7 Ways to Do a Sustainable Closet Cleanout

By Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee

As the seasons change, you may be rotating your wardrobe or just looking to make more space in your closet. Here are seven ways you can clear out your closets without sending old clothes to the landfill—and Do Good in the process. 


1. Resell or Consign Your Clothes

You’re not going to get rich reselling, unless your closet is filled with designer garments in great condition. But you may be able to make a few extra bucks. For designer styles, The RealReal is a great option. Poshmark, Vinted, and women-owned Tradesy are also good places to resell your higher value wardrobe items. 

There are also general resale sites, like Mercari, Facebook Marketplace, or the old standby eBay. Other options are Depop, Kidizen (for kids’ items), and Etsy (for reselling vintage items).

If you don’t have the time or energy to post items individually, then a site like thredUp may be for you. You can also resell in real life at a local consignment store or a resale clothing store like, Crossroads Trading.


2. Swap or Giveaway

Another option is to stage a clothing swap with your friends. You can do it via group chat by sending each other photos. Or designate an afternoon to get together and swap your wardrobe with similarly sized friends. It costs nothing and it’s a great way to refresh your wardrobe, catch up with friends, and keep your items out of the landfill.

You can also post your giveaways on your local Buy Nothing Group (just do a search in Facebook). Or post a freebie listing on NextDoor.

There are also clothing swap sites, like Swap Society or you check on MeetUp to see if there’s a swap group near you.



3. Donate

Sure, you can donate your gently used items to general purpose thrift stores, like Goodwill, the Salvation Army, or Out of the Closet, but you could also find an organization whose mission you believe in. You can donate to foster and youth programs, women’s shelters, homeless shelters, or even prisons.

Some organizations take item-specific donations. For instance, you can donate old shoes at any DSW store or donate to Souls4Soles. Old bras can be dropped off at any Soma store or sent to The Bra Recyclers

Old glasses can be donated to the OneSight, VSP’s Eyes of Hope, or Respectacle. Your friendly neighborhood Goodwill will also take your discarded eyeglasses and distribute them to low-income people in need. You can also drop off glasses at LensCrafters or most Sam’s Club and Walmart Vision Centers that have Lion’s Club donation boxes. 


4. Mend or Fix Damaged Clothes

Even if you’re useless with a sewing machine (I am, too!), you can pull out some thread and a needle and mend the holes in your socks, sew back on a button, or put an iron-on patch on your worn-out knees (hello, ‘70s!). If you don’t have the time or inclination, make friends with a seamstress near you or send your items to be fixed. 

If you’ve got stained items, you can also tie-dye those old tees. In Los Angeles, Suay Sew Shop hosts a monthly community dye bath—and they can also patch up holes in your clothes, too. You can mail in whatever fabric you want, and they’ll dip it in one of four rotating colors that month. It’s a great way to upcycle that ugly bedspread, hide light stains, or just add more color to your life.


5. Repurpose Ragged Clothes

If you’ve got styles so worn, you can’t resell or donate them, there is an answer. Your 100% cotton t-shirts can be used as cleaning rags, sewn into a t-shirt quilt, or cut into strips to be knit, crocheted, or woven into something else, like a bath rug or a bag.

 Photo by Maude Frederique Lavoie via Unsplash


6. Recycle Your Styles

Some brands are taking recycling more seriously. Look for fashion brands with buy-back programs or that think about their products in a more circular economy. You can recycle your sneakers at Nike, recycle old denim at Levi’s, or drop off used items at Renew by Eileen Fisher,

Several outdoor brands are also all about recycling options. Patagonia’s Worn Wear program lets you repair, resell, or recycle your old stuff, while Cotopaxi’s Guaranteed for Good policy allows you to send in products for repairs or trade in for credit. 

Look to see if  Terracycle, Green Tree Textiles, or Council for Textile Recycling has a local drop-off in your area. Or check on Earth911 for a textile recycler or upcycler near you.


7. Shop Consciously

Once you’ve finally made room in your closet, you can move forward by buying items made from long-lasting natural materials, choosing second-hand, and purchasing from companies with ethical and sustainable practices. 

Like with anything in life, just take a pause and make your shopping decisions with intention. And remember that the most sustainable choice is the item already in your closet.

Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee is a writer, photographer, artist, and producer, who’s worked with ABC Television, Chronicle Books, Frommers, Google, and The Washington Post. If she’s not climbing a mountain somewhere, you may find her trying to squeeze one more fruit tree in her edible garden front yard. Learn more at littlececilia.com

Top banner photo by Becca Mchaffie via Unsplash