When it comes to cleaning out our closets, many find the easiest thing to do is to donate their clothing to the nearest thrift store. They either drop their donations off in a collection bin, or schedule a pickup from organizations like the Veterans of America. While this is a much better option than simply throwing clothing in the garbage, there are some better solutions out there.
Even before the “Marie Kondo Effect” left thrift stores inundated with record-breaking amounts of donations, many organizations received too many clothing donations to sell. A lot of thrift stores have few paid workers and are run largely with the help of volunteers. This constant skeleton crew has very little time to spend sorting through mounds of clothing donations. About a year ago, I spoke to a woman who volunteered weekly at a thrift store in Seattle. She told me that for every 4 bags of clothing donations they received, they threw out 3. She explained that if the clothing is not something they think will sell, whether it is not in re-sellable condition or simply not something they feel their “target customer” would like to buy, they don’t bother putting it on their racks. We often hear about thrift store leftovers being shipped overseas, and I had previously thought that this included items that they decided not to keep in stores. She clarified that the items shipped overseas to impoverished countries are mostly items that did make it to their racks but didn’t end up selling.
After learning this I decided to find other solutions for donating my clothing. With the boom of secondhand purchasing, and so many causes that need secondhand clothing for those less fortunate, I’ve found better ways to part with gently used clothing than donating to thrift stores.
Donating to Specific Causes
Thrift stores may have an overabundance of clothing right now, but many organizations who are less front of mind still struggle to acquire needed donations. Most of the clothing I’ve donated in recent years have gone to two organizations: the LGBT Center and Dress for Success. I send my casual clothing to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, an organization benefiting homeless LGBT youth. Any business casual attire I have goes to Dress for Success. This wonderful organization helps struggling women find economic independence by providing them with all the tools they need to help integrate them into the workforce.
Here are some other organizations of note:
IRC (International Rescue Committee): accepts donations to help Syrian refugees
https://donateyourbras.com/ : accepts donations of gently used bras, camisoles, lingerie and swimwear to help cancer patients in need
Blue Jeans Go Green: recycles denim into insulation and provides a portion of it to communities in need
Churches and other religious organizations often accept clothing donations as well.
Before you donate to an organization… make sure it’s registered with the IRS as a 501c(3) tax-exempt organization. You can check a charity’s tax status at irs.gov/eo, or get a background check on a charity through www.charitynavigator.org.
Sometimes we have pieces in our closet that we don’t simply want to just drop off in a bin, hoping it will find its way to a good home. Maybe it’s something of high value or a piece with an emotional attachment. Instead of leaving these items to the dark corners of your closet to collect dust, why not try re-selling them? Most re-selling websites & apps are user-friendly and easy to set up. Plus, if your item sells, you’ll have the instant gratification of getting some added dollars in your pocket, which will help ease the pain of losing that piece you love so much but isn’t right for you. The amount you get back will largely depend on how much effort you put in, but hey, getting something is better than getting nothing, right? Here are some of my recommended options:
Poshmark: This is my favorite option for re-selling. I’ve been on Poshmark for about 9 months now and have sold about 12 pieces. It’s easy to create an account and upload images (although I recommend using the Squarefit app as I’ve had difficulty getting photos to fit properly in preset square size). When a garment sells, they email you a pre-paid label so all you have to do is package the item, tape the label on the top and stick it in the mail. Simple as that. I feel Poshmark gives you the most bang for your buck. They have a huge following, allow you to set your own prices, and encourage negotiating with others. It’s also a very welcoming community that often provide sweet little thank you notes along with your shipment (sometimes even wrap the garment up like a present). You also have the opportunity to chat with buyers and sellers to get additional information, thank them, or rate your transaction. The only drawbacks to Poshmark are that they do take a 20% cut of your profit, and the clothes have to actually sell for you to get anything out of it. I’ve found that the 20% cut is fair, considering how easy they are to use and would much prefer that then having to pay a monthly membership fee. Participation is key when using Poshmark - you can’t just post something and forget it. Occasionally, you’ll need to go in and re-post to your followers. You’ll also want to build up your network on the site to make sure a lot of people can see your listings.. I check in once every week or two for about 10 minutes tops. If you’re looking to get a decent amount back for your clothes, Poshmark is definitely the way to go. There are other companies out there that are very similar like TheRealReal or Mercari, but Poshmark, in my opinion is the best and easiest to use.
ThredUp: If you just want your clothes out of your hair and don’t want to put much effort into it, send your items to ThredUp. You won’t get much, but “it’s a send it off and forget it” situation that will leave you with at least something. All you do is request a Cleanout Kit, fill the bag with your items, leave the bag for your mail carrier, and wait for them to process it. Once they’ve processed your bag they will let you know which items they’ve accepted and will give you a payout offer. Any items they reject can either be donated or sent back to you. For me, this was an option for items that were still in really good condition but either didn’t fit or I decided were no longer my style. I didn’t send anything here that I was attached to, or that I thought was valuable since I knew I wasn’t going to get much at all back (I got a total of $14 back for my bag).
Same goes for places like Plato’s Closet and Buffalo Exchange. Only bring name brand items here, and make sure they’re in excellent condition. If not, they will likely be rejected. Also, don’t expect to get much back or you will be disappointed.
Another great option for getting rid of unwanted clothing is by swapping. Swap parties have become pretty popular in recent years. Hosting a party of your own is a fun way to get together with friends, have a good time and get some free clothes. If you don’t want to host a party yourself, it’s pretty easy to find swap events in your area through Global Fashion Exchange, Facebook and Eventbrite.
Swap Society: With Swap Society, you can either attend one of their events or send in clothes you want to swap. They’ll evaluate your clothing and assign points based on the value and condition of the garment. You’ll receive a points total which you can use to swap for new stuff. In essence it’s free! Just know you won’t get a ton for your clothes, although I’ve found it’s a better value than ThredUp and Buffalo Exchange because they’re not re-selling. Before sending in your clothing, I’d recommend checking out their website first to see if there’s anything you like. They get new things in all the time, so if you don’t see anything you like right now, just check back in a few weeks. You can also just buy stuff on there as well. My only drawback to Swap Society is that again, I sometimes feel I’m not getting much back for my clothing, and sometimes I don’t find anything I want in return. But here’s the thing: it takes very little effort on my part, but the amount of work their staff has to do to go through the clothing, assign the points and maintain it is quite a lot, so it’s understandable that I’d get less in return than if I did all the heavy-lifting myself (like on Poshmark). So again, don’t give up things you still really value you’ll feel defeated. Maybe try upcycling or Poshing those. This is a great place for nice pieces that just don’t fit right or you don’t like how they feel or look on you.
Last but not least, there’s Garment Hub. Yes, it’s time for a shameless plug. We at Garment Hub also host swapping events from time to time where you can drop by and swap out what no longer works for you for some fresh new-to-you pieces. We then take the leftover garments and donate them to charity, so nothing is wasted. We also offer upcycling services to help reinvent those garments you still love (on the hanger, that is) into something that better fits your body and style. Check out our Calendar of Events for more info on upcoming swaps and other fun events you won’t want to miss out on!
Whatever you do, please don’t throw your clothing in the garbage!
Once you’ve decided where you’d like to donate your clothing, any “rejects” that are not in good condition can be re-purposed into rags, yarn, stuffing for pillows, or recycled. No matter what the condition, clothing does not belong in the garbage. Most fabric can take years, even decades to break down, so there are much better options out there. At Garment Hub, we partner with USAgain to collect unwanted clothing that is no longer suitable for use, so it can be recycled into new material. Check out their website to find a collection bin near you.