What To Do With Your Unwanted Clothes
Whether you’re wanting to get rid of some of clothes for decluttering reasons, minimalism, or simply to make some room for new stuff - it’s important to keep in mind where our unwanted clothes will go when out of the doors.
*DO NOT BIN THEM*
Mending and Upcycling
Firstly, I’d suggest you to ask yourself why you want to get rid of each piece. The top reason is probably they’re not your style anymore, which is totally relatable, specially for those clothes that we’ve been hanging on for so long from our teenage years for one reason or another! However, if the reason is because it has a button missing, or a hole, those can totally be mended in a few minutes. Put those clothes that need mending in a pile and go through them while watching tv for example, there’s no such thing as lack of time - it’s about prioritising and multi-tasking when possible.
Don’t know how to thread a needle? Easy to follow tutorials are everywhere, and there may be some mending classes you can join in your area.
Need some inspiration? Try searching for Thrift Flips and clothes’ alteration tutorials on Youtube, you’ll be surprised by the amazing outcomes! What about turning a shapeless dress into a top, a ripped jeans into a skirt, or adding a simple embroidery detail over a stain? The possibilities are endless!
Although, if threading a needle really isn’t your thing, there will be plenty of skilful tailors in your area that will be happy to bring your clothes back to life at very reasonable prices.
Now that you have selected the pieces you really don’t want anymore, think about rehoming them. Let your family and friends know that you’re getting rid of some stuff and invite them over to have a look - clothes swap parties are so fun to host and be part of! Your guests can bring their own unwanted clothes too and you can all swap for things that are now more you. Swapping your unwanted clothing will give them a new lease of life, as well as refresh your wardrobe without spending a penny, and you’ll be supporting a circular economy.
Clothes swaps have become so popular lately that a lot of cafes, businesses and organisations are hosting them. If you’re not keen on having people around yours, then perhaps you can go around theirs, find a public clothes swap happening in your area, or even organise one at your workplace? I must add that good wine and crisps make good additions to a clothes swap party!
It’s always worth checking for events happening in your hometown, whether through Facebook Events, Eventbrite or word of mouth at public establishments. I found a few designer pieces and gems for myself and my mum whilst rummaging through the rails of clothes swaps in Newcastle-upon-Tyne - some still had the tags on!
Cash in Some Pennies
For the good quality and more high-end clothing, what about listing them on eBay or Depop? If your old clothes are not bringing you joy anymore, surely making some money off them will. If you can’t be bothered with Ebay, Depop might be a more fun way to get rid of the pieces, and also a creative way to create an extra source income - if you’re into Instagram, you’ll love Depop’s format.
This could even be the start of an entrepreneurial adventure - did you know that the giant Nasty Gal brand started on Ebay? Whether you want to make some extra cash or build an e-commerce empire, your imagination is the limit!
Give to Local Businesses
A lot of small businesses are run by up-cycling second hand clothes and creating something amazing out of them. If time to mend clothes is an issue, or even if your crafting skills are not quite sharp, there will be people in your area looking for unwanted clothes to customise and sell! Ask around, search on Google and Etsy, post on local Facebook groups and on your page to see if anyone would be interested, one person’s junk could be another’s treasure!
An example is Just Harry. Harry unpicks old denim clothes to create new patchwork items such as skirts, jackets, dungarees, accessories and customised tops. She is based in Northumberland, England, so if you’re nearby, you can drop your old denim at our store in Newcastle and we’ll get them to her!
Bloggers such as Elspeth Jackson try to encourage younger people to creatively reuse their old clothes. What about a quirky rag rug made out of clothes that are too worn to be passed on? Or perhaps a picture frame? She has online tutorials and also gives live workshops!
Another great idea to is Furoshiki. It is a traditional Japanese method of using scrap fabric to wrap things and gifts. Say goodbye to non-biodegradable wrapping paper with this cute gift wrapping technique! Just imagine not spending money on wrapping paper ever again while helping the environment (did you know that most wrapping papers are not eco-friendly?!) and repurposing your old clothes. Here is a nice tutorial for you to try.
This is probably the first thing that comes to our minds when wanting to get rid of clothes - “I’ll just take them to the charity shop”. It sounds so simple to dump a couple of bags full of stuff we don’t want and let the charity shops deal with our ‘rubbish’. Sure, if there’s some quality items in those bags, they’ll be able to sell and make some money from it to support their causes, what makes it a honourable thought.
In reality though, despite the charity and non-charity thrift store activities, another 13.1 million tons of textile waste is generated yearly. There’s so much being given to charity shops that only about 25% of it all will get sold - the rest is incinerated, sent to landfill, sold per kilo to other countries, or exported to third world countries. It is estimated that £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year.
While having our unwanted clothes sent to vulnerable communities in the third world sounds like a good thing, there is simply way too much of it being sent - more than they need - so much so that countries receiving those items want to ban such imports altogether. In the UK alone, we are disposing of over a million tonnes of clothes every year! Through fast fashion, clothes have become very cheaply made from poor quality materials that they’ve become disposable and their lifespan are just too short to be passed on for more use. So really, the vast majority of clothes sent to third world countries, specially East Africa, end up in their landfills polluting their environment rather than helping the ones in need, this is also very controversial as experts say the vast amount of these imports have devastated local clothing industries and led the region to rely far too heavily on the West.
Those are the reasons why I don’t encourage anyone to donate clothes to charity shops as a first resource.
Reusing clothes should always be the first option in order to avoid the industrial processes involved in recycling, however, If you aren’t able to up-cycle or repair the clothing you no longer want, and they’re not good enough to be passed on, look out for recycling banks as they’re a much better option than throwing them away.
There are so many recycling banks around at the moment, that you should be able to easily find one close to you. I recommend Recycle Now to find your local recycling facility. All you need is a postcode and to select what kind of item you want to recycle.
There are also organisations such as TRAID who has over 1,500 banks located across the UK where you can drop off unwanted items. They divert around 3,000 tonnes of clothes from landfill and incineration every year!
Choose the items you no longer need and ship them to them for free - they will make sure your old clothes are diverted from landfills. There are over 25,000 drop off points across the UK. When you send your unwanted clothing at a drop off point, the reGAIN app awards you with discount coupons so that you can save money on new clothes, footwear, nutrition products, homeware goods or travel.
The majority will be reused and recycled with the remainder being upscaled into the production of new clothes, laying foundation for a circular economy in fashion.
Something to think about…
Fast fashion pollutes the environment from the very first stages of manufacturing to the end of its very short life. It has inundated charity shops with cheap clothing that will end up in landfill, it has also cluttered our wardrobes with clothes that are too low quality to be passed on. If we all buy less and make more conscious purchases, investing in pieces that are made ethically and sustainably that respect a craddle-to-craddle approach, we’ll have a much more positive future to look forward to.
*DISPOSE OF YOUR CLOTHES RESPONSIBLY*
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