I’ve written quite a bit about how to pare down an overly large wardrobe (see here and here for some of my best suggestions on this topic), but I don’t think I’ve given too much attention to what to do with our clothing cast-offs. Today’s post outlines some suggestions for how to best move these items on to a new home.
First, an Important Point about Guilt…
Before I cover my specific suggestions, I’d like to cover one important point. A lot of times, our primary reason for holding on to clothing we no longer love is guilt. We feel guilty for having spent money on items that we have rarely or never worn. We may also experience remorse for not having used gifts that were given to us by loved ones. But such feelings cannot bring back lost dollars or push us to love things that we simply do not.
It can be helpful to reframe things a bit and consider that passing on unloved items will enable someone else to love and use them. If you stop to think about the joy that you receive from your most cherished possessions, you’ll realize that others out there might have the same feelings about your cast-offs. Passing those things on can enable others to experience joy and pleasure. In addition, once the items are removed from your home and are out of your sight, your guilty feelings will gradually fade away. It’s really a win, win situation when you think about it, plus you may be able to recoup some of your lost dollars in some circumstances.
Now on to the list… I’m probably not covering all of the available methods for dealing with closet cast-offs, and some of my ideas may already be quite familiar to you. However, I hope at least one of my suggestions will be helpful and that having this list of resources will make it easier to let your unloved garments and accessories go.
Give Them to a Friend or Relative
Often the easiest way to pass on pieces we’re decided we no longer love is to give them to a loved one. It’s wonderful to know that someone we love will be enjoying our cast-offs and that can help ease the blow of letting go of closet items. I have given quite a few of my jewelry items to my mom and it warms my heart to think of her wearing them (since she lives far away, I don’t really get to see her wearing them).
Fellow blogger Mette took this tip one step further by inviting approximately 25 of her friends and family members to her house to go through her purged items (read more about this in the excellent guest post she wrote here back in September). She was very bold with her closet audit and managed to identify over 150 items to pass on. She moved these items down to her basement and hosted a few sessions during which her loved ones could grab anything they desired. The remaining pieces were brought to her office, where her co-workers claimed them. In the ensuing months, she has enjoyed seeing her closet cast-offs all around the small town in which she lives. She was happy to be able to “pay it forward” and took comfort in knowing that her unloved items could be appreciated by others.
Donate To Charity
This is the obvious answer to the “what to do with these items?” question. There are many, many charities that would be more than happy to take on your purged garments, shoes, and accessories. For those who live in large metropolitan areas, you can pick and choose which charities will receive your cast-offs. If there is a particular charity with which you really resonate, check and see if they have a donation facility in your area. You can get a tax write-off and experience the satisfaction of knowing your wardrobe pieces are going toward a good cause.
If you are letting go of business clothing, there are specific charities that are in need of such items. These charities, such as Dress for Success, pass suits and other business-appropriate clothing on to women who are re-entering the work force and need garments for interviewing and new employment.
Sell via Consignment or Online
If your purged items are in good condition and are relatively current, you may be able to recoup some of your investment by selling them on consignment or via the online auction site, eBay. This is particularly true for designer handbags and other items from coveted brands.
Consignment stores tend to work in one of two ways. Some stores will buy your items outright and subsequently sell them, whereas others will only pay you after the items sell. In most cases, they will offer you approximately 50% of what they believe the selling price will be. If you elect to take store credit, the percentage can be higher, but I recommend that you proceed with caution with such an option. After all, you don’t want to introduce more closet chaos into your life by buying low-cost secondhand items simply because you’ve earned credit at a particular store. If you actually need the items in question, the store credit option could be a good way to go, but it can be a slippery slope. In many instances, you’re better off taking the cash, as you’ll be able to use it for anything you need in any location and won’t be limited to the stock on hand in a consignment store.
When most people think about selling things online, eBay is usually what comes to mind. Selling on eBay can be daunting for those who are new to the process, but there are a lot of helpful online tutorials that can assist you, including the comprehensive tutorials available on the site itself. eBay also has a new option through which you can send in the items you wish to sell and a “selling valet” takes care of the photos, listing, pricing, and everything else. With this option, you still receive 70% of the proceeds, so this might be a better alternative for those who are either very busy or overwhelmed by technology. If you choose to list the items on eBay yourself, it’s a good idea to look up how much similar pieces have sold for in the past. Be sure to check out the selling prices, not just the list prices.
Other Online Options
Besides eBay, there are some new online options for selling your clothing and accessory cast-offs. With these services, you generally send in the items you wish to sell (they have posted guidelines for what they will and won’t take) and they pay you a percentage of what they deem to be the resale value. In some cases, you can opt to accept store credit or donate the proceeds if desired.
