A main part of spring cleaning is a closet clean-out. Our closets are filled with tons of clothes- most of which we do not wear. In this article, I will tell you exactly how to clean out your closet and the most environmentally friendly ways to get rid of the items you do not want. First, you want to split your closet into 3 piles: yes, no, and maybe. Make sure to take everything out of your closet- even the “definite yeses.” Here are some simple ways to decide which pile each item goes into:
- Yes: You wear this item often. It is a staple in your wardrobe.
- Maybe: You wear this item less. It may have some imperfections that stop you from wearing it, but it is something you may wear in the next month (depending on the season).
- No: You never wear this item. It may have been gifted to you or it is no longer your style, but it is just taking up space in your closet.
For this exercise, it is important to take EVERYTHING out and place it in these piles. This helps you visualize your entire wardrobe outside of the closet.
For your “yeses”, put them back into your closet. You already know you will make good use of them in the near future.
The “maybes” will be a bit more challenging to manage. Go through each of the maybes again. Determine why they are a maybe. Does it have a hole? Do you have the skills and bandwidth to mend the whole? Is it still your style? Consider what it would take to make the item a “yes,” then consider if you are willing to do what it takes. I have walked many people through closet cleanouts and it is important to be realistic about what you can and will do. We cannot keep things just because we may be able to fix them one day! Once you have sorted your “maybe” pile into the “yeses” and “nos”, it is time to deal with the “nos”.
The most common way to get rid of clothes is to donate them. While there are tons of positive benefits to donating clothes, unfortunately, only 50% of the items we donate actually end up on the sales floor to find a new home; the other 50% ends up in the trash either locally or abroad. Here are some quick tips to help you ensure your clothes end up on the donation floor:
- Keep things that go together, together. I.e. tie shoes together if possible or put matching items in a bag before donating.
- Call ahead! If the store is busy, they will have less time to sort your clothes. If they only find one shoe, they will not have time to look for another and will deem your item unsellable even if the other shoe is nearby.
- Check your items. Make sure there are no personal items in the pockets or anything else that would deter someone from buying the item.
- Wash your clothes before donating! Items that are dirty have a lower likelihood of making it to the donation floor and an even lower likelihood of actually selling if they do.
If you want to ensure that your clothes can find a new home, another option for managing your “nos” pile is donating to family and friends. Host a clothing swap or just offer items via text. My family has a group chat and in the thread, we always post things that we no longer want and most of it is able to find a new home! For friends, a quick “Going through my closet and this has your name on it! Interested?” can help your item find a new home.
If you have more of a budget, there are other ways to recycle fabrics in an environmental way. Simply googling “clothing recycling near me” will return a ton of options. My personal favorite which operates all over the United States is Retold Recycling.
For $14.50, they send a bag to your home with a prepaid shipping label. You fill the bag, apply the label and drop it in the post. They have partnerships with recycling centers so if the item is at its end of life, they can break down the item into material that can be used to create something else. I really like Retold Recycling because they sort clothes in a meaningful way. If the item is not yet at its end of life, they also have partnerships with resellers and thrift stores so if the item is in the right condition to find a new home, they have the right connections.
Cleaning out your closet can be daunting, but there are tons of options for managing your clothes. From clothing recycling to the second-hand market, we can make sure once the clothes leave our house, they will have the most use.