It’s springtime. The flowers are blooming, the days are longer, and you’re probably eager to swap out all those sweaters in your closet for something a little more springy. In other words, it’s closet cleanout time. Whether you’re going full-Kondo or just doing some tweaks here and there, all of those unwanted items have to go somewhere. As good as you might feel about doing all of your spring cleaning, it’s important not to forget about where all of your unwanted clothing items are going after they’ve left your house.
Cleaning out a closet can be a long, daunting task as it is. I get that. But just throwing unwanted clothing items into a bag and sending it to the thrift store just simply isn’t working anymore. Part of this, as you might already know, comes from the big boom of Kondo-ing a house. After Marie Kondo made her Netflix debut, people started donating items in extremely high quantities. (It’s the same problem that happened after the book came out, I’d like to add.) Kondo does not give practical recycling or disposal tips, which I personally see as one of the downfalls to how she approaches home cleanouts.
Secondhand shops cannot physically handle the number of donations that they are getting. That means that some of those items will most likely go to the landfill. According to TIME, some thrift stores even had to restrict donations after the Marie Kondo show came out on Netflix. Storage is already a problem in many thrift stores, and some places even have to pay to dispose of the items that it cannot sell. That defeats the purpose of donating items.
But even if you’re not into Kondo-ing your home, it’s nice to find new, local alternatives to where your clothing is going. Believe it or not, there are plenty of non-profits that are putting specific clothing items to good use. Yes, it takes a little bit longer to separate dress clothes from loungewear and workout gear from denim, but it really does pay off. If your main goal is to keep item out of the landfills, then the below alternatives for donating are for you.
Dress For Success has 153 offices in 29 countries, so there’s likely one around you ready to take your unwanted women’s workwear off your hands. It’s a not-for-profit organization that has a goal to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing them the support, resources, and clothing that they need. You can donate your gently used professional attire, give a monetary donation, or volunteer directly. This is a great way to give your unwanted blazers, dresses, and trousers a new, meaningful purpose.
This non-profit organization teams up with local community organizations to collection workplace clothing for men and women that have recently been released from jail. They take everything from blazers and blouses to suits and shoes to give to people who need a little help getting back on their feet after being incarcerated. There’s a national directory on the website for the places you can donate. Each person must sign up and qualify to receive assistance, and the organization also offers tattoo removal and job training.
Career Gear is a non-profit based in New York City and takes specifically men’s workwear. The organization gives to low-income men who need help finding a job. It also offers job and life skill training. If you’re not in the area, you can mail in your gently used casual and formal menswear. The organization also takes accessories like watches, hats, and bags as well. The only catch is that it will cost you to send them in. As an added bonus, Career Gear has a green initiative on the website as well.
Any gently used workout clothing or accessories can be sent to RunningWorks. It’s a non-profit that provides career development, mental health counseling, group therapy and help with housing for the homeless. To donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get an address to send to.
If your workout gear is from Patagonia, the brand will take it right back when you’re done with it. You can ship the clothing to Patagonia Service Center at 8550 White Fir Street in Reno, NV (89523-8939). You can also take it to participating Patagonia stores near you. The brand will make sure that the items get recycled and stay out of the landfill.
Soles4Souls takes unwanted shoes and gives them a purpose again. The non-profit creates sustainable jobs, repairing the worn out shoes that get donated, and give them to those in need. You can donate your shoes at your local DSW or Zappos.
Nike will take any old tennis shoes for its’ Reuse-A-Shoe Program. The program takes old tennis shoes and turns them into high performance surfaces around the country. You can donate any brand of tennis shoe to any Nike store.
Cotton Incorporated came up with this program that turns unwanted denim into insulation for Habitat For Humanity homes. The program accepts any colored denim in ay condition. You can ship them directyl to the brand, using the mailing labels on the website. Or you can take them to any Madewell, Rag & Bone or American Eagle store to get 10% off a pair of jeans while you’re there.
Yes, even your bras can be donated somewhere other than the thrift store. This non-profit takes used bras and give them to survivors of human trafficking to sell in their country. Women can start a safe business and earn living wages. You can donate to Free The Girls at 1552 Pioneer Trail Chesterton, IN (46304). The website also has drop-off sites throughout the country.
When you buy a bra from Harper Wilde, the brand will send you a return label to send back all of your used bras. The brand collects them to turn them into new bras. Of course, there’s the catch that you have to buy one first.
These recycling steps take a little more effort than just throwing them into a bag, but it is worth it. When we can get items directly to where they can be reused, they have a better chance of staying out of the landfill. Of course, there are plenty of local places to take your clothing as well. There are always clothing banks or even just friends in the area who are us for a swap. That’s the magic of clothing.