I haven’t used these services myself and I’ve heard mixed reviews. The payout is sometimes a lot smaller than expected, but if your main objective is to get your cast-offs out of your house and earn a bit of income, it could be a good choice for you. Here are some links to some of the online clothing resell services:
Host or Attend a Swap Party
Another way to deal with your purged clothing and accessory items is to host or attend a swap party. In this instance, instead of looking to earn money from your cast-offs, you’re basically aiming to trade them for items you like better. A swap party can also be a fun occasion to enjoy with family and friends, whether you are the host or just an attendee. If you elect to attend a swap party, why not invite a friend or two to go with you? Most women have some pieces in their closet they’re not wearing and would love to trade them for items they might love and wear a lot more.
Swap parties are usually either free to attend or entail a nominal fee. Attendees are usually required to bring a minimum number of pieces to the party and can pick up the same number of pieces as they contribute. Sometimes these events are held to benefit a designated charity, in which case a small fee is usually charged. In many cases, refreshments are also served. Many swap events are listed via your local chapter of Meetup.com and there are some ongoing swap groups who host regular events. There are also some groups who put on swap events around the United States and in other countries. You should be able to find swap groups and events via a simple Google search.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
I hope that my suggestions will be helpful to those who are looking to downsize their closets and pass unloved items on to new homes. If you have personal experiences you’d like to share about any of the services or processes I mentioned, please do so in the comments section. I would be especially interested in insights about online reselling services, as I haven’t used any of those myself (outside of some eBay experience).
I’ll be back later this week with some suggestions for where to buy quality clothing, shoes, and accessories based upon my own experiences and those of some readers. I had hoped to publish that post today, but it’s taking me a little longer to put together than I’d anticipated. If you’d like to include your input on that topic in my post, please comment here as soon as possible or contact me directly. My plan is to eventually create a resource page on that topic that will remain easily accessible via this site to help all of us shop smarter.
Agreed that getting the items out of the house is the most important aspect to move on. Also, seeing your items being worn and loved by others is awesome. I had this experience just last week. Gave a jacket to my hairdresser girlfriend. It didn’t work for her but she passed it on to another stylist, who was wearing it when I went in for a trim. Too fun!
A few other online options – Craigslist (but be sure to not give out personal info, there can be weirdos!) and any local Upcycle or Freecycle pages.
It definitely is cool to see others wearing our cast-offs, Mo, especially when it’s someone we know. Thanks for mentioning some additional options for dealing with cast-offs. I haven’t heard of Upcycle or Freecycle, so I will have to check into those services. I’ve used Craigslist to sell household items before but never clothing. But I have to admit I grew more wary of it after some of the horror stories that have been in the news in recent years!
When I get rid of stuff, the process usually goes like this :
– my sister-in-law comes home and sees if she likes something
– I put the clothes and accessories in good condition and still on trend to sale on Vinted
– I bring the clothes that are outfashioned to my charity shop
– I bring the rest (clothes that are too damaged, stained, etc) to recycle (we have a recycling program here where an organization collect old fabrics and use it to make new things)
Vinted is easy to use and if you take good pictures and don’t ask for a lot of money, people buy easily. However, the average age on this website (the French one anyway) is around 22 I think, so clothes from H&M, Zara or Forever 21 sell easily if they are low-priced basics or very trendy pieces, but other clothes (that could be considered “mom” clothes) don’t sell that much. Also, some girls are very rude and sometimes ask for extremely low prices so a cool heand and a lot of patience are sometimes needed..
Thanks for sharing your experience with Vinted, Cedrique. I knew very little about that service previously, so it’s good to read some insights about it. I think it’s great that you participate in a clothing recycling program. It’s wonderful when our cast-offs that can’t be worn by others can still be put to some type of use. You seem to have a good plan in place for dealing with your cast-offs and I appreciate your letting us know about it.
When I actually pluck up the needed courage to move things on I give them to a local charity that drives them over to Moldova and Belarus for the poor.
Ebay is not so useful here as the cost of postage is too high to bother. There are very few consignment shops in my area.
I hate putting bags of clothing into the clothing bins but am very happy to know they are going off to the poor in eastern europe. There is a collection going off next month so I better get onto it!!!
I still have a lot of trouble actually getting rid of clothes out of the house. I am good at pulling them out of my closet and putting them into bags but not so good at taking the bags away. It takes me some time and several rummages through the bags to “make sure” before I do toss. So it’s a slow process for me but it eventually happens.
