How to Get Rid of (or Sell) Clothes You Don't Need

Updated

Have you recently inherited a house full of stuff or plan to downsize your closet? Want to pull off your latest New Year’s resolution idea and get in touch with your inner Marie Kondo? Whatever your reason, it’s important to put together a good game plan to get rid of your clothes. 

Jump ahead to these sections:

You might think sorting through your clothing is a daunting task. Here’s how to determine which clothes to keep and items to get rid of. We’ll explore some organizations you can donate or sell to so you can streamline your wardrobe. Here’s how to get started. 

Tip: Once you sort through and get rid of your clothes, read our guide on how to organize your life for more tips.

1. Figure Out Your Motivations

There are many reasons you may end up getting rid of clothes. Maybe you’ve retired and no longer have a need for professional clothing. Maybe you’ve changed jobs to one that has a new dress code. Or you might be cleaning out your elderly parent's house and need to figure out what to do with their clothing. Your motivations for getting rid of clothing will vary depending on your personal situation. 

You may want to take an aggressive approach to get rid of your clothes. If you got a new job with a different dress code, you may make more minimal changes. You may decide to sell off unneeded professional clothes to finance the purchase of new clothes for your new work situation. Knowing your ultimate goals will help shape the rest of the process. 

2. Decide What Clothes You Want to Get Rid of

Here are some questions to ask yourself if your closet seems overstuffed. These questions can help you decide which articles of clothing you want to keep. They include:

  • Does this outfit still fit me?
  • Do I feel and look good in this piece? 
  • Is this piece comfortable? 
  • Is this outfit fashionable?
  • Do I wear this piece enough to justify owning it?
  • Do I have upcoming events where I can wear this outfit?
  • Do I feel emotionally attached to this piece?

Be honest about why you’ve held onto a certain piece of clothing for a long time. Keeping a tattered shirt you have an emotional connection to can be okay. Keeping an article of clothing you dislike because you feel guilty about getting rid of it doesn’t benefit anyone. 

3. Organize Clothes

When you’ve decided what clothes you want to get rid of, you can generally organize them into three different categories. Your first pile of clothes will be clothes you can resell. Your second will be clothes you can donate. Your third will be clothes that need to be thrown away or recycled. Not sure how to figure out what group your items fall into? Here are some good guidelines to follow.

Clothes you can resell

Certain kinds of clothing will resell better than others. 

  • Clothes must be in excellent shape. You’ll get the most money out of something in new or like-new condition. 
  • Higher-end brands tend to hold their value. You won’t get a lot of money for inexpensive fast-fashion brands like Forever 21 and H&M. These brands aren’t always high quality. A pricier brand like J. Crew or Banana Republic will fetch a higher price. 
  • Luxury brands do even better. Let’s say you have a Coach handbag, for example. You can recoup a decent percentage of your original investment. Regardless of the luxury level, an item with the original tags will often get a great asking price.

Certain vintage pieces can sell well, depending on their origin and the market. Just like modern clothes, they need to be clean and in good condition. Vintage pieces by recognizable brand names hold value especially well, too. 

Clothes you can donate

There are countless local and national organizations that accept clothing donations. Policies vary; here are some industry-wide best practices before you donate: 

  • Donate clothing that is clean. Thrift stores can’t wash items before they put them out, so a stained and wrinkled garment might end up being trashed. 
  • Donate clothes that are in good condition. Don’t donate clothes that are too beat up for you to wear anymore. Nobody else will want to wear them, either.

Clothes you’ll need to discard

Clothes that are too frayed, full of holes, stretched out, etc. can be repurposed into other products like insulation or carpet padding. This is a great alternative to throwing old clothes away only to take up space in landfills. 

4. Figure Out Where to Take Your Clothing

Once you’ve gotten clothing organized, each of your clothing piles will have separate destinations. Here’s how you can get your old clothes out of the house. 

Where to resell clothing

There are a lot of ways you can resell clothes. The way you choose to do it will depend on several factors. Certain methods will get you more money, but they may take longer and require a bit more effort. Other methods will get the clothes out of your way sooner, but you won’t make as much money. You’ll need to decide whether you want a profit or a quick process.

If you’d prefer to just get clothes out of the way, your best bet is to take them to a consignment shop. A consignment shop will accept the pieces it thinks it can sell. Once they’ve sold, they split the proceeds with you.

Consignment shops make their money by keeping a percentage of each sale. A consignment shop typically keeps anywhere between 25 and 60 percent of a given sale. This is because it has more overhead than a consignor does.

You do have the option of getting it back if an item doesn’t sell. Otherwise, the consignment shop will typically donate it to a thrift shop with other unclaimed items. 

Don’t want to split the proceeds of a sale? You can always try to resell clothes on your own. Companies like Poshmark allow you to photograph and list your item for sale online and even authenticate luxury items. Vintage clothing does well on more niche sites like Etsy. 

Where to donate clothing

There are countless places where you can donate unused clothing. Everyone has heard about major organizations like Goodwill and the Salvation Army. But there are plenty of other types of organizations that can benefit from your clothing donations. They include:

Employment-related organizations

Thousands of people don’t reach their full employment potential because they lack appropriate clothing. Organizations like Dress for Success and Jails to Jobs help marginalized individuals improve their lives.

Dress for Success provides women with professional interviewing clothes and development tools. Its mission is to help women become economically self-sufficient. Jails for Jobs provides resources for recently incarcerated people to reenter the workforce. One tool it provides is a directory for women and men to find free professional clothing for job interviews.

If you have clothes to donate, use the Jails to Jobs directory to find local organizations that accept gently-used professional clothing donations.

Domestic violence shelters

People who flee their homes because of domestic violence can’t usually can't bring necessities like clothing. If you have clothes for women and children, contact domestic violence shelters in your area. They often welcome donations for women and for children of all ages. 

Organizations that serve underprivileged populations

You may find that some thrift stores in your area support the work of local nonprofit groups. Don’t have anything like that in your area? You can donate shoes and clothing to Soles4Souls, an organization that donates shoes and garments to people all over the world.

Even if you don’t live near one of Soles4Soles’ drop-off centers, you can ship shoes free of charge, thanks to a partnership with Zappos for Good.   

How to recycle clothing

The practice of recycling clothing is still imperfect. One of the main drivers in this relatively new field is called I:CO. You can find clothing collection bins at retailers like H&M and American Eagle Outfitters.

However, not everything collected is recycled. In fact, much of it is sold throughout Africa, Central America, and South America in secondhand clothing markets. I:CO maintains that approximately 35 percent of what it collects is repurposed into other products. 

Don’t live close to a clothing recycling dropoff point? You can recycle on your own to some extent. Old clothing can be cut up and used as cleaning rags. Old shirts can get turned into tote bags or even quilts. Your clothes can be given new life with a little ingenuity on your part. 

Donating, Selling, and Recycling Clothing You No Longer Need 

Once you’re positive that you’re done wearing an article of clothing, it doesn’t have to mean that it’s at the end of its life. Many people would appreciate having the opportunity to wear your gently-used clothing items. Whether you donate or resell them, they can go on to enrich someone else’s life. Even ruined clothes can be repurposed into useful items that can have a positive impact on the world. 

If you're looking for more ideas, check out our guide to downsizing your life, what to get rid of when moving, and what to do with old cell phones.


Sources

  1. Matteis, Stephanie and Charlsie Agro, “What Really Happens to Old Clothes Dropped in Those In-Store Recycling Bins.” Cbc.ca, CBC News, 19 January 2018, www.cbc.ca/news/business/clothes-recycling-marketplace-1.4493490.

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