It is inspiring to hear about so many Americans getting their houses in order during the coronavirus shelter in place ordnance. People are purging and decluttering like mad, but the final push to get the excess stuff off property is stymied by the fact that donation centers and consignment shops may still be closed indefinitely. I can only imagine the masses of stuff now parked in garages and on porches, waiting to find new homes, preferably one that offers the owners a little cash.
One friend told me that the wait at the Napa dump last weekend was over two hours. Unfortunately, a lot of people, frustrated by the inability to get rid of the stuff they finally decided they didn’t want or need, ended up trashing it. There are also those people who, possibly to assuage their own guilty conscience about throwing away perfectly usable stuff, leaves the bags on the Goodwill stoop. Those bags will be going to the landfill too; a big garbage bag on the porch of a closed business is littering and there’s a hefty fine for that.
Truthfully, even when donation and consignment locations do reopen, they will be so inundated with deliveries that there won’t be a place for all of it. As I’ve written in this column many times over the last few years, there has already been already a huge glut of unwanted possessions on the market due to deaths and downsizing of the Baby Boomer generation. The big wave has become a tsunami.
Kristine Waldenburg, owner of Lolo’s Consignment in St Helena, is hoping to reopen fully very soon. The store, which has been in business an impressive 24 years, is a beloved institution to locals and tourists alike, but the forced closure of almost two months made it touch and go as to whether Kristine would be able to afford to reopen. Certainly, the tourist trade will take quite a while to amp back up to its former numbers, if it ever does. Who wants to wine taste through a mask and then shout, “This one smells like chocolate!” to your pals who are six feet away.
There will many minor and a few major changes at Lolo’s, and you can expect other consignment stores and donation centers around the Bay Area will be instituting similar changes. First, a plexiglass protective barrier will be erected at the front counter. A credit card machine handled by the customer, not the clerk, has been installed. There may be a limit to the number of customers allowed in the store at one time. Lolo’s has always been a pleasantly crowded, beehive of a store, so this will be a big change. Kristine is shortening her business hours to noon to 5pm, five days a week, Sunday noon to 4pm, and will be closed on Mondays. Until the store is back on its feet will handle the bulk of the hours herself as she did when the store opened in 1996.
Sadly, for people chomping at the bit to bring in their unwanted clothing and housewares, Lolo’s will not be accepting consignments till mid-July or so. Because of the closure in late March, all of the spring and summer items are still fresh and perky and waiting for buyers with many more upstairs to refresh the racks and shelves as things sell. Kristine has a carefully curated inventory and feels she owes it to the consigners to give these items their due, and also to the customers who haven’t had a chance to look them over.
Selling your used clothing and household items online and shipping them through sites like Poshmark, ThredUp and eBay is an option, though quite labor intensive. The time clothing and other textiles spend in transit is likely long enough to render impotent any belligerent coronavirus molecules, which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says could be as short as 24 hours, the same as for the cardboard container it is shipped in. For household metal, wood, plastic, glass and other hard items, the virus can linger up to five days, but strangely there seems to be an exception to copper and aluminum items on which the virus can survive only two to eight hours.
The coronavirus can linger as long as five days on metal items like jewelry, so Lolo’s will be requiring hand sanitizer use before trying on any jewelry and will disinfect it after it has been tried on. Clothing will be set aside for 24 hours after it has been tried on before the staff, wearing gloves and masks, returns it to the racks. This is out of an abundance of caution because the virus spreads most readily through human to human contact and respiration, not touching inanimate objects.
And even though the virus hates copper, don’t plan to start paying for things with the penny collection you started in the 4th grade; most stores are no longer accepting that old grubby dinosaur, cash, and will only take credit card payments.
So, my advice is hold on to your donations and consignment for a few more months if you can. Be sure to call donation centers and stores to find out their status on receiving items and what they are looking for (and what they won’t accept) before hauling your stuff over. Lolo’s always had a policy of 20 items or less per consignment drop-off, but now the walk-in consignment hours will be shortened and Kristine will offer more appointment hours. An appointment will be required for any consignments over 20 items (this has always been store policy but now it will be strictly enforced). The whole idea is to cut down on long lines of people and crowding. The policy will not only keep customers safer, it will provide a better shopping experience.
If you got your house organized and the unwanted stuff sorted and boxed, congratulations! You’re almost at the end of the spring clean-out journey. All it’s going to take now is patience and a little (or a lot) of garage space.