How great that European cast-offs are being given to the poor in Moldova and Belarus, Carolyn. It’s always nice to know that things we can’t use are helping others who are less fortunate than we are. I can relate to having trouble letting go of clothes. I am much better with this now, but really used to struggle with that, too. If using a tiered approach is what works best for you, then go with that. Perhaps you can set a time limit on the “making sure” time so it doesn’t drag out too much. But the fact that you eventually get rid of things is what matters most in the long run.
I do a combination of giving things to friends or family, selling on Thredup, and donating to Goodwill. I’ve done okay with Thredup. You don’t get a ton of money, but it’s better than nothing. It’s very easy since they do all of the work. It does take a while to process though.
Thanks for offering your input on Thredup, Tonya. Sometimes it’s better to just go the easy route rather than having to take the time to list individual items on eBay or the like. We all have to do what works best for us. It seems you’ve worked out a formula for dealing with your cast-offs that works for you. The combination approach makes good sense.
I’ve also used thredup several times. The payout is definitely lower than if you try to sell items yourself, but for those with limited time it’s definitely worth it – very easy! They also take children’s clothes so I’ve been able to recoup costs for items that were outgrown quickly. I’ve also purchased a few children’s items, but recommend sticking to new or ‘like new’ items since I felt their gently worn description was a little too worn for my taste.
Thanks for sharing your feedback, too, Sheila. It’s good to get the perspective of people who have both sent in items to these types of services and purchased items through them. I think that for those who want to try to recoup some of the money they spent on their cast-offs, it will always be a question of how much time they want to spend on the process. eBay can yield a higher return, but it definitely takes more time!
I did have so much fun with the 25 women two years ago. I have recently picked about 40 pieces to pass on and have already given 10 pieces or so away to close friends. Today, I attended a funeral (my uncle passed away last week) and my cousin wore one of my shirts. It felt good to know that she chose my gift to wear to her in-law’s funeral. BUT I have also realized since two years ago, that I am now more selective in who I want to give my things away to. I now prefer my things to go to people I would do anything for (close friends and family) and who I know would do anything for me. Why? Well, they will think of me when they wear them – and will not just hoard (and then sell). Two years ago, I guess I had thought that more people would offer me something in return, but noone did. Was I wrong for expecting that? Back then, some left my house with 25 pieces or more. A colleague promised me a bottle of red wine for the 7 pairs of shoes I gave her, but I never got it. I am a little ashamed to write this, I feel a bit greedy for wanting to be acknowledged for my good deed, sigh.
I now have a few more pricey things left and I have decided to try and sell them online through a local facebook group. That way, people can come and see the garments and I don’t have to bother with shipping. Next step is local consignment and then the remains will probably be given away to more distant aquaintances.
Mette, I use to feel that way too. Then something happened and I began to understand that the kindness and gifts given often won’t come from the people we gave to. Especially if they are still lost in their greed. They probably aren’t evolved enough yet, and are still too focused on getting. I remember once being that way myself. I was a very greedy shopping-girl. But now I know that when we give freely and without having expectations we receive from other people and other sources. It opens something up. I’m not evolved enough to understand how it works, I only know that it does.
Thank you for these comments, Mette and Terra. I’ve sometimes felt the same way Mette does. Thanks for articulating those feelings so well. Terra–thank you for helping me with the big picture.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Mette. It must have been nice to see your cousin wearing your shirt at the funeral. My condolences on the loss of your uncle.
I think it’s wrong for people to make promises that they don’t keep like the woman who said she would give you a bottle of wine. I have never given all that many cast-offs to people I know (not because I haven’t wanted to – I just didn’t know many people in my size range – people aren’t as tall here as in Denmark). When I first read your story, I thought it was so cool that you had been able to pass off your items to so many friends and co-workers, but now I can see the other side of it. I can understand how you could become resentful when your kindness isn’t reciprocated in any way. It’s often easier to give to charity and believe that your items will be appreciated and put to good use.
I can definitely see the points that Terra is making, too. I have also been a “very greedy shopping girl” like she mentioned she was and many other women are (I’m not proud of that, but it’s true). From what I know about you, Mette, that’s not who you are. I admire that you have been able to pare your wardrobe down so much and stick to your shopping calendar for your purchases. I agree with Terra, though, that we don’t always get back from the same specific people to whom we give. But I do believe that if we are generous with ourselves, our time, and our possessions, it does come back to us in some way. I agree with Terra that it works. In your case, maybe the people to whom you gave your cast-offs didn’t all appreciate your generosity, but those of us who have read your story in your guest post here have benefited from it and have been inspired by you. Your giving has made a difference with us.
