ACT News

Charity shops stop accepting donations as Canberrans use summer to declutter

Summer for Canberrans may conjure up days spent lazing on the beach or reading a book under a tree – but it also seems a fair number of us are also using the spare time to declutter.

So much so the city's charity and community organisations are groaning under the weight of all our unwanted stuff.

Some charity shops in Canberra have had to temporarily stop accepting donations as they were inundated with items in what appears to be the traditional post-Christmas purge of homes across the ACT.

The organisations all stress they appreciate the generosity of Canberrans and generally want the donations to keep coming – but some have simply had to stop and take stock in the face of mountains of items that need to be sorted.

The MS Community Shop in Tuggeranong refused donations for one day last week because it simply could not fit any more into its premises.

Store manager Louise Kelly said it got to the point where any more items would have made the working area unsafe.

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"We absolutely appreciate it, but sometimes we get a little bit overwhelmed," she said.

A St Vincent de Paul store in Tuggeranong also refused donations of clothes last week.

The Green Shed, which sells donated items to save them from landfill, has had a policy for some time to give away clothes at its Mitchell and Mugga Lane outlets because it simply receives so many items.

Co-owner Charlie Bigg-Wither said The Green Shed had been "absolutely swamped" with donations since Christmas.

"It's nuts. It's just insane," he said. "We can probably get half a tonne of clothes in a day."

Salvation Army area manager Tony O'Connell said he had a truck on the road five days a week since Christmas removing excess items from other Salvos outlets to store in its warehouse in Fyshwick.

The staff simply knew they were going to be hit with a lot of donations post-Christmas and were prepared because they didn't want to knock back a donation.

"It's always a busy time of the year. We're really flat out from the week after Christmas until school goes back," he said.

"People get their Christmas presents so they get rid of other stuff they have."

The new year and the desire to start fresh might be the impetus for all that unloading of stuff.

Dr Vivienne Lewis, a clinical psychologist at the University of Canberra, said clearing clutter was also like "clearing the mind".

"It gives people that sort of psychological freedom," she said.

"There's a relief when you've tidied things up and you've done what's needed and ticked another thing off the list."

Professional declutterer Holly Whale, from unstuff.com.au, said spring and the new year were the usual times when people wanted to clear their homes of unwanted possessions.

"I think after Christmas they've had an influx of new stuff coming into their homes with presents and then they suddenly realise they haven't got enough room to put those presents so it actually makes them declutter. Which in turns means they probably have the same amount of stuff in their homes, but at least it's new stuff and not old stuff hanging around," Ms Whale said.

"It's also about time. Lots of people have at least a week off around Christmas and they have the time to bunker down for a day and sort through things and get rid of things as quickly as possible."

Ms Whale said her basic rule for decluttering was: "If you don't use it and you don't love it, then it needs to go".

"Particularly with clothes. There's a tendency to wear 20 per cent of your clothes 80 per cent of the time so you're going back to the same old favourites time and time again and the rest of the wardrobe is not getting much of a look in," she said.

And as for transferring the stress of clutter from yourself to the local charity shop, Dr Lewis had a simple suggestion for overloading them in the new year.

"What I would say to people is, 'Hang on to [the donation] and give it to them in February or March if you can'," she said.

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