7 Ways to Declutter Your Closet (Without Donating Your Clothes)

This article was originally published as a guest post on ADIMAY.

Stack of clothing

For the purposes of this piece, we’re going to focus on just one part of simple living: your closet. Most of us probably own far more clothing than we actually need, but before you go throwing out your entire wardrobe, consider the following three factors from The Good Trade’s How to Declutter Your Closet“where you live, what your lifestyle is, and why you have each item in your closet.” If you work in an office or professional setting, you’re allowed to have multiple suits or dressier outfits. If you love yoga and try to hit the mat every day, plan for an assortment of activewear. If you live in a climate with changing weather, make space for seasonal clothing, even if that means you put heavy coats into storage for 6 months of the year. The important thing is making intentional decisions about your clothes that work for you and your life.

After going through your closet and pulling out the items that truly don’t “spark joy” or make sense for you anymore, the next step is to responsibly and ethically dispose of your old clothing. Now if your first reaction is to go and dump everything in the nearest donation bin, STOP and first read why I think this isn’t always the most sustainable routeInstead, check out my list of 7 ways you can properly dispose of your used clothing (without the eco guilt).


1. Sell it.

    There are plenty of websites and marketplaces for you to sell pre-loved clothing, like Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace—the obvious benefit being that you can profit while giving your clothing a new home!

    2. Give it to family or friends.

      If you can’t or don’t want to take the time to sell your clothes, you can always give them away for free to family or friends. Just because you’ve outgrown something or it doesn’t fit your lifestyle anymore, doesn’t mean someone in your own circle won’t appreciate having it in their closet.

      3. Join or host a clothing swap.

      Clothing swaps are an awesome way to trade your old clothes in for something new. Find a swap going on in your area, or invite a group of your most fashionable friends over and host one of your own. If you prefer, you can even participate in a virtual clothing swap on sites like Rehash or Swap Society.

      4. Upcycle it.

      Turn your ratty old jeans into a cute new pair of cut-offs, or vegetable-dye a shirt that’s gotten stained. There are so many DIY tutorials and blogs that’ll walk you through the process of upcycling your wardrobe, as long as you’re willing to get creative!

      5. Downcycle it.

      If some of your clothes are in really bad shape, you can always downcycle them to use around the house. Try making kitchen rags with holey socks, or cutting clothes into strips to use as pillow stuffing. The important thing is just to keep those items out of the garbage.

      6. Find a textile recycler.

      Companies like TerraCycle take old clothing and fabrics and recycle or repurpose them into something new. Textile recyclers might turn fabric scraps into items like insulation or car upholstery, or break down the component parts to create new fibres for future use.

      7. Send it back to the brand.

      A number of brands are starting to offer buy-back programs to help move toward a more circular economy. Programs like these are being instituted at both large-scale multinationals like Patagonia’s Worn Wear, reselling used clothing to other consumers, and smaller brands like Novel Supply Co.’s Afresh, transforming old clothes into new pieces like accessories and baby clothing. Many companies even offer discounts or store credit when you send things back!

      Hopefully, this list will help you minimize your life and declutter your closet in an ethical, responsible, and sustainable way. But remember, clearing your space of old items doesn’t mean you have to rush right out to replace it with something new… you might even find that you live more by having less.

      This is the second of a two-part series on clothing donations. Read the first part, "Thinking of Donating Your Old Clothes? Read This First," here.

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