7 Ways to Declutter and Repurpose Unwanted Clothing the Right Way

Yes, even your underwear, bras & other unmentionables.

I’m still relatively new to the whole concept of minimalism. I remember reading about capsule wardrobes on Caroline’s Unfancy blog a few years ago and was intrigued about the idea of living with less. It seemed so liberating – I was hooked.

My first declutter attempt was overwhelming. There was so much to go through and I had a hard time letting go of certain pieces, even ones I hadn’t worn in years.

But now, having gone through the process a few more times, decluttering my closet has become a surprisingly cathartic experience.

It’s so refreshing to look at a wardrobe that only contains the things I love the most.

But what about the clothes that didn’t make the cut? Let’s take a second to chat about those.

In this community, we talk a lot about consuming consciously (buying secondhand, building a capsule wardrobe, supporting ethical and sustainable brands, etc.), but I think it’s just as important to talk about disposing responsibly.

Why? Well, let’s look at some stats:

• While 95 percent of used textiles can be recycled, 85 percent land in the trash.
• The average American throws away about 81 pounds of clothing every year.
• Synthetic clothing may take hundreds of years to decompose.

I think each and every one of us has the intention of disposing of our clothes responsibly. The problem is that it’s not always obvious how to do it.

Here’s what I’ve learned through my own experiences and some good old-fashioned research:

The Obvious One: Resell the Pieces That Are Still In Good Condition

Do you have any clothes hanging in your closet that have been barely worn or still have price tags? Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.

It can be a huge source of guilt and I sometimes try and convince myself that I’ll wear that piece eventually – but if you haven’t worn it yet, you probably never will. It’s time to find that item a better home.

I resell gently used clothing through apps like Poshmark. For tips on how to buy and sell there, you can check out my blog post on Her State of Mind. And if you want to check out my closet, you can search for @laureneho.

Compost Your Cotton Undies

Let’s get real for a second. Your used underwear is probably not fit to donate.

If your undies are 100% cotton, you can actually compost them! All you have to do is cut off the elastic waistband and any tags or embellishments, then cut the cotton into strips or squares and toss them into your compost bin.

Keep in mind that synthetic materials such as Lycra won’t compost, so stick to natural fibers only.

Donate to Your Local Homeless Shelter

If you have any gently used items that you no longer wear, you can donate them to your local charity or homeless shelter and feel good about helping someone in need.

Or if you’re short on time, simply schedule a pickup with Salvation Army. It doesn’t get any easier than that.

Drop Off Stained Clothing At a Textile Recycling Location

Old clothes can be repurposed for furniture, insulation and many other things.

Check out The Bra Recyclers, an organization that will help you find a way to recycle, reuse or repurpose bras. You can find a drop-off station or mail old bras directly to them.

You can also find clothing donation drop-offs and textile recycling resources all across the U.S. through Council for Textile Recycling.

Upcycle Your Old T-Shirts

Old t-shirts can make the perfect rags and are great for polishing wood, cleaning mirrors and wiping up spills.

They’re also useful for DIY projects. You can cut them up and use them to stuff pillows or stitch the pieces into a one-of-a-kind quilt or rug. Get creative with it!

Host a Clothing Swap At Work or With Friends

Clothing swaps are such a fun way to get rid of old clothes. After all, your castoffs could be someone else’s unexpected treasure. And you might be able to find some new pieces to add to your collection too.

I’ve done a few clothing swaps with friends. Just add a glass of wine and it’s a perfect girls’ night in.

Or schedule a clothing swap at work and turn one of the conference rooms into a closet like we did!

Check Out Your Favorite Brands To See If They Have Reclamation Programs

You can bring your jeans (any brand or style) to one of Madewell’s stores and an organization called Blue Jeans Go Green™ recycles them into housing insulation for communities in need. In return, you get $20 toward a fresh pair.

And Nisolo, one of my favorite ethical brands, recently launched a shoe reclamation program. They give your used shoes to Soles4Souls who then distributes them to micro-enterprise programs in developing countries such as Haiti, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Moldova and other countries in Africa.

The micro-enterprise participants clean and recondition the shoes to sell locally. In return, you get $30 in credit towards a new pair of Nisolo shoes. It’s a win-win!


Do you have any other recommendations for responsibly recycling old clothes? Share below!

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