What To Do With Clothing Donations During Coronavirus

“Keep or toss” has become far more complicated in the time of COVID-19.

When life gives you a self-quarantine order during the coronavirus pandemic, it also gives you newfound time to actually organize your closet. Make that all of your closets. Maybe the cabinets, drawers and everywhere else clutter has been lurking, too.

“Now is the perfect time since folks are already at home and have time … two of the biggest excuses for not organizing have just been removed,” professional organizer Andrew Mellen told HuffPost. He has created an online “De-Stress Your Mess Challenge” from April 13-18 to offer guidance, support and, perhaps most importantly, some structure to the big task ahead.

Samantha Blumenthal, spokesperson for online clothing consignment shop thredUP, says that the fresh impulse to declutter your closet goes beyond checking off the final item on a vintage to-do list. “During these uncertain times, cleaning and organizing your home can provide a sense of order and control over your environment,” she said.

But no matter the reason behind the project, there will be a hurdle to clear: Donating clothing, accessories and anything else you’re willing to part with might not be possible right now. COVID-19 social distancing measures have brought mandatory closures of nonessential businesses and stay-at-home orders to most states. As a result, it’s likely that your favorite thrift store is closed for shopping and donating.

“Currently, 98% of Goodwill [retail stores] have closed,” said Lauren Lawson-Zilai, senior director of public relations at Goodwill Industries International. (However, 16 locations are still able to accept donations as of April 8.)

All but 16 Goodwill donation centers were closed as of April 8.
Brett_Hondow via Getty Images
All but 16 Goodwill donation centers were closed as of April 8.

Clothing donations to The Salvation Army Family Stores involve some research: You may still be able to drop off clothing on a location-by-location basis, including stand-alone donation drop boxes.

Smaller community thrift stores are also impacted by COVID-19, from the Jersey Shore Rescue Mission’s thrift shop in Asbury Park, New Jersey, to Community Thrift Store in San Francisco. Pickup services like GreenDrop (the third-party partner for clothing pickups for the Purple Heart Foundation, American Red Cross, National Federation of the Blind and St. Vincent de Paul) have also temporarily ceased operations as well.

Even if your local donation center isn’t closed, there’s reason to take caution with clothing that may be contaminated with the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says evidence suggests that the novel coronavirus may remain viable for hours to days on a variety of surfaces and materials, which include clothing.

While it may be a while before thrift stores reopen, keep in mind there will be a need for clothing, accessories and home goods in the future. “Don’t let this temporary situation slow you down or create an opportunity to procrastinate,” Mellen said. “You’ll still feel so much better when you open your closet and only the things you love are there for you to find and wear. And every time you look at one of the bags of donations, you’ll feel that much prouder of your achievements.”

Depending on the type of items you had in your closet, Mellen adds that it may be possible to consign them. For instance, TheRealReal is still accepting potential consignments of designer clothes and accessories. If you happen to have designer home items, art and accessories taking up space, Sotheby’s Home is holding virtual appointments for all consignments.

At thredUP, which accepts labels ranging from designer to Target, closet clean-out bags are still accepted by mail (though expect longer processing times due to volume). “If you’re cleaning out for peace of mind rather than a payout, ordering a donation bag is a great option that allows you to turn clothes into cash for charities like Feeding America,” Blumenthal said.

If your charitable impulse goes beyond clothes, you may find that you can still support your local thrift store in a different way. “In local communities everywhere, Goodwills have been focusing their efforts on community relief,” Lawson-Zilai said. “Goodwills are using their donation sites as a means to collect first aid supplies such as unused gloves, masks and hand sanitizer for local medical personnel.” To find out what you can do in your neighborhood, visit goodwill.org and search by ZIP code or call 1-800-GOODWILL.

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