There's a right way to donate gently used items

We want to think that, for the most part, people who drop their donations at a thrift store after hours are well intentioned.

We can imagine that someone arriving after the store has closed and might read the "No Dumping" sign and say to themselves, "This isn't dumping. This is a donation." And actually believe it.

Even in the case of broken furniture.

We can, when we really stretch our minds, imagine someone lovingly leaving a table with one leg that doesn't stay on, thinking it would only take a few minutes and the right tools to make it "good as new."

After all, a wobbly table is better than no table at all for someone who doesn't have one, right?

The reason we can believe that some of these "donations" are made out of kindness is because that's what we want to believe. We want to think the best of people.

We cannot, however, imagine that someone -- anyone -- would think that leaving an old freezer, complete with rotting food, is a perfectly good donation.

This has us thinking that some people may actually be using thrift store donation sites as their own private waste management outlet.

So disappointing.

Either way, it's time for a little donation education.

Before donating an item ask yourself these questions: 1) is this item clean (no stains) and 2) is it in good condition (no holes) 3) does this item work?

It's also a good idea to give everything a once-over to make sure you aren't unknowingly donating something left in a pocket or a drawer.

Before you go to the store, call and make sure they are accepting donations and what their store hours are.

The charity stores in our area do good things with your donation.

You win because you're letting go of unwanted belongings -- and you can get a tax deduction.

The store wins because they can use your donation to help support their cause, whether it's feeding the hungry or providing job training skills.

The shopper wins because nothing is as fun as finding a treasure at a thrift store, especially treasures that are priced right.

On the other hand, dumping -- unusable as well as useful items -- when then store is closed is a lose-lose situation.

It's a loss to the store because they have to pay to haul your junk away. (Even stuff that starts out as useful loses its value when it get left outside.)

It's a loss to you because it's actually against the law to leave your donation at an unattended site. You run the risk of getting caught every time you do it, and some sites have video cameras.

We're assuming people donate items to help a cause, so donate the right way and help yourself at the same time.