P.O. Box 1055 Doylestown, PA 18901 215-550-5674

Recycle your Textiles: Don’t Send them to Landfills

Deserving Décor recently sorted and organized one of our storage units where we store textiles for homeless shelter makeovers. It mainly consists of bedding, towels, window treatments and other linens used for home furnishing.

Quite a few of the community donated textiles were torn or stained beyond repair. The natural response is to throw out the damaged textiles. However, five words I hate to hear are “Throw it in the trash.” I know what that means to the environment and it’s what inspired me to write this blog post.

Whenever we can, we donate to animal shelters, so the animals have towels or blankets to lie on; other unwanted textiles are then sorted and taken to a recycling center.

Need some motivation to recycle your unwanted textiles? Here are some facts from Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles Association

  • The textile recycling industry, with some 2,000 companies, removes annually from the solid waste stream 2.5 billion pounds of post consumer textile product waste.
  • Between 1990 and 2003, the United States exported nearly 7 billion pounds of used clothing and worn textile products around the world. (World Trade Atlas) The average American throws away about 68 pounds of clothing and textiles per year.
  • Most of the recycling firms are small, family-owned businesses, with fewer than 500 employees, the majority having between 35 and 50 people. The industry as a whole employs approximately 10,000 semi-skilled and marginally employable workers at the primary processing level, and creates an additional 7,000 jobs at the final processing stage. Primary and secondary processors account for annual gross sales of $400 million and $300 million respectively.
  • Textile recycling firms contribute to the revenue base of federal, state and local governments. In addition, these firms purchase a large percentage of their raw materials from charitable institutions, which in turn use these funds to house, feed, and train the less fortunate.
  • Industry members are able to recycle 93 percent of the waste they process — without producing any new hazardous waste or harmful by-products.
  • Textile recyclers export 61 percent of their products, thus reducing the U.S. trade deficit. Documented export sales of recycled clothing from the U.S. exceeded $217 million in 1999 (U.S. Census Bureau).
  • While a few communities have textile recycling programs, about 85 percent of this waste goes to landfills where it occupies about 4 percent of landfill space.

Go to Earth911 to find local recycling information through the largest and most accurate recycling directory in the U.S.

In Bucks County, PA, where we are located, our recycling center is located in Fairless Hills, PA.

Community Recycling
Fairless Hills, PA 19030

Beth Baker
Deserving Décor, Founder & Executive Director

Donating Used Furnishings – A Cascade of Benefits

Furnishing Donations for Homeless Shelters
When you donate good used home furnishings to homeless shelters or other charities, you are helping (1) yourself, (2) your community, (3) the environment, (4) the charity and (5) its clients. When you throw usable items away, you help push landfills toward capacity and deprive all those entities of an easily obtainable benefit.

You benefit by qualifying for a tax deduction, cleaning out your home, and knowing that you have helped others. The charity may even pick up your items, saving you the hassle of carrying them out. Remember, the used furnishings must be in very good or like new condition. The charity is not a trash pickup service and it does not wish to provide furnishings in poor condition to its clients.

The proper tax deduction amount is based on the current fair market value of the donated item. Refer to IRS Publications 526 and 561 for guidance. Always obtain a receipt for your donation and don’t overvalue your gift. Unless the item is new or rare, the proper deduction value is probably a fraction of the purchase price.

The donation benefits the charity by supporting its mission and helping it grow. It benefits the charity’s clients (e.g., unemployed, low-income, abused or homeless people) by helping them establish comfortable and cheerful living spaces. Since most such donations are local, helping these people get a fresh start can raise the standard of living in your community.

Giving your used home furnishings to charity creates a chain of environmental benefits. Many furnishings contain toxic substances that can pollute your air or water supply when they are incinerated or placed in landfills. The U.S. EPA reports that in 2009, we as a nation discarded 9.8 million tons of furniture and furnishings, more than double the 4.8 million tons discarded in 1980. The 2009 amount comprised 4.1% of the nation’s municipal solid waste for the year.

Keeping usable items in use minimizes unnecessary production of new items. Product manufacturing consumes natural resources and creates waste byproducts. Shipping burns fossil fuels and pollutes the air. Donating good used furnishings delays this cycle as we develop cleaner, more efficient technologies for manufacturing, shipping, and disposal.

Don’t throw furnishings away when they are in very good condition. Donate them to a local charity and create a chain of benefits for yourself, your community, the charity, and the environment.

– Written by Alan Biehn of ab.editing, a member of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia

To see a list of donation items Deserving Decor is accepting, please visit the Donate page.

Deserving Decor featured on CBS 3 Brotherly Love: Designing Homes For The Homeless

Deserving Decor was selected by CBS 3 for a segment of their “Brotherly Love” program which airs every Tuesday night on the 5:00 news and then is rebroadcast the next day at 6:00 a.m.

They came to film one of our transitional homeless shelter makeovers, which is a two day process.

The first day we pick up all the needed items at our storage units in Doylestown and Dublin and load them into the truck for the makeover.

The second day consists of using donated furnishings, linens, lamps, artwork, home decor and more to set up and decorate the apartment for the new family. In this case, it was a one bedroom apartment for a mother and infant (the crib was added to the bedroom after filming).

We make beds, replace lamps and furniture, hang artwork, shower curtains and towels or anything else that is needed to turn the apartment into a functional and appealing home for the new family. We decorate the bedrooms based on the ages and sexes of the children and make the parents room a respite from a hectic day.

