When it comes to sorting through a loved one’s possessions, clothing is often one of the last things to get taken care of. After all, what do you do with Sunday suits, casual work clothes, fancy dresses, and the vast assortment of t-shirts, jeans, shorts, and polo shirts?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Do People Typically Keep Their Deceased Loved One’s Clothes?
- Options for Donating or Disposing of a Deceased Loved One’s Clothing
- Options for Recycling, Gifting, or Keeping a Deceased Loved One’s Clothing
While many people choose to defer the task of sorting clothing in favor of more pressing executor duties, the job must get tackled at some point. So, if you’re scratching your head wondering what to do, here are thirteen options for keeping or repurposing your loved one’s clothes.
Do People Typically Keep Their Deceased Loved One’s Clothes?
What you do with a loved one’s clothes is ultimately up to you and there is no right or wrong answer.
Some people choose to hold on to a few sentimental items and repurpose them into keepsake items. Others choose to donate all of their loved one’s clothes. Still others choose to keep clothing in their closet until they have reached a major death anniversary and are ready to let their items go.
However you choose to deal with your loved one’s clothes, simply do what is best for you and helps you through the difficult days of mourning and missing your loved one.
Options for Donating or Disposing of a Deceased Loved One’s Clothing
When you navigate the steps of what to do when someone dies, at some point you’ll be faced with the question of what to do with your loved one’s clothing. Donating clothes can be an excellent way to continue someone’s legacy by helping people in need. There are many avenues you can take if you decide to donate clothing. Here are several.
A well-known thrift shop, Goodwill is famous for taking used goods and selling them in their friendly storefronts. They’re also known for providing jobs and skills training to people in the community who need it most. Goodwill takes most all articles of clothing including wedding dresses, fancy dresses, suits, business clothing, suits, and regular apparel such as jeans, shirts, shorts, and pants.
Good to know: Goodwill asks that all clothing is washed or dry cleaned prior to donation.
If you have professional women’s attire, this is the perfect place to donate it. This non-profit organization provides professional clothing to women for interviews and, if they get the job, for their regular work attire if they can’t afford it. They service homeless and low-income women who cannot afford the type of professional attire workplaces require.
Good to know: Dress for Success takes all types of professional attire from skirts and shirts to blazers and pants. Shoes and accessories are also accepted.
Are you looking to donate men’s professional clothing? If so, Career Gear is the place to do it. Similar to Dress for Success, they are a non-profit that helps homeless and low-income men by outfitting them with professional clothing for interviews and jobs. They take a wide variety of professional clothing from overcoats and ties to slacks, watches, and tie clips.
Good to know: Career Gear asks that all clothing be in current fashion, clean, and stain-free. Per their sustainability commitment, they ask that you do not provide wire or plastic hangers and that all plastic dry-cleaning covers be removed.
Many local shelters will gladly accept gently used clothing items from baby clothes through senior adult items. Check with your local shelters for lists of needed items, as they might vary depending on the season. In addition to local shelters, you can also connect with Salvation Army shelters and YWCA and YMCA shelters.
Good to know: Depending on the season, there can be an especially high demand for items like winter coats, warm boots, mittens, and thermal pants and shirts. If you have these times during the winter season, shelters will be especially grateful to receive them.
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Local clothing closets
Many churches and religious organizations operate free clothing closets to help members of the community in need. They set up a type of storefront in their building where homeless and low-income community members can come shop for clothing for free.
Good to know: Always donate items to clothing closets in washed and cleaned conditions. These facilities don’t have washers and dryers onsite, making for extra work if they need to wash donations.
Soles 4 Souls collects all types of shoes and puts them to good use by donating them or providing them to families in third world countries so they can support themselves by setting up a shoe shop. You can drop off gently-used or new shoes at a local drop-off location or ship them for free via Zappos for Good.
Good to know: Donated shoes should be new or gently worn.
If you’re looking to donate winter coats, this organization gladly takes them all year long. One Warm Coat is a non-profit that specializes in providing new or gently-used coats to those who need them most. Since its beginning in 1992, the non-profit has given over 6.6 million coats away to individuals in need.
Good to know: All donated coats should be in new or gently-used condition. Coats and jackets with holes or stains will not be accepted.
You probably noticed that most organizations request new or gently-used items only. So, what do you do with wearable articles of clothing that are a little more than gently used? Donate them to non-profit Planet Aid.
As opposed to most non-profit clothing organizations, Planet Aid will gladly accept all clothing. If an item cannot be reused, they will recycle it. On average, Planet Aid recycles over 90 million pounds of clothes and shoes each year.
Good to know: Planet Aid will gladly accept clothing and shoes in any condition. Clothing too damaged to be reused will be recycled.
Options for Recycling, Gifting, or Keeping a Deceased Loved One’s Clothing
One option to consider when allocating personal belongings after a death is to recycle, gift, or keep some clothing as a keepsake item. If this idea appeals to you, here are several things you can do to create keepsakes from your loved one’s clothes.
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Quilts can be created from almost any material from t-shirts to jeans and flannel. Pick out a number of their favorite shirts to create a t-shirt quilt or combine pieces of jean fabric and flannel to create a rustic homespun type of quilt that is sure to bring comfort and a smile whenever you or a loved one look at it.
You can also create a quilt by using large squares of your loved one’s work shirts. Add their ties to the shirt squares to make each square look like their work outfit.
Difficulty level: Easy to medium depending on the fabric. Dress shirt and t-shirt material will be easier to work with than jean material.
Keepsake teddy bear
Teddy bears require a bit more sewing know-how, but they can be made from soft flannel and t-shirt fabrics or even jean material. These are perfect for children who have lost a loved one and want something to remember them by and keep them close.
Difficulty level: Hard. If you haven’t sewn before, this project could be quite the undertaking. You’ll want to give yourself plenty of time and a lot of patience to finish a single bear.
Pillows can be crafted out of old business