Four ways to give your old clothes a second life (that aren’t donating to charity)

A familiar scene: You are going through your wardrobe, simultaneously surrounded by all your clothes and nothing to wear. Time for a clear out you think to yourself. Out comes the empty bags ready to be filled with clothes and plonked outside of a charity shop. You tell yourself that you’re doing a good thing. You are providing op-shops with clothing they can sell to raise money for their cause. And if it doesn’t sell? Well, it will be sent to another country and be given to those in need, right? You can look in the mirror, and see a kind, helpful citizen staring back at you and give yourself a pat on the back…Except there’s a small crack in the glass. Not all is as straight forward as you have been led to believe.

It first came to my attention just how much harm donating to charity shops can do in an article on Ethical Made Easy by Ethically Kate. Did you know that The Salvation Army sells less than 5% off all items that are donated, and spends 6 million per year on landfill fees. Money that should be going to help their cause, not add to a problem. The Salvation Army is not alone in this problem, and clothes that are shipped to other countries actually end up damaging local markets, making it hard for local businesses to survive. To quote Kate: “The second-hand clothing trade in places such as Haiti and parts of Africa, has become so dominating, that locally trading seamstresses have been forced out of work. Traditional sewing techniques have been lost, and individuals can no longer live off the stable income of tailoring and making. Instead, they live in a daily gamble with the variable quality of second-hand clothes; they never know what will arrive on their shores, and what will be in sellable condition. And where do their unsold clothes end up? In landfill.”

I am not arguing that we should stop donating full stop, but it definitely should not be the first and only solution to our shopping habits. We are in an age where it is normal for citizens to be called ‘consumers’, and let’s face it, we are really good at it. Advertisers have us wrapped around their finger and thanks to the internet they know more about our buying habits than ever before. I have some useful tips for giving up fast fashion and shopping ethically, so click if you want to learn more. One of those tips is definitely to shop in charity shops, but let’s talk about how to consciously deal with all the previously loved items that now clutter your life. This blog is not about shaming, it is about solutions. After all, I am a consumer myself, and guilty of the same over zealous shopping habits. But I have learnt how to wean myself off fast fashion, love what I have, and consciously take care of all the rest. Here are four alternatives I’ve found to donating your clothing (and other items) to charity shops.

Image from Suitcase Rummage

Re-sell

There are endless ways to do this. Carboot sales, yard sales and suitcase rummages are all awesome ways to sell items yourself. Or, if you prefer online, Depop is a fantastic app. I am not sure how popular Depop is in Australia so I also want to mention Facebook Marketplace as I have found so many goodies on here and of course eBay and Gumtree come in with the goods too. You can even sell on your clothing via Etsy, I managed to find my New Years Eve costume second hand on Etsy so there is all sorts to discover. If you want to get rid of items for free it is easy to do this online too, through websites such as Freecycle or Facebook.

Image from Mutual Muse

Sell through a
consignment store

If you have some high-end brands and quality clothing, it is likely you can find a consignment store to sell your items on your behalf. Consignment stores will take some of the profit but also take away all of the hassle of trying to sell each piece yourself. Mutual Muse is a great consignment shop in Melbourne and also sells online via their Instagram shop (@mutualmuseshop). Others are easy to find if you do a quick search online. Since they have certain styles and may only accept particular brands, work out which store is most likely to take your clothing and go from there.

Image from The Clothing Exchange

Join the swapping revolution!

Instead of selling or donating, consider participating in a swap. More and more swapping events are popping up across Australia, and the rest of the world too. Take a few items of clothing (make sure they are not damaged or stained) and exchange them for others. Any leftover pieces are then available for sale at an incredibly cheap price or donated to a charity. I have had great luck with these events so far and love that it gives my clothes a good chance of finding a second home before going to an op-shop. Check online if there are any swaps going on near you, or set one up with your friends. I have been to several with The Clothing Exchange in Australia and definitely, recommend you checking them out if you’re down under!

Not good enough to sell, or too good to throw out? Make something new!

In my opinion, not much sounds better than sitting down on the sofa with a cup of tea, cat nearby, Harry Potter on the telly, and repairing some well-loved jeans. It’s true, loved clothes last, as long as you are willing to make them last. Recently it has become trendy to embroider your clothes and make a feature of each hole that is repaired. Any excuse to get creative is fine by me so I will be keeping this alive well after the trend has died down. Some items can be repaired, some however may be too far gone. But their life doesn’t have to end just yet. There are all sorts of crafty things you can do with your old clothes and you don’t need expert-level sewing knowledge to do it. Pinterest is a great starting point for ideas, and instagram follows as a close second. For your items that really can’t be saved, chances are charity shops cannot save them either. These are perfect to be turned into rags, and small parts may even come in handy for patching up your favourite garments when their time comes.

So these are my suggestions what are yours?. Of course, if it is good quality clothing you can donate to charity. Make sure you wash your garments and make sure there aren’t any stains before donating, and you can even call up charity shops to see what they need.

Author: Coco

Hello! I am Chloe, pleased to meet you This blog came about from the observation that people do what's easy. Unfortunately, tt is often easier to live in a way that can inadvertently lead to pollution, animal cruelty and poor working conditions in developing countries. That shouldn't be the case! And I believe it is our responsibility to shift the focus to amazing cruelty-free, fair trade and sustainable brands who are all changing the world. Join me and let's make the kind choice, the easy choice.

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  • Yay!
    Thank you for mentioning Mutual Muse <3
    also Erin Lewis-Fitzgerald is a great person to follow for visible mending. She is so talented!