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It’s better to give than receive

Give not receiveAs I’ve said before, I’m not a big declutterer – and I suffer from the classic hoarder’s dilemma of being almost physically unable to part with something that I’ve been given as a present. It’s not just the potential embarrassment of being asked how I’m getting on with that signed copy of Fifty Shades of Grey or that still-sealed bottle of Yardley’s Lily (how old do they think I am?), it’s a nagging feeling that by rejecting the gift you are rejecting the person. That feeling becomes almost overwhelming when you’re dealing with things you’ve inherited – or ‘been left’, which sums it up nicely. How do you dispose of things that are sentimentally welded to you from childhood, but require a second house to accommodate? If you’re me, you hire a storage firm and a man with a van and try not to think about it until the direct debits start rolling in. But even then there comes a point when you cannot squeeze in any more.

I tried to sell some things, but believe me, seeing your parents’ treasured belongings replicated in box after box of similar willow pattern plates and mantelpiece clocks in an auction room and then being sold for a tenner is soul-destroying. Oil paintings went for £20 and boxes of china for £15. So rather than see other people make money from them I decided to give it away to my mother’s favourite charity shop. I was a bit embarrassed at first as I drove up with the first of three car loads – what would I do if they rejected my hoard of petrol station glasses and nicely yellowing bone-handled knives? Fortunately, they pounced on the lot. Unlike antique dealers and auctioneers, who are blessed with a veneer of charm hiding a steel core of pure haggle, the ladies of the charity shop love junk. They ‘oohed’ and ‘ahhed’ over the pictures, summoned the regulation put-upon student volunteer to haul in the crates of books and fell on the Pyrex as if it were coming back into style – which it almost is. I left with an empty car and a sense of achievement. But what made it really worthwhile was a letter that came in the post about three months later – almost binned because it just looked like charity junk mail – thanking me for my donations, which had raised £300 for the Children’s Society – about twice as much as anything I’d sold at auction and enough to pay for a year’s mentoring for a runaway child and ten mediation sessions to reunited children with their estranged parents. Such is the power of Gift Aid – if I hadn’t signed up to let the charity claim back the tax on my donations, they would never have found me – or raised so much from so little.

Do you bother to fill in those Gift Aid forms when you’re double parked outside the charity shop? Take the time – it adds 25p to the value of every £1 raised by everything you give, and by filling in the form they will let you know how much your donations have raised. Let me know how and what you have re-gifted this year.

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