Spring is officially here, and with the warmer weather comes the desire to get a fresh start. You’re probably thinking about airing out your home, doing some deep cleaning, and clearing out clutter and older, unused items. Having a closet full of rarely used items just makes it difficult to find what you actually need on a day-to-day basis. The point when the weather is changing is a great time to clear out your wardrobe, especially if you tend to rotate warmer weather clothing with colder weather items. Do the cold weather items now, and you’ll have less to store for bringing out again in the fall. Then do the warm weather items in a few weeks once you’ve familiarized yourself with them again.
Sorting it all out
There are lots of gimmicks for determining what to keep and what to get rid of, but the simplest is really just to use common sense. Can you remember the last time you wore it? What other items in your closet do you pair it with? Does it fit your body properly right now (not once you finally lose that weight)? If you can’t think of when you last wore it or what you would wear it with, it’s time to get rid of it. Ditto for anything that is ill-fitting; it’s far better to only keep what works for your body at its current size, unless you regularly fluctuate within a known range of weights. If you have sets of clothes you need at other sizes, they can be stored until they’re needed again rather than cluttering things up.
Divide your clothes into three piles: keep, swap/donate, and repurpose. The first is obvious — anything you wear regularly can stay, and go back into the closet or drawers. The second pile is a little more difficult; you need to collect the clothing which still has plenty of life left in it. Nobody wants your ratty old t-shirts which have little holes all along the hem, and they will just end up getting tossed in the garbage, even by a clothing donation center. Anything that bad should be in the third pile.
Deciding what to do with castoffs
You need to determine where you’re going to take these clothes. If they’re relatively current in style, you can bring them to a clothing swap. Just be sure not to come back with more than you brought! Be picky if you’re selecting clothes to take home from a swap: try it on, think about what other pieces in your wardrobe it will pair with, and where you’ll wear it. Even if you only bring home one nice item, you’ve still accomplished your goal of passing on your unused clothes to others who will use them.
If you’re going the donation route, see if there are any timely clothing drives happening, such as winter clothing collection for the homeless or donations for refugees resettling local to you. If you want to keep things simple and bring them to a charity thrift store, look into your options and see if their policies are ones you agree with.
Remember that third pile? This is where your ingenuity and green ideas come into play! There are still plenty of uses for clothes that have holes, stains, or other flaws which make them less than ideal for wearing. Try making dish rags out of crisp dress shirts or coarser woven shirts — just as effective as buying a reusable washcloth. Use small or irregular scrap pieces of fabrics to buff polish onto your shoes and boots. Hosiery with runs in it is a great multi-purpose tool. It can be substituted for cheesecloth when you need to finely sieve something (just be sure they’ve been washed since last wearing!), or rubbed dry across deodorant or makeup marks on other clothes to remove the offending product before it can stain or lodge itself into the fabric.
Use the fabric to make other items like accessories if you’re crafty. Make your own scrap fabric rug for the entranceway or bathroom. Cover a lampshade or make a new pillow cover to update your home decor. Make sock puppets with your kids. Recover a journal or scrapbook cover with fabric which has sentimental value. Make an attractive covered corkboard to hang on your wall. Wrap small gifts in cute printed fabrics, or if you have some sewing skills, make reusable gift bags (doubly good!). There are endless ways to utilize old clothing; you’re only limited by your imagination or the ideas you can turn up in a quick online search.
Keeping things curated and organized
If you’re going the minimalist route and deciding to stop buying fast fashion, keeping your closet or drawers from filling up with things you don’t use or need is really quite easy. You really only need to replace things when they get so worn out that they no longer look professional or at least neat and put together.
When you do buy a new piece, look for quality tailoring and materials — you want to invest in something that will last and look good on you. Try to shop from stores or brands which advertise their sustainability practices, and fair wage policies. That way you know you’re getting clothing which hasn’t been made cheaply from (for instance) cotton grown unsustainably and sewn in sweatshops. There are more and more ethical clothing options these days, and no reason not to support them.
Hopefully this post has you inspired and ready to go through your clothes with a new energy and eco-friendly outlook! If you have any other great ideas for sorting or reusing clothes, please do share in the comments. We’d love to read your creative plans.
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Jennie Lyon is a green lifestyle writer and the owner of Sweet Greens, the award-winning green lifestyle blog. She posts on simple, fun ways families can go green together – starting with her own. When she isn’t blogging, you will find her paddleboarding, sailing, beach-combing, camping, or spending time with her amazing husband and 14-year old son.