At least once in a lifetime we ask ourselves what to do with that sweater that we don’t like anymore or with those beautiful shoes that leave us with blisters for days to come. Of course, one of the least-resistant options is to leave them in our wardrobe – to collect dust and clatter our valuable living space – because one day we might decide that we will wear these clothing items again. These things float between our self-perception of what we are and what we desire to be; they seem to serve as catalysts in our chaotic lives. Another straightforward, but more stressful solution is to get rid of unwanted, and unneeded items. This resolution is harder than the previous one, as it involves confident decision-making skills, research and action. Once it has been decided that we would part with our clothes we may opt to throw them away (very unsustainable!), sell them (too time-consuming) or donate them. My preferred choice is donation.  However, before donating one has to undertake research in order to make sure that donations will end up in right hands (i.e., poor people or disaster struck victims). Otherwise, an unwelcomed consequence could be to donate to a ‘wrong’ organization that would sell our items and make profit. I don’t want that; I want to donate, but I want to donate for a good cause and not for someone else’s profit.

As I am leaving Berlin and I want to get rid of some of my stuff, I have done some research on many red, blue and white collection containers that I see all over the city.  It has been estimated that approximately 10,000 collection containers garnish the streets of Berlin. [1] Unless you look into it you would never realize that commercial companies own majority of these. These ‘commercial containers’ are often covered with a charity label, fraudulently attracting donations that were intended for charities. A solution to this problem is to either to call the number on the collection container figuring out who stands behind it or to simply donate one’s cloths directly to charities (i.e., Berliner Stadtmission, Komm & Sieh, Oxfam or the Spangenberg-Sozial-Werk). Another less time-consuming idea is to leave your unwanted things packed and clearly marked on your sidewalk for someone else to take it.

In conclusion, before transparency issues with donation chains are resolved – this will take some time – just make sure that you know where your donated things are heading to before you give them away!


[1] http://www.exberliner.com/features/second-hand-scam/

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash