I’m trying to get into the mindset that by committing to acquiring a new item of clothing, I’m therefore taking responsibility for that piece’s entire lifespan. You can do this by choosing natural fibers rather than plastic-based ones, quality garments and styles that will hold up over time and brands that hold their resale value. The first step in responsible wardrobe decluttering is to keep a vigilant eye on what enters your closet to begin with, but sometimes for whatever reason an item doesn’t work out. My steps for ethically paring down your closet, in order from most to least desirable options, are below:
Maybe don’t get rid of it
It’s easy to get tired of pieces you’ve had for awhile and with the Marie Kondo craze, it can be tempting to gather up everything you no longer like and get it out sight, leaving you with a perfectly curated wardrobe. Slow down the cycle of consumption and don’t be so quick to get rid of clothing items only to turn around and buy something new. Learn to mend, take pieces to your local tailor and think of new ways an old item can be incorporated into your wardrobe. I’m working on this step myself ;-)
Give it to a friend
If you have decided it really is best to part ways, try your best to find a good home for the piece you are letting go of. The easiest way to do this is to think of friends and family members who wear similar sizes and might have similar style. Maybe a clothing swap is in your future?
I wrote about this in depth in another post here.
This option is low on the list because it’s estimated that only 20% of items Americans send to consignment and thrift shops are actually being sold there. The majority of donations are shipped to developing countries where they can wreak havoc on local economies. Dress for Success and Housing Works if you live in New York are good options.
If you can’t repair the item or find a new home for it then recycling is the step of last resort. The idea is to try to limit the number of pieces that end up at this stage. In New York, Wearable Collections has partnered with GrowNYC to collect textiles for recycling at local greenmarkets. Just make sure to follow the guidelines for what is accepted. They also accept shoes, hats, handbags, belts, linens and towels.
And don’t forget to save a few old tees to cut up and use as rags around the house to score double as a responsible declutterer AND a paper towel avoider.