We moved into our house in 2006. The living room was a blank slate with cozy carpet. We filled it with gifted furniture and made it into a place where aptly named, we lived. It was our place—the space where our family gathered, and friends sat as we shared life together. The room and the furniture in it were well-loved.
When you have four kids, two parents, and a dog who insists on eating the couch, your furniture starts to look less than new. We were so ready for a fresh start in our living room when we finally had the opportunity to redo the space this past month.
But what were we to do with our used furniture? What were our options? Could and should we donate it?
Who wants chewed up cushions? No takers? A recliner now broken in two? What about a loveseat with once comfy micro-suede that now looks more shiny than soft?
Maybe someone? Likely not someone who is looking for furniture for their house. Perhaps someone who could repurpose it in some way or fix it up? Sure, maybe, they could use it.
In redoing our living room, it has me thinking about donations. I know the donation world. I live in the donation world as a volunteer Advocate with The Forgotten Initiative. We receive donations every day. But, when should we actually donate items, and where should we donate them if we’re going to do so?
Let me offer just two guiding principles that I’ve learned as I’ve given and received donations.
1. Donations come at a cost.
Many nonprofits and ministries are run by volunteers. Our very active TFI ministry is led by a handful of gals and guys who spend their free time helping others engage with the foster care community while they also balance work and family. It might seem helpful to drop off your gently used goods so that you can support others, and honestly, it might be useful. Before you make the drop-off though, or even offer, I’d challenge you to think about those that are sorting through your items. What condition are your items in? Does this organization really need the items you are dropping off? Are you trying to get rid of your items, or are you trying to bless someone else?
I’m not placing blame here or looking to find fault. I wanted to drop my furniture off with someone and just be done with it. When I’m done cleaning my house, I’m looking to get the stuff out! If you do have good usable items that simply need a new home because you no longer have a need or space, by all means, find an organization that can use them. If the organization is asking for bedding and you have a like-new twin comforter from your college daughter who decided she needed something different this year, donate it. Make sure you’re giving what they are asking for; it’s tempting to want to add other items to get them off your hands. Donations come at the cost of someone else’s time and energy, though. Getting them out of our space creates work for others. When done right, that work feels like a joy and is a blessing.
2. Donations evoke emotion.
At TFI, we want to show the foster care community great love. For a mom who is reuniting with her child after tackling the long road to sobriety, the last thing we want to do is to come in with a donation that communicates you are not worthy of nicer things. I know, that’s not our overt intentions, but what we give to others in our support evokes emotion. When donating used items, think about how you would feel if you received that donation. It might be true that having a bed with a used mattress is better than sleeping on the floor. However, after receiving an old mattress with stains, would you feel loved? Would that give you the feeling of being a worthy child of God?
My love for foster children and foster families is so great that I want to hand them anything and everything they want or need. I know it is not realistic or even sometimes the most helpful, but I want to communicate above all that each person is worthy of being loved…extravagantly. Sometimes people who are in the position of needing our help have never had anything new. Many in the foster community have experienced trauma and significant loss. It is in times like these that we want to go above and beyond to show the love of Jesus.
Recently in our area, a bed was provided for a foster teen who was sleeping on the floor. She explained to the volunteers that this was her last chance, and if she didn’t make better choices, she would have nowhere to go. The next day her caseworker shared that the teen bragged about making her bed. She wanted to care for what was given to her, and she had hope that things were going to get better. Items we give meet tangible needs, but they can also provide dignity and hope.
We want that for everyone we support.
The reality is that sometimes we need to get rid of our stuff.
We’re looking for places we can give our used items to. At the same time, there are organizations that need our stuff. They need generous donors who have things that others might need. Before you decide what to do with that used furniture though, think through these two guiding principles, and be intentional in your giving. You can be a blessing to others or make the job harder. Your generosity is needed, and sometimes, it is generous to say that this item might need to be recycled or thrown away.
Shannon is a wife and busy mother of four with a passion for serving and helping others. After experiencing the foster care system as a foster mom, her eyes were opened to the needs of the foster care community.
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