Mend, Give, or Transform? Purge Your Closet The Ethical Way

If you're paying attention to the world around you it's highly likely your internal alarm bells are permanently set to PANIC. I know mine are. There's so much happening and it feels like most of it is out of my control. Sure I donate, sign petitions, and do other fun activist stuff, but it never feels like enough.  Every day I listen to the news and my feelings of utter despair and horror grow to new heights. It's a tough feeling, the world spinning out of your control.

And last week, I decided enough was enough. I might not be able to create my dream world out there, but I do have control of my closet and let me tell you I'd about had it up to here with a closet that doesn't meet my standards. Mediocrity, clothes that were meh, no longer cut it for me. I only want things that make my heart sing. Clothing is how I express and heal myself and if now isn't the time for that I don't know when is. It was time to purge baby.

I took a long hard look at everything I own and was horrified at the sheer number of pieces that I felt lukewarm about. Why was I holding on to a cute red dress worn only once to an Oscar after-party 4 years ago? I’m never going to wear it again. Or that vintage nightgown? Sure it’s beautiful, but I’ve never even worn it because the old-school polyester makes me sweat. There were shorts that were too short, tshirts that were too pilly, and one button down that drove me crazy because the sleeves would never hold a cuff.

Enough was enough.

I needed to purge responsibly though. The average American throws away a whopping 82 pounds of clothing every year. Most of that ends up in a landfill (yes, even if you take it to Goodwill), and this compassionate fashionista refuses to be a part of that statistic. The sentiment behind donating clothes is beautiful, but unfortunately we have way too many clothes in the market and most of the clothes we donate will never reach people who actually need them. If we really want to help Mama Earth, we have to better alternatives to donation. Which left me with a conundrum. How the heck do I get rid of all this stuff and be environmentally conscious?


Deciding what to get rid of was the easiest part for me. I love the Marie Kondo method of asking if something sparks joy and was able to quickly go through and sort through my closet. It’s really simple. Hold up a piece of clothing. If it makes you happy, keep it. See? Easy! I prefer this to the question of when was the last time I wore it, because our style ebbs and flows. I can’t tell you the number of items I have that I won’t wear for years, but then all of a sudden I fall in love with it all over again and it’s back in rotation. Holding on to it, even when I wasn’t wearing it kept the item out of a landfill and saved resources (both for the manufacturer and my bank account).

Looking at this giant pile of clothes I started to panic. This was a lot. It was going to take so much work to figure out what to do with all of it. Just the thought of listing it online, or researching the best place to donate it was exhausting. But then I stopped and took a closer look. Holy moley you guys, what I’d seen as one giant pile of clothes was actually several distinct types that all required a different solution. Broken down and done bit by bit, it was easy to purge with a clean conscience!



Photo by  Marianne Krohn  on  Unsplash

The first category is the Mend Pile. These are clothes that I love, but for one reason or another are out of commission. They’re missing a button, have a small hole, or some other super easy fix. If the thought of having to take the time to fix something feels like a whole thing consider this. To replace it you’d have to leave your house, go to a store, deal with crowds, look around, hopefully find something that meets your ethical criteria and your style, try it on, hope you like it, and then SPEND MONEY ON IT. You already have the perfect thing boo. Just mend it! If you don’t know how to do minor mends take a look at these video tutorials. If you don’t feel up to learning a new skill take it to a local tailor. You can find them at most dry cleaners and I’ve always had great luck.




Photo by  Alex Sorto  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alex Sorto on Unsplash

The second category is stuff that looks awesome but still has to go. My favorite thing to do is have a swap! It’s always a good time and can be a great opportunity to sell your friends on the whole eco-fashion thing. If you need tips on how to host the best swap ever take a look at this post from a while back. One downside to clothing swaps is you can come away with a bunch of clothes you’re still not in love with. I don't know what it is about free clothing that tricks us into thinking we can grab stuff willy-nilly even if we’re not totally in love with it. That’s why when I’m just over having so many clothes I know it’s time I donate them. Skip those donation chains and instead give to local women’s shelters. They always need items in good conditions and you can be sure they’re going to women in need.




Photo by  Alex Plesovskich  on  Unsplash

This pile consists of our worst of the worst. It’s that pit-stained white tank at the bottom of your drawer, the period stained shorts, and the grease flecked sweater. These are items that no one should wear anymore. But that doesn’t mean they should go in the trash! There are plenty of ways to still get life out of your grody old stuff. My favorite option is making rags. That’s right, just cut the shit out of your old clothes. Cotton is especially good for rag making because of its absorbency. I use old clothing rags instead of paper towels around my house and it’s saved a ton of money and trees! #Zerowastelife baby! If you’re feeling crafty you can also turn your old shirts into rag rugs, but like let’s be honest who has time for this? Let’s say you have all the rags you need, you’re not into making rugs, and you still have all these worn-out clothes, can you throw them away then? No! Take them to a textile recycling center instead. The Council for Textile Recycling has an awesome finder tool to easily find the closest center near you.

What's your favorite method for dealing with unwanted clothes? Leave a comment below!