You may have recently had a lockdown clear out, and now have a large pile or bag full of clothes you don’t want. You might be wondering what to do with your closet clear out? What’s the best way to get rid of your clothes environmentally and financially? How can you make sure those clothes are re-used in the best way possible? And can you recoup some of the cash invested in those clothes?
As a personal stylist, I see inside a lot of wardrobes, so I’m pretty sure that your reject pile ranges in quality from the hardly worn to the almost threadbare, am I right? So not all unwanted clothes should be treated in the same way. When I work with a client, we go through a hierarchy of options to maximise the value of those clothes (both financial, environmental and personal value to you). Here’s our five-step plan of recycling tips to dealing with your unwanted clothes:
1. First, go through your pile and see if there’s anything there you would keep if only……..
Is there something in your wardrobe clear out pile you could repair, refashion or re-use?
Before letting it go completely, go through your pile and see if there’s anything you could still use or wear if it was in working order. For example, what if you fixed the hem on those trousers, or sewed a button on that skirt? Is there something in the pile that just needs a repair or a stain removed to become something you are likely to wear again? Anything with rips, holes or repairs needed are unlikely to be useful to anyone else, so taking care of these tasks first will make your unwanted items useful again (even if that's not by you). If you’re not skilled at sewing or don’t have time, a family member or friend might be only too willing to help.
Perhaps you own some things that with a bit of imagination could be made into something great and wearable. One of my clients had a pile of dresses she wasn’t wearing, but with the help of a local seamstress had them all turned into fantastic (and unique) skirts. Do you have things that can be refashioned? If you’re not skilled with a machine, a local seamstress may well be able to help. Tapering a trouser, taking up a skirt, shortening a sleeve are all things that can transform an item of clothing to make it a wardrobe favourite again.
If you have items on the pile that can’t be repaired or refashioned, is there a way you can reuse it? Perhaps you can cut off a pair of jeans to make shorts, or use the fabric from an old top as a cushion cover or bag? Looking at reuse projects on Pinterest will give you lots of ideas for ways you can reuse the fabric and this is a great way to get value from the fabric of unwanted clothes, even if they are unwearable.
2. Sell your unwanted clothes.
Keeping preloved clothes in use by an extra 3 months means that we reduce the waste, water and carbon footprint of those items by as much as 10%. Selling your unwanted clothing is a great option if you have things that are new, nearly new, designer, a popular label or true vintage.
As I run a dress agency, lots of people ask me about selling unwanted clothing. Firstly, I think it’s a great way of recouping some if the original cost, as well as recycling the item for someone else to wear. Firstly, you should only think of selling things that have a recognisable brand label, are in excellent as new condition with no defects, and are of the current season. If it’s July and you have winter coats for sale, you might want to hold off selling those until September/ October time. When selling, you need to be very honest about the wear, condition and age of your items, and be sure to include a series of well shot photographs ideally in natural daylight. You might also want to include measurements of the key fit points of the item so that potential buyers can check whether the item is likely to fit, before they buy it (so you’re less likely to have it returned).
The best way to get money back from old clothes in your wardrobe clear out is to sell the items yourself, and there are lots of places online to do that. Ebay is probably the best known, and is a great way of checking the value of your items before you decide to sell. Do an ebay search for your item (so for example ‘Radley Bag’) and then in the advanced tab, click ‘sold listings’. This will allow you to search through the sale prices achieved for items similar to yours and will give you a good idea of how much it might be worth. There are lots of other sites including Schpock, Depop, and Facebook marketplace to name a few.
If you can’t bring yourself to go through the faff of selling it yourself, there are also ‘done for you’ services out there. You can sell through a local dress agency (a google search should unearth some in your area). These businesses sell your clothes on your behalf, usually in a bricks and mortar shop or (like me) online. They will take a commission on the sale of each item, which usually is around the 50% mark. The type of clothes they will accept to sell varies greatly, so it’s worth checking first if they are accepting new sellers at the moment, and what kind of things they will take to sell. Some dress agencies for example focus on evening and occasion wear, others on day wear, so check out in advance their brand and style requirements. We send this document to all our new sellers, so your local dress agency should have something similar or be able to talk you through it over the phone.
You could also sell unwanted clothes with thrift. Thrift is an online sales site that split sales income between commission, a charity donation (to a charity of your choice) and a share back to you to have as credit to spend or a gift voucher. The only requirement on your part is bagging up your clothes and sending it to them (you can order the bags and postage labels on their site). Again, thrift will have a criteria for quality and brands they want to sell, so check that first before sending items to them.
Another option is to sell old clothes for cash. For clothing that has a low sales value, or if you have a large volume of clothes you want to get rid of quickly, there are schemes that will pay you by weight of clothing. The rates are usually low (40 – 50p a kilo), but this can be a useful way to recycle and get money back from old clothes at the same time. Google cash for clothes and your town to see which businesses operate in your area.
3. Donate it to a charity.
As of writing this, charities have seen a huge surge in donations due to so many lockdown clear outs. And while charities are always in need of quality donations, there will undoubtedly be a current backlog with storage being a problem for many. If you are intent on donating to a charity shop, enquire first as to whether then can currently accept more stock. If at all possible only donate what could be sold now (so seasonal) and keep the rest back to donate at a later date. Here’s a handy guide on donating to charity shops: https://www.charityretail.org.uk/donating-to-charity-shops/
Be mindful of putting your clothing in to donation banks or the bags that come through the door at home. These are often run by commercial recycling companies, who donate an amount per tonne to the charity mentioned. There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you are aware of it and know that the clothing will be sold and recycled commercially. If you want to be sure your clothing goes to a specific charity, it’s probably better to hand it over to someone in a charity shop.
4. Pass it on or arrange a swap.
When I was a child, I loved nothing better than a big black bag arriving from my cousins wardrobe clear outs. My sister and I were allowed to go through all the hand me downs and pick out things we wanted to wear ourselves. Is there someone in your life who would appreciate a chance to go through the things you don’t want? Or perhaps if you have a friend of a broadly similar size to you, you could arrange a swap? Swapping and passing on is a great way to maximise the value of those garments as they have a chance to keep being worn by someone else, and swapping is a great way to have some fun new things to add to your wardrobe too!
5. Recycle old clothes.
Nearly all textile can be recycled, so whatever is left in your pile of items you can do nothing else with, bag them up and recycle them. A google search of recycling services in your area will point you in the direction of the local textile recycling banks, or in some areas they will accept textiles as part of the kerbside recycling programme to recycle your old clothes. If your items are damp or dirty, they are not able to be recycled and will go to landfill, so make sure the contents of your bag are clean and dry.
Do you have any recycling tips and ideas for what to do with your wardrobe clear outs? Do add your ideas in the comments below, and if you know someone who you know who wants to recycle old clothes, please do share this blog with them.