Friday 16 July 2021

What To Do With Your Old Clothes

In the UK, we throw away a million tonnes of textiles every year. That’s the highest rate per person in Europe, and a whole lot of wasted fabric (especially if the clothes are made of some form of plastic aka oil), energy, and labour. Clearly, we not only need to talk about where we get our clothes, but also what we do with them once we’ve finished with them. And it’s not as simple as chucking it at a charity shop and hoping for the best. 

Wash and potentially repair it

Before you give your clothes to anyone to use again, make sure they’re in good condition, or at least a condition that you would be happy to get a secondhand item. That means no stains, doesn’t smell, and actually wearable. Remember, you’re extending its life not chucking it out, even if you’re giving it to someone else. Everyone deserves to wear clothes that don’t smell like someone else has just gone a run wearing them.

See if a family member or friend likes it

We have all complimented a friend or family member on an item of clothing they’re wearing. If not, then you’re just miserable. Check with your friends and family (those who are the same size as the garment or garments you no longer wear) and see if it’s something they would like to try. I have several t-shirts that my brother grew out of and they are some of my favourite comfy clothes. Ad hey there’s really nothing complicated about a traditional hand-me-down. They’re a staple for a reason. 

Upload to a resale app to sell on to another person

There are so many resale apps clothing resale apps now, it’s hard keep track. There are your classics, like eBay and Depop, as well as Vestiaire Collective (for more designer and luxury items), Poshmark, and, my personal favourite, Vinted. I will have undoubtedly missed off a few but you get the gist on this one and I feel like you end up gravitating to one particular app in the end based on personal preference. As I’ve just mentioned, I personally really like Vinted, for a variety of reasons I will delve into in a later post, but to be honest, it probably depends what you’re looking for too. 


The thing I like about resale apps is that they are quick to use, both buying and listing your items to sell, and can be done anywhere with an internet connection. A lot easier than trawling through every charity shop in town. They also guarantee that the garment is going directly to another person to wear, rather than waiting on a charity shop floor of months on end or shipped off overseas to be sold in a market where sales aren’t guaranteed, and potentially (this is a huge potentially) ending up in landfill. 

Upload to a renting app to share with other people

If it’s an item you don’t wear much but do still love and can’t bear to get rid of, or don’t have the occasion to wear a lot, then peer-to-peer renting might be a good option for you! I’m not 100% sure on every app or rental service that does this, but I know that By Rotation has clothing rentals available both from brands themselves and every day consumers. Maybe not one for when you just want those clothes out of your wardrobe, but for some items this might work well for you. 

By Rotation app home screen

Visit an in-person clothes swap to exchange it for something new

These can happen again! Hopefully… The rules are simple: bring at least one item of clothing with you, and leave with a different one. It’s a cheap and guilt-free way to switch up your wardrobe! Google to see what events are happening in your local area (currently Covid-dependent). They could be held by specific groups in hired out spaces, or even in local cafes, community centres and student spaces. One great example if the Southampton Clothes Swap which happens on a regular basis. 


Like many of the other options in this post, clothes swaps are a great way of guaranteeing your garment gets a new owner straight away (unless someone doesn’t pick it, which in that case, take it home and either try at another swap or try another avenue). 

Check any social media groups you’re involved in for online clothes swaps

Like in-person swaps but more flexible with time and location, and Covid-safe! I’m part of Leena Norms’ patreon-only Facebook group which has a separate clothes swap spin-off group, but there are lots of other sharing groups as well, whether locally based or connected by another means, you’ll be able to find someone who wants to swap with you!

Donate to a local charity, shelter or organisation


You can bet there are loads of local organisations doing amazing things that will more than happily take your clothes and pass them on to people who will cherish them. Example charities include refugee support organisations (such as Give Your Best and North East Solidarity and Teaching), women’s refuges, homeless shelters, nationwide organisations like Smalls for All, or even food banks. If you are able to contact them beforehand, do, and see what clothes they’re in need for or if they even have the capacity to take on donations. Same rules apply, especially if the clothes are going to someone vulnerable, make sure they’re clean, stain-free and in decent condition to wear. 

Upcycle it!

This does require a bit of craftiness, time, and patience, which I for one know I have limited capacities for, but if you’re determined to make something or have those capacities, why not make your old clothes into something new? It could be something like jazzing up a jacket or trousers with some embroidery, changing the length, or even turning it into something completely different! Which option you choose will depend on your skill and experience, and this may be particularly good for clothes that aren’t in as wearable condition. I’m not particularly good at things like this but I do want to learn a few of the basics (and catching up on old series of the Great British Sewing Bee has certainly helped with that!). But this is no something I think I will ever be amazing at. I just want to learn how to repair and sew something very basic. 


Like renting, this option may not be for you if you just want that item out of your wardrobe, and there can be a bit of a pressure sometimes to be incredibly crafty and never want to get rid of anything, but that’s totally unrealistic for a lot of people, even if it is a cool skill to have. 

Donate to a local charity shop

If you’ve tried your best to get your garment straight to a new owner, charity shops are the answer. The same rules apply to every other option on this: make sure your clothes are clean and wearable. Charity shops are flooded with clothes that they are simply unable to sell because they have stains or are virtually in pieces. Remember the phrase ‘donate not dispose’. 


The reason why I put charity shops as the last option is that they are already overwhelmed with items that simply won’t sell. In fact, only about 10% of charity shop donations actually get sold. That’s a lot of clothes that don’t get sold and are instead being incinerated, thrown in landfill or shipped overseas to either be sold or   If you have them near you and have the time, do try to support your local charity shops. They’ve had a rough time of it over the past 18 months with the pandemic (for more on that I’d recommend listening to this episode of Common Threads podcast), but still bare in mind the normal behaviours of slow fashion such as asking yourself questions such as:


Will I wear this item at least 30 (or 50) times?

Can I make several different outfits with this item by pairing it with other clothes I already own?


Moving away from fast fashion to secondhand but still buying at the same high rates is still unsustainable and has negative impacts in different ways, so treat any clothes you’re looking to buy the same!

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If you liked this post you might like: 5 Practises to Implement Into Your Self-Care

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