Marie Kondo & the Art of Giving

5 Tips for meaningfully donating your stuff

I’ll admit it. I’m one of the millions who binge-watched the new Marie Kondo Netflix series ‘Tidying Up’ over the holidays.  It hit me at just the right time.  My house was filled with clutter, disused baby toys, bills from 2009 and clothes that no longer fit.  I’d been itching to start 2019 with a fresh mind and a clean house, and Marie Kondo and her patented joy-sparking and folding methods were just the push I needed to get started.

I’m not alone. People have been Marie Kondo-ing in droves, with charity shops around the UK reporting a marked increase in the amount of donations they are receiving.  With this flutter of activity there has also been criticism of the amount of waste that Kondo’s series is generating (as if the clutter only appears when people decide to get rid of it!)

Obviously, the desire to simplify has resonated with many of us. And inherent in Kondo’s method is the desire to treat all that we have with thankfulness and respect, even as we let go of it.  So how CAN we get rid of our unwanted items meaningfully and in such a way that maximises the impact of our donations?  Here are 5 easy tips:

1. Take the time to give to causes that you care about 

We are all busy, and sometimes it seems expedient to throw a bunch of junk in a bag and bring it to the nearest charity shop.  But this is an opportunity to give with a bit more meaning.  What are the issues that are most on your heart right now?  Go online and see if any of the things that you have can be put to good use by local charities.  You might still choose to bring your items to a charity shop, but choose one that raises funds for a cause you care about.

2. Sort and divide your items – give only what charities ask for

Consider giving your donations to more than one charity.  It takes quite a lot of time for charities to sort donations, so you will be doing them a big favour if you think about what you give where.  For example, when Global Aid Network is doing a collection to send to refugees on the edge of Europe, we publicise a specific list of the items that we most need, which usually includes clothing.  You might want to donate clothing and shoes to us, your bedding to a local homeless charity, your tinned veg to a food kitchen and your toys to an organisation that re-settles refugee families.  If you give tinned veg to us, we might have to throw it away or spend time getting it to a different charity.  Sorting and filtering your items can save charities time and money, and most importantly, get donations to the people who need them most. 

3. Filter out the stuff YOU wouldn’t want

We all do it … as we are tidying up we throw some fairly questionable (broken, torn, stinky) items into the bag to go to charity.  We can convince ourselves that they can be re-used, but we are actually just passing on a problem for others to deal with.  As you are evaluating what is going to be donated and what will go in the bin, ask yourself, “Is this something I could really see being useful to someone else?  Would I be happy for someone I care about to have this item?”  If not, don’t give it to a charity.

4. Dispose of unwanted items ethically

Once you are left with a bag of stuff that is clearly rubbish, take a bit of extra time to recycle what you can.  Tear off the card or plastic and pop them in the recycling (if they are recyclable).  Can your items be divided into parts that can be used for other things? 

5. Don’t replace your stuff with more stuff

Giving things away is about more than just what does or does not “spark joy” for you.  There is something deeply spiritual about looking at things that you own and thinking, “someone else needs this more than I do.” Once you have cleared your house and given your stuff away meaningfully, hang on to what that feels like. Be ware of the pull of MORE stuff – there is much within us and within our culture that pushes us to accumulate.  See this moment as an opportunity to really start fresh. How can you make ethical purchasing choices in the future that will help you have the kind of life, home and community that you want to have?

Danielle Wilson was part of a Global Aid Network volunteer team serving at Moria Refugee Camp in Lesvos, Greece this past Autumn.  Afterwards, she and other members of the team worked with GAiN to gather donations of needed items to send back to Lesvos.  To find out more about about GAiN’s current collections for refugees in Lesvos, go to