It seems you have a good plan for passing on the 40 items you’re letting go of now. I wonder if there is a local Facebook group like that where I am or in other areas. I wish you the best of luck with the process.
Re-reading my comment it comes of a bit more harsh than I meant. I am still very happy about the way I gave away all of my stuff two years ago, it was fun, a great relief and I did not expect anything in return. I was just surprised that the people I knew less, did not offer to pay or give me that bottle of wine :). I wrote about the impact it had when a complete stranger gave me a cardigan I had asked about in the store she worked in. She had it at home and gave it to me. I then bought her some fancy chocolates for her kindness. but I guess that is who I am and as such a surprise that not everybody would do so :). With the stuff I have now, it feels more right to give away to the people closest to me and sell the rest.
I am a strong believer in giving. Reselling personal items (clothing, shoes, handbags, jewelry) in my opinion, sends the scarcity message out into the universe. For me, reselling also fuels a sense of lack, want, greed, expectations and control. My purpose for releasing an item I no longer want is to free myself. Become free of the item, and let go of my expectations. So for this reason I give without any strings attached. When I purged my large wardrobe a few years ago I gave to a local nonprofit I value who holds an annual rummage sale. My excellent quality clothing, shoes and handbags went to their “Better Clothing” room, jewelry went to their “Treasure” room.
Now that I have a small wardrobe, when I’m done with something it’s usually well worn, or is completely worn out, and I send my Patagonia or Eileen Fisher worn out wear to their recycle programs. Occasionally I outgrow something, or it is no longer suitable for me, and then I give to friends, rummage sales or thrift shops. Over the years I’ve been the recipient of many wonderful things, and in turn I give.
Giving is great, but there aren’t the same avenues here in the country and I don’t know anyone my size. I do give away jewelry a lot though.
I resell my clothes on ebay to recoup some cost and because I know the person getting it wants it and will hopefully enjoy it (I offer returns at least!)
I appreciate the perspective that you gave, Terra. I hadn’t really thought about it that way specifically, but I know that I have felt free when I’ve passed things on. It definitely takes a lot less effort to just donate things rather than to have to list things on eBay or a similar site or bring them to a consignment store. It is also an end point in the process rather than a middle ground in which you still have some attachment to how much money you will receive for your cast-offs.
I think it definitely makes it easier to give when there is a charity nearby that one believes in. You and I are lucky to live in bigger metropolitan areas with lots of charities to choose from. I can understand Meli’s issue of not having decent or reputable charities where she lives. I can also see that those who get the items via eBay may very well enjoy and appreciate them. I haven’t bought much on eBay, but when I got my walking shoes a couple of months ago, I was thrilled to be able to buy them at a lower price (they were still new but discounted).
I don’t think there is one right answer to the “What do I do with my closet cast-offs?” We all have to work out what’s right for us, but I love that we’re presenting different ideas and perspectives here. It can only help each of us to achieve clarity, which is a positive thing.
Debbie, thank you. You are right. When I made my comment I did not consider it from the perspective that I live in a city that is rich with resources, with lots of charities to choose from, and everyone does not have the same options and privilege I have. It is good to be reminded that not only did I have the privilege to over shop, but that I also had the privilege to decide which charity to give to. This leaves me thinking deeply and I owe an apology to anyone I may have offended. It was hard enough for me to cull my closet of excess, bag up my lightly used clothing and handbags, then have to wait for months until the date of the event of the rummage sale of my choice for charity. Yet I can not begin know how hard it must be for someone who does not have access to a charity of choice. Although I do not have friends who are my size, I do have friends who gather clothes for migrant workers, friends who collect for Junior League rummage sales, and for other sales that benefit the food bank. Books can be sent to the Planned Parenthood used book sale each year. I have options galore, yet others might not have any choice at all. Thank you for reminding me!
You know what, Terra? I wouldn’t have considered that either if it weren’t for Meli’s comment. Since I’ve pretty much always lived in a more metropolitan area, I’ve always had access to a variety of charities to whom I could donate my cast-offs. It sounds like you have amazing resources where you live! I’m sure there are more, here, too, but I just don’t know about them. I’ve usually donated to the same two places, but have felt pretty good about it. I also sell some clothes via consignment, as I’ve mentioned previously. For years, I just donated, but when I was doing my major downsizing since I started this blog, for some reason it made things easier to get a little money back. But I can totally see your point about just releasing the energy and moving on. You gave me some important food for thought…
I have used eBay for unworn items that I had kept past a store’s return window, and while I am careful not to make that mistake anymore was generally able to sell off everything. Because none of my friends are my size, I’ve listed bags of clothes on Craigslist before with the size in the title and a few pictures of the bags of items. I ask $10 for those bags and then give that money to the next cause/person who asks me for it because it’s more about making sure the person comes to get the clothes than actually wanting money for them.
