What To Do With Old Clothes?

If you have piles of old clothes and shoes languishing in your home, figuring out what to get rid of is just half the dilemma. You also have to decide what to do with those castoffs. And don’t forget about the moral, practical, and sustainable implications that accompany the donation and recycling process, too.

Sort through your clothes
Before tossing a pile of clothes into the first donation bin you see, sort through the mess, advised Karen Pearson, chair of the Sustainability Council at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Items should be clean and free of stains and tears. Separate the wearable clothes by type and label them for easier sorting by a charity. You can set aside and repurpose stained and torn items as household wipe cloths or send them away for textile recycling.

Ultimately, everything you donate should respect the potential future recipient. Don’t expect someone in need to be grateful for a stained T-shirt or a pair of ratty sweats. Our experts said clothes that don’t make someone feel good—or wouldn’t fetch any money if they were resold—are unlikely to find a second home. “If you don’t want it [because it’s damaged], nobody else does,” said Aja Barber.

If the hassle of bringing to a donation site is too much for you, contact Bay Hauling today! We can pick up your donations and dispose of them properly for you! We understand that life can get busy and donation items tend to sit in piles for longer than we choose, so let us assist you today!

Choose where to donate
Before you head to your local donation center or ship off a package, verify what the organization needs. Many organizations list this info on their website, but it’s a good idea to call or email to confirm what they’ll accept. Not only does this step help you ensure that your garments are going to people who need them, but it spares the workers sifting through donations from having to throw away or find another home for the stuff that doesn’t align with their company mission.

Resell or consign, in person or online
If you’d like to recoup some cash, or if your favorite charity is overwhelmed with donations, consider consigning or reselling your clothes yourself. Barber, author of Consumed, told us at least half of her wardrobe is secondhand, and she supports local consignment stores because you can inquire in person about how much of the store’s inventory is later donated or destroyed, and how they treat their workers. “When it comes to sustainability and ethics, small business is definitely the way,” she said.

Build community with Buy Nothing groups
The Buy Nothing Project is a good option for people who want to give away items to others who need them within their communities. These social networks, typically found on social media as “Buy Nothing” groups, have been around for a while but exploded during the pandemic. Think of it as a gift economy: Folks post the stuff from the deep recesses of their closets for free in hopes that their neighbors not only will take the items off their hands but will also breathe new life into them.

Give your clothes a second life
Items with missing buttons, jammed zippers, or holes often end up in a landfill somewhere in the donation cycle. Instead, take this as an opportunity to learn to mend clothes, which many people consider a dying art. For example, in 2018, only 15% of Americans had sewed or crafted in the past year, according to Statista. “We lack the mindset and the skillset. Most people can’t even put a button back on their shirt, let alone tailor something,” said Liz Ricketts of the Ghana- and US-based not-for-profit The Or Foundation, which advocates for fashion sustainability and supports reseller markets. And even steaming or pressing your garment might breathe a little life into something you might have once thought to cast off.

Truthfully, there’s only so much you can do to recycle unwanted clothes. You can reduce your own consumption by buying less, shopping local, and investing in quality clothing that you’ll wear for years to come.

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