The families, primarily single mothers, come from temporary shelters and through other Bucks County agencies to the transitional homeless shelter properties provided, in this video, by the Bucks County Housing Group, who provide 42 furnished transitional shelter apartments, where they can reside for up to one year until they get back on their feet.

We also work with the Keystone Opportunity Center who provide 21 properties that are empty and need to be completely furnished and decorated. Families can stay at the Keystone properties for up to two years.

The current downturn of the economy has caused a rise in the number of families who need a place to live. There is currently a large backlog of families waiting for transitional housing. There is a great need for additional housing.

We are always looking for volunteers, donors, nonprofits and businesses to collaborate with, if you are interested in helping, please contact us at info@deservingdecor.org.


Beth Baker
Deserving Decor Founder


Deserving Decor Featured in Philadelphia Inquirer

Philadelphia Inquirer on Monday, February 13, 2012.  Bucks woman turns castoff furniture into treasures for the needy.


Deserving Decor Homeless Shelter Makeover Storage Unit


In the few years when she had her own interior-design business, Beth Baker redid dozens of swank Bucks County homes, and, in the process, saw truckloads of castoff furniture consigned to dumps and thrift shops.

She loved the decorating, hated the discarding.

Surely, she thought, there were struggling families whose lives could be made more comfortable, and their spirits buoyed, by a gently used sofa or dining table, a like-new lamp, or a chest of drawers.

Baker resolved to find those families.

Today, she heads a novel nonprofit, Deserving Decor, that helps some of Bucks’ neediest residents – those emerging from homeless and domestic-abuse shelters and moving into short-term housing – by cleaning and decorating their new apartments.

In the last two years, Baker’s small, all-volunteer group has completed more than 60 makeovers free of charge. She has done bedrooms in princess and Winnie the Pooh themes for young girls, and splashed those for boys with primary colors. She has picked out the perfect picture, the prettiest bedspread, the nicest throw pillows for the children’s mothers.

“We try to do our best to make it as homey” as possible, Baker, 55, said.

With no budget, she nonetheless has amassed a trove of furniture, lamps, pictures, mirrors, bedding, and other household goods – all donated through word of mouth.

She keeps it in four storage units, likewise donated. That is where she goes when a call comes from the Bucks County Housing Group, a nonprofit that provides transitional apartments for low-income residents.

Baker concentrates her efforts in Doylestown, Bensalem, and Penndel. As soon as an apartment is vacated, she and several volunteers not only thoroughly clean it, but learn as much as they can about the incoming tenant.

Almost always, Baker said, it’s a single woman with children emerging from a crisis situation. Some are just coming out of A Woman’s Place, the county shelter for domestic-abuse victims.

“They literally have nothing,” she said. “Especially in a domestic-violence situation, they have to get out in a hurry. They just have their clothing and maybe a few toys for the kids.”

Others have lost their houses to foreclosure, she said, recalling a woman whose young daughter had cancer and who, with mounting medical bills, had to give up her home.

Baker “shops” for them at her storage units and loads up her pickup truck “like the Beverly Hillbillies.”

“It all somehow comes together,” she said.

She transforms a “utilitarian” unit into a warm, welcoming home, said Melissa Mantz, the housing group’s development officer. “She is very passionate.”

Mantz said she knew of no program like Deserving Decor anywhere in the region. An organization in Michigan decorates shelters for women and children, but Baker said she believed her organization was the only one of its kind in the Philadelphia area.

Baker’s own life took a 180-degree turn about a decade ago.

She was a computer consultant at the time of the 9/11 attacks. That day changed her mind about what she wanted to do with the rest of her life.

She took an interior-design course, then went to work in a Doylestown home-decor store. In 2006, she started her own business. And in 2009, she closed it, a year after starting Deserving Decor.

Baker was able to embrace volunteerism, she said, only because of the support of her longtime partner. He is a vice president at Dow Jones, her former employer.

She now finds herself with too much of a good thing – a mountain of furniture and not enough room to store it. She hopes someone will allow her to use, free of charge, a large warehouse in Bucks County where she can consolidate the donated goods into a furniture bank. She would also like a workshop for refinishing because, she said, “I am really, really into recycling. I don’t want things going into landfills.”

For now, she is closing the door to donations of large pieces of furniture.

“People have good intentions when they donate things,” Baker said in an interview at her home in Plumstead Township. “But I’m very picky about what I take.”

And it shows.

When Alaiyah Wood, 18, walked into her freshly decorated apartment in Bensalem in January, she was on her own for the first time.

She and her 22-month-old daughter had been living with her grandmother in Bristol before she learned she could get a transitional apartment through the Bucks County Housing Group.

The apartment was sparkling clean and decorated with lots of floral prints and big pillows. The toddler bed for her little girl had a brown blanket with pink flowers. There was “everything that I needed” to get started in a new place, Wood said. “I was finally home.”

Her daughter, too, is happy. “She finally has somewhere that she’s settled,” Wood said, “where she can play . . . and doesn’t have to keep moving from place to place. . . . We have peace.”

Thank you to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Emily Lounsberry, Staff Writer and Michael Bryant, Staff Photographer.

News about Deserving Decor in 2011

Want to know more about Deserving Decor and our mission?

A place to call home, was featured in the Intelligencer and the Bucks County Courier Times.

Please read to find out more about us and contact us about how you can help families living in homeless shelters in Bucks County, PA.

Image by Danilo Rizzuti