Donating clothes: 10 ways to give your unwanted clothing items a second life
(This story is presented by Metro Vancouver.)
The Marie Kondo craze has people all over the globe taking a careful look at so many physical objects they own and asking themselves: “Does it spark joy?” If it doesn’t, the queen of decluttering and organization says it’s time to say goodbye.
Now apply that question to your wardrobe, to every single T-shirt, hoodie, suit, belt, skirt, bra, and set of pjays. Does that holdover blazer with shoulder pads really still make you happy? Are you truly excited about putting on that pair of heels you bought for a gala but haven’t worn since? Are you ever going to re-wear that sweatshirt you bought in a gift shop on holiday because you were too cold?
If you answered no, you’ve taken the first step to cleaning out your closet. The next is to determine where all those pieces of unwanted clothing are going to go.
If you’re not able to alter, repurpose, or swap the pieces that no longer spark joy, donating them is your best option.
The benefits of giving clothes a second or third use are far-reaching. For one, there are people and organizations that are in desperate need of them. For another, the last thing you want to do is have your clothing end up in the landfill.
Textile waste is one of the biggest pollutants on the planet. Globally, it’s estimated that one garbage truck full of clothing goes to a landfill every single second.
Metro Vancouverites throw out 44 million pounds of clothing per year. That’s 17 pounds per person, or the equivalent of 44 T-shirts.
To help minimize our clothing waste and its accompanying carbon footprint, Metro Vancouver has launched the Think Thrice About Your Clothes campaign. It’s encouraging residents to reduce, repair, and donate their clothing instead of throwing it out.
When it comes to giving a piece of clothing away, think first of people you know. Could a sibling, neighbour, pal, or friend’s child use it? This is the easiest and most effective way of ensuring your clothes get another life.
From there, donating them is the way to go.
And you might be surprised to discover what you can donate. What’s acceptable? Almost everything.
Most second-hand clothing retailers will accept nearly any kind of clothing What they can’t use gets repurposed or packed up and shipped to markets that can use them.
The basic rule is this: if it’s clean and dry, you can donate it.
Here are 10 helpful tips to keep in mind so you can max out the donation potential of your duds.
- Don’t throw out those socks with the holes in them! These can be reused to make things like wiper rags, insulation, or emergency blankets.
- Donate shoes in good condition, even single shoes. The only kind of footwear that can’t be accepted are shoes with holes in them or that are heavily worn or torn.
- Unsure about whether a specific item or type of fabric can be donated? Head on over to MetroVancouver Recycles and do one of two searches: 1) clothing (any condition, clean and dry), or 2) clothing and accessories (in good condition). These searches will yield results for places that accept only items in good condition, or places that will accept clothing in any condition.
- Wedding gowns can be donated.
- Accessorize your donations! It’s not just shirts, slacks, and shoes you can donate. You can also donate purses, earrings, scarves, wallets, hats, sunglasses, and other accessories as long as they’re in good condition.
- Add in linens while you’re at it. Bedding, towels, tablecloths, and napkins can also be donated.
- Live in an apartment? Many organizations throughout Metro Vancouver offer apartment recycling-room clothing-bin programs. These groups include BC Children's Hospital Auxiliary, Developmental Disabilities Association, and Re-vivify (which specializes in textile recycling for high-rises), and more.
Go to Think Thrice About Your Clothes for information, as well as listings for clothing donation pick-up services within the region.
- Some organizations focus on collecting specific items, such as winter wear, business attire for job interviews, or work wear. If you’re not sure, simply contact them directly.
- Pack clothes for donation in a box or plastic bag.
- Moldy, paint-stained or oil-covered clothes can be difficult to re-use. Donate everything else you can to keep clothes out of the garbage.
For more information on textile waste, plus hints and advice on how to reduce, repair, and donate your clothing, visit Metro Vancouver’s Think Thrice About Your Clothes website.