bunch of odd items gifted by people who only see you once a year and have very little idea of what your life is. In my case, I received from my father a pair of Juicy Couture diamond earrings that I would never wear, a Kate Spade hair clip and some lacy Victoria’s Secret thongs that would engender some complex Freudian analysis if lingered upon for too long, a mini hair straightener and some purple fluffy slipper-boots. I love my father. But he seems to think I am a 19 year old sorority girl. I am almost 30, I am almost entirely constructed of cardigans and I do not know how to deal with this kind of thing. However, it does allow us, here and now, a chance to discuss how to donate your unwanted stuff to charity so that some good comes out of this whole thong situation.

The Thong Situation or, Can I Donate Underwear?

It’s not unusual in a Christmas situation, to end up with underwear that poses a problem. You’ll be pleased to know, however, that most charity shops will accept underwear as long as it has clearly never been worn – we’re talking tags on, pristine from the bag. If the tags have been removed then things become a little more tricky. Think about it – would you buy maybe-used underwear from a thrift store? Ideally, no-one should have to deal with this kind of crotch-based ambiguity. If the underwear looks in any way questionable, a better strategy would be to donate it to a clothes bank. Clothes bank don’t necessarily sell on the items to the consumer but can instead package them as scrap fabric to be up cycled. The most important thing is to be mindful of where you donate so that nothing goes to waste. There is a similar issue with pierced earrings – jewellery has to be hygienic if a shop is to take it. Luckily, if you can hand it over with its packaging intact then you are much less likely to encounter problems. People are much more picky about underwear for some reason.

What about my mini hair straighteners? or, The Electronics Issue

A lot of charity shops have to refuse electronic items (that is to say, items that require plugging into a wall socket) as they are unable to guarantee their electrical safety. It’s important that you check with your preferred donation site before you hand them a bunch of stuff that will just malinger in their back room until someone has time to take them to the scrap section of the dump. Some shops do have the facility to PAT test items and sell them on, so don’t discount them until you know the score. However, perhaps a simpler way would be to sell the electronics yourself on eBay or Amazon. When you make a listing, you have an option to give a percentage or the entirety of your profit to charity, and this can be an excellent way of ensuring the item finds a good home and that the proceeds go to your preferred good cause.

Christmas can be pretty tough. It’s easy to get hung up on the commercial stuff (sample internal dialogue to be avoided: “this Kate Spade clip proves that you know nothing about me”) But it is easy to unburden yourself both physically and emotionally if you look at the weird items you have been given as a chance to make someone else’s life a little bit better, their hair a little straighter. Remember, we’re all only human and not all thongs are symbolic. Merry Christmas!

Author Byline:  Lara Mullveany is a blogger who writes about family, volunteering and staying out of the fetal position.

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