It seems like you’ve found a good way to deal with your cast-offs, Sara. I am learning a lot from reading the responses here and there are more possible solutions than I thought about or wrote about in this post. I’m too afraid of “weirdos” to use Craigslist, but I know that the crazy incidences are few and far between. I’m glad it has worked well for you. My brother uses Craigslist quite a bit to offload bike parts and he always meets the buyers in a supermarket parking lot. That’s a good type of compromise for those of us who are worried.
I sometimes pass clothes on to my daughter if she is interested, or else I donate them to a charity. I have given up taking clothes to the local consignment stores because the proprietors are very fussy about which brands they will take, and they are not always nice about it. I have come away feeling criticized, and really, who needs that? I can feel good about giving clothes to Goodwill – many of mine have been barely worn and I’m happy that someone who couldn’t otherwise afford them can enjoy them!
Sorry to hear you’ve had trouble at the consignment stores, Murphy. Since they don’t usually pay much anyway, why subject yourself to being criticized? I’ve had mixed experiences with taking my clothes to consignment. Sometimes they seem to accept more than others. I’m generally not standing there when they go through my things and I don’t usually ask why they took some items and not others. But I do feel that they can be pretty picky sometimes, especially when I see some of the junk they have hanging on their racks! Goodwill is always a great way to go, and my husband and I donate a lot of cast-offs (clothing and other) to them.
Debbie, as I’ve said before, it’s too bad I don’t live near you, since we like the same colors and styles and are virtual body doubles! I have one friend with whom I can occasionally exchange clothes and shoes, and one young co-worker trying to build a working wardrobe who likes some of my more current castoffs. I donate most of my office appropriate clothing to a local program that trains women with no previous job skills (many were prostitutes or strippers) through a six month program that teaches office skills and provides one full week’s work appropriate wardrobe to each graduate. I do have a local consignment store that gets anything else that’s salvageable, but the money I receive is less than $20 every few months. I love the swap party idea, and wish I had more friends who were compatible sizes. This post has made me think about the need to be more intentional with the clothing I am discarding as the year-long closet purge continues. Thanks for the excellent food for thought!
I can’t wait for the post on where to buy quality items. It’s a question I want to ask every time I read a new post or book saying “buy less, but buy better.” Many brands that were dependable for years are making disposable clothing now. Even Nordstrom’s quality is severely lacking, at least in the brands I can afford there. I have focused on buying better quality shoes this year, and since I have fussy feet like you, I have tried to find pretty flats with arch support. I’ve had the best luck with Van Eli and Geoxx, from either Nordstrom or Zappos. I also had good luck with boots from Sam Edleman. Can’t wait to see what you and your readers recommend!
Yes, it’s a shame we don’t live closer to each other, TexasAggieMom. We could have fun shopping each other’s closets for sure! The program to whom you donate sounds fabulous and very worthwhile. I would feel good donating to a place like that. I’m glad you found this post helpful and I wish you the best of luck with your ongoing closet purge.
Thanks for providing input on good quality shoe brands. I will add your suggestions to the list! I hope that post will be useful to many.
Just a quick note to tell you your blog was linked to from within this article:
Thanks so much for sharing this, Vildy! I’m always happy to see my blog mentioned or linked to, especially via high profile sources like The Atlantic. There aren’t many blogs out there for compulsive shoppers, so I’m happy when people who need this information are led here.
Some communities have a “textile” drive for recycling certain kinds of fabric and products. I don’t have very many clothes to give away because I am a careful shopper but I recently had to retire some clothing that has served me well for years and year. If the clothing is in good shape, I donate. If it’s a bit tattered, then I try to recycle. My sister’s town holds textile recycle drives so I send her a box of my clean but raggedy clothes, worn out sheets, etc.
I like the idea of a textile drive, Dottie. I haven’t seen anything like that where I live, but it probably exists. For years, I rarely wore anything out because I just had far too many clothes. However, I’m starting to see more of my clothes getting to the “tattered” point. Part of it has to do with low quality, sadly, but in any event, it would be good to have something to do with them other than throwing them away.
I often donate to a friend and her family first, then look into Goodwill or a local church. I’ve heard that Dress for Success is good for career clothing too.
Yes, Dress for Success is a good option, as they provide appropriate business clothing for interviewing and new jobs for those who are re-entering the work force. Thanks for mentioning this other option, Lisa.