Living Smaller – What to do with Clothes You Don’t Wear

picture of our home from the backyard

Our “starter” home 9 years ago before our Solar Awning

It’s green to live in a small space – once upon a time I dreamed of living in a huge house like some of my friends had growing up.  A house with a bedroom for each person, an office for each adult, plenty of bathrooms and a rec room in the basement in addition to living rooms.  When I was small we had a basement large enough to ride bikes in and two playrooms for the children.

We bought a small house (1500 sq ft) nine years ago figuring that it was a starter house.  One thing led to another and we never moved.  While sometimes we feel crowded,  I have realized that there are many benefits to living in a smaller house, including reduced heat and electric bills! Another is if you have less space, you tend to buy less stuff.  I have a strict rule in our family.  Before we buy something I always ask “Where would we keep it” and “What would we do with it?”  We also refrain from buying things just because they’re a good price, rather we wait until we need it.We didn’t always use to be like this – and the number of things that were never used because we never needed it, we couldn’t find it when we wanted it, or it went bad or got broken because it was sitting around for so long, was ridiculous!   If you can’t find what you need, when you need it, you have too much stuff.

If you’re living in a smaller space, you probably don’t have room for all your clothing to be in your drawers at once.  I rotate summer and winter tops, particularly because in New England we wear a lot of sweaters!  As you’re swapping out your clothes,  pay attention to what you haven’t worn all season and ask yourself “Why didn’t I wear this?  Will I really wear it next year?  Could someone else benefit from having it?”   Then put it in the donate bin!

The question “Could someone else benefit from having this” is a wonderful motivator to clear things out of your drawer.  It also works well on children, if you want to have them participate in clearing out things to make space.

What to Do With the Donate Bin?

Give it to People You Know
My favorite is to give things to people who you know can and will use it.  This works well with children’s clothes.   At one point I asked several friends what sizes their daughters wore.   Then my friend helped me sort through all the girls clothing & shoes I’d been saving in case my third was a girl, and I put it in piles labeled with those girls names.  It was MUCH easier for me to part with all the cute baby clothing when I thought about exactly who it would be going to.

Freecycle It
My next favorite is freecycle.  Then someone who knows what you’re offering comes to your house and takes it away.  Freecycle is an idea that utilizes the Internet to take what you have and no longer want and put it in the hands of someone local who needs it.  There are groups all over the world.  There is one based in my city – I post what I have – someone says they want it – and we arrange a time for them to come get it.  This is great because you can say “about 5-8 stained men’s t-shirts, only useful as work shirts or crafting” and whoever says they want them knows what they are getting.   That’s the kind of thing you can’t really donate somewhere, but if the recipient is choosing to come get it, then great!

Donate It
I’ve lucked out – our church has a clothing pantry a few times a year.  This works well for me because I know that there is no overhead.  Someone I know is collecting the clothing, it’s being sorted by volunteers and I am certain the clothing is going to someone who needs it.  In fact, my 7 year-old helped sort and organize for the last one.  This is great for items that are still perfectly usable,  but you don’t want anymore.  If you don’t have access to something that personal, there are many organizations that pick up donations and then sell what they have gathered to raise money for their organization.  In our area, and in about 36 states, the Vietnam Veterans Association does this.  In Massachusetts, and some other states, the Big Brothers Big Sisters will also do curbside pickup.

Sewing Material
If you can’t do anything else, find out if someone who sews might find it useful.  I just gave the legs I cut off my jeans to my mother-in-law so she can use the material for patches on other jeans.

Gardening Material
I also know that people use all cotton material as weed-blocking material in their gardens  and yards or put scraps into the compost bin.  I haven’t tried this myself,  but I understand that it works well.  Just be sure to cover it well – it could be embarrassing to have part of a shirt sticking up through the mulch in your front yard!

Crafts & Home Projects

stocking with potassium chloride melting through ice dam on roof

Stockings with Potassium Chloride Melting Through Ice Dams

One last idea – I keep a jar stuffed full of ripped tights and stockings.  Sometimes my kids use them for crafts, and last winter we learned how to break down ice dams with salt in stockings.

I know there are lots of ideas out there for what to do with clothing you don’t wear anymore – How do you decide to get rid of it and what do you do with it?

Happy Greening!

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  1. You can also hold a fashion swap with your friends and family and swap clothes that you no longer want. It can be a fun Girls’ Night Out with wine, appetizers and swapping.

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