Category: Working from home

Volunteering in a charity shop

As some of you may already know, about 18 months ago I became a volunteer at a local charity shop. My reason for doing this is that I work from home and, although I love what I do, I miss the day to day contact with other people and the comradery that comes naturally with being part of a workforce. I have found the job very enjoyable and have learnt a lot from it so thought this insight might be helpful to anyone who is thinking of volunteering or is simply interested in the inner workings of a charity shop.

When I started working there my main tasks were to tidy the shop, make sure that all the clothes were hung correctly and were colour coordinated, bag items up for customers, etc. After a few shifts, I was given access to the till and became a fully-fledged member of staff.

There are many different tasks that need to be done in order to maintain the smooth running of the shop, so it never gets boring. Aside from serving customers and keeping the shop tidy, behind the scenes we sort through the donations, price items, clean stock if necessary, organise window displays, complete our paperwork and so on… there is always something to do!

It never ceases to amaze me what people will donate. We are located in a very affluent area and get our fair share of brand new items from designers such as Louis Vuitton, Diane von Furstenberg or Prada. Some of these brands donate their seconds, or clothes that have been used for modelling shoots directly to us.

Occasionally we get fake items which we cannot sell; these are relegated to a textile recycling company, a representative of which visits us once a week to take away our unwanted items. These also include items that are unsaleable, such as stained clothing, dirty cuddly toys or odd socks. As we are in an affluent area, we don’t sell very many ‘high street’ brands unless they are in new condition and from the more expensive end of the high street. Absolutely no ‘New Look’ or ‘Next’ items are kept – we transfer these items to other branches.

We also get items that we have to dispose of which can be a little bit frustrating as it costs the shop money (roughly £2.50 per full bin liner). People mean well when they donate these items, but we really can’t do anything with broken mugs or used dish draining racks, for example.

The volunteers in our shop come from a variety of backgrounds and bring different skills with them. Some are very artistic, which is brilliant for displays and dressing mannequins. Others are great with people which makes for increased sales figures. Whilst we have a few long term volunteers, the majority work for a few weeks until they find paid employment. Most people work 1-2 days a week, but some do 2 hours, others 5 days – it just depends on the individual’s circumstances.

Are you a volunteer? Do have any experience working for a charity shop or any other kind of volunteering? If so, I would love to hear about your experiences – leave a comment below!


Top tips for working from home

For the last few years, I have been working from home as a freelance translator. I am often asked if it is possible to work from home effectively without getting too distracted by the running of the household. Whilst it is true that there are distractions in the home – the boiler breaking down for example or courier deliveries – these things would happen anyway, whether you are based at home or not. In my experience these things have not really affected my productivity. Over the years I have fine-tuned my routine and adopted habits which I believe enable to me to get the most out of working from home. Here are my top tips which I hope you find useful.

Get dressed! Whilst the morning coffee is brewing, make use of those spare minutes to get dressed. It doesn’t need to be anything too smart; something casual like jeans and a shirt or a jumper dress is enough to look ‘put together’ and give yourself and others the impression that you mean business. When I first started working from home, I just stayed in my pyjamas all day but stopped doing this as it started to get embarrassing to answer the door looking like that at 3pm – and it wasn’t a great look when my partner returned home from work. Also, when I do change into my pyjamas in the evening it signifies that my work day is officially over and helps me towards defining a work/life boundary.

Eat healthily. When you are at home all day, it’s all too easy to snack on anything and everything in sight. If, like me, you find this prospect irresistible, it pays to stock the kitchen with healthy snacks such as grapes, sunflower seeds or even some chopped up raw carrot. It is also worthwhile to eat decent breakfasts and lunches to minimise those hunger pangs.

Designate a work area. Our dining table only gets used as a dining table when we have friends over. The rest of the time it is my desk and is where the printer, stationary and work documents live. Whether it is the end of your dining table or a proper desk, it is probably a good idea to create a proper work space at home. This way, you can train yourself and others to think that when you are in that ‘work space’ it’s time to work undisturbed so that you are more likely to be productive.

Get out! A little walk everyday certainly helps to clear the mind as well as getting those muscles moving. Just getting out for half an hour a day works wonders for my productivity. It is also possible to earn some extra money by venturing out for a short while; you could take part in a postal survey, for example, or complete tasks on a money-making app such as Roamler or Field Agent – or even just pick up an item or two from the pound shop to resell on Ebay.

Volunteer. If you miss having regular face to face contact with people and can spare some time, seek out a volunteering position in a local charity shop – most of them will let you be flexible with your hours provided you call ahead and tell them when you can work. In my role I have some quiet times, when I don’t have any projects for days at a time and this fills the time perfectly. It is also a great way to get to know and immerse yourself in the local community.

Keep on to top of the housework.  We keep our home tidy by putting things away as we use them and avoiding hoarding. A recent read of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – really helped me reinforce my beliefs and has given me some new ideas. The method of leaving everything in place when we have finished with a room works very well in this household. Every night before the last person goes to bed, for example, the curtains are opened ready for the next day, cushions plumped, cups put into the kitchen and so on.  Whilst we don’t have a set in stone housework rota, I do dedicate half an hour a day to housework and find that as long as the place is kept tidy, this enough and I don’t get distracted by chores.

So, there we have it! If you work from home, what would be your top tip?