The Joy of Donating: From Trash to Treasure

As spring cleaning goes into full swing, many of us will find ourselves buried in chores and tasks, along with which comes a lot of STUFF. As organizers, we use the word “belongings,” but let’s get real here, most of it really is just stuff. You can’t take it with you if you know what I mean.
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With that in mind, I wanted to share an experience I had yesterday that shifted my entire perspective on the process of donating. I hope it inspires you let go of the physical clutter in your life and make a difference in someone else’s. Remember, what seems like trash to you can truly be a treasure to someone else, so why hang on “just in case?”
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“Just. In. Case. The three most dangerous words in the English language.”
– The Minimalists
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The Joy of Donating: From Trash to Treasure // simplyspaced.com
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I have been an avid donor for years. I drop off personal donations, donations from film sets I’ve worked on, client donations, and tons of family donations. I once filled up an entire semi truck with the donations from one move. The Goodwill truck pulled up, we loaded in, they loaded out, we never looked back. All parties involved felt amazing to see it go. That’s the standard donation procedure for me, and Goodwill has been the old standby over the years, because there is one on every corner (which makes my life really easy).
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Yesterday, a client cancellation freed up my afternoon, and I decided to finally make the cross town drive to do something I have wanted to do for a long time. I loaded up what amounted to a packed car full of donations and headed to downtown LA to visit the Downtown Women’s Center.
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Before I go on, it is important to point out that any trip to downtown LA is a mixed bag, because the juxtaposition of a growing metropolis against abject poverty is always a bit mystifying to me. I love going downtown. I love eating at Bestia, I love doing the Architectural tours, gallery openings, the Philharmonic.  Yet every time I drive down there, I cannot help but wonder why are so many streets lined with homeless people? Why are encampments popping up all around the LA river? Who’s helping?
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I first heard about the Downtown Women’s Center from a group of awesome organizers who volunteered their time to sort and process donations for the Center. Those efficient organizers finished on day one, so I never got to attend the second session I signed up for. Nonetheless, visiting the Center has been on my to-do list for some time, and yesterday I finally got to check it out.
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What is the DWC? According to their website:
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“The Downtown Women’s Center is the only organization
in Los Angeles exclusively dedicated to addressing the needs of
women overcoming poverty and homelessness in Skid Row.”
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Needless to say, the DWC does amazing work. They operate on donations and volunteer work, with a mission to end homelessness, create jobs and “foster dignity” among women in one of the most needed areas in California. When I dropped off my donations I was greeted by a lovely woman who came running out with a giant rolling bin to accept them.  It was not until I had got home to research the website for this post, that I realized that that very woman was Jill Halverson who started the Center in 1978 out of a friendship born between her and a homeless woman she had befriended named Rosa. I was really touched by how grateful the women were and how much they appreciated what I had to offer. It makes me happy to see organizations that honor women in all phases of their lives, and that respect and dignity are available to those who need a helping hand. God knows, we have all needed one at some point. Also, women helping women is a slam dunk for me. It gets better.
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Just as I was about to leave, I stumbled around the corner to find the DWC shop, MADE. What a find.
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The Downtown Women’s Center Shop, MADE // The Joy of Donating: From Trash to Treasure // simplyspaced.comThe Downtown Women’s Center Shop, MADE // The Joy of Donating: From Trash to Treasure // simplyspaced.com
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The adorable shop is a social enterprise created by the Downtown Women’s Center to break the cycles of chronic unemployment and homelessness by offering food, coffee and goods to the community. Many of the items in the shop are handmade out of items donated to the Center. And you know what, there are some really awesome things in there.
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By engaging the community and artisans, women at the center have created one of a kind items whose sales go right back into the Center. Ironically, I had just donated the overflow from a crafter client, so I felt even better about the items going to a good home. I couldn’t wait to go home and share the photos I took with my client.
I want to share these photos with you because I really believe they epitomize the old adage “From Trash to Treasure.” In this case, bags have been made from old shirts, and beautiful cups, jars and china re-purposed into gorgeous candles. Check out their Etsy shop if you’d like to support from afar.
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The Downtown Women’s Center Shop, MADE // The Joy of Donating: From Trash to Treasure // simplyspaced.com  //
The Downtown Women’s Center Shop, MADE // The Joy of Donating: From Trash to Treasure // simplyspaced.com
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Here at the DWC, these women are making a difference, and standing together with a common goal. I hope this story inspires you let go of what you hold on to “just in case.” Sure, letting go of unused possessions can free up space, but it’s important to remember that it can also make a difference.
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I really believe that when we give, we get back ten fold.
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How can you feel better about letting go? Find an organization in your community with a great need, or mission that resonates with you. Get to know the people there and establish a real connection. See the difference a donation can make and be part of the solution!
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“A rising tide helps all boats.” – Laura Stack, The Productivity Pro

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