5 Ways to Clean Out Your Closet Responsibly

Purging your wardrobe is good, but you gotta do it right.

Part of the journey or practice of having a minimal closet involves getting rid of items in your wardrobe.

Even if you’re not seeking a perfectly curated tiny closet, we all come across pieces that simply don’t work for us anymore and would be better off out of our spaces.

But with 16 million tons of textiles going to waste each year in the US alone (and less than 20% of it being recycled), we need to be cautious of where our discarded clothing is ending up.

Here are 5 responsible alternatives to dispose of your unwanted clothing:

1. Keep It (Maybe)

Okay, so I know this is contradictory to what this post is about (getting rid of clothes), but stay with me here. The first step in this process is to be sure you’re sending off the pieces in your closet for the right reasons.

If it’s just because of a worn sleeve or a missing button, try repairing it; if it’s because the piece is too big or too long, try getting it tailored; and if it’s because you’re bored of the piece, try mixing and matching it with other items in your closet first.

2. Sharing Is Caring

If you’re confident that you no longer want the piece, think about which friend or family member has a similar size as you and may like the style of the piece you’re giving away. I often gave my worn clothing that I outgrew to my younger cousins since I didn’t have any younger sisters and it was a win-win: clean closet for me and new free pieces for them.

3. Sell!

I was at first hesitant to the idea of selling my clothes because I thought it would entail a ton of work (taking photos of my pieces, shipping them all out, etc.) with little reward. Thankfully, I was so wrong about this! There are numerous places to sell pre-loved clothing that don’t require too much of your time. My favorite is ThredUp: you create an account on their website, order a “Clean-Out Bag”, put all the clothes you’d like to sell in it, and ship it back to them with a prepaid shipping label that they provide. You can track all of your clothes online and watch the cash roll in!

4. Give Away

This is probably the way that we’re most used to doing when we get rid of our clothes. However, the reason I didn’t put this one first on the list is because it isn’t usually the most efficient use of our clothing. It’s estimated that only 20% of the items we give off to consignment and charity shops are actually being out on their racks and shelves.

If the other ideas to clean out your closet responsibly won’t work for you, though, and the piece is still in good condition, it’s better than sending it to a landfill or a facility where it may be down-cycled.

5. Recycle It

If the clothing you’re getting rid of is beyond repair and not in good enough condition to give to someone else, then look for a textile recycling center you can bring your clothes to. If you live in the U.S., check out American Textile Recycling Service or Council for Textile Recycling for information and drop-off locations. Textile recycling centers aren’t as common as other recycling locations, so if there isn’t one close to you, I recommend saving all the clothes you’d like to recycle in a bin throughout the season (or even year).

You can also let your friends and family know you’re making a trip to recycle your old clothing and ask them if they’d like to add their unwanted textiles to the mix.

With so many different ways to slim down your closet responsibly, you should feel confident in creating a minimal closet without sacrificing your ethics along the way. Best of luck with your closet clean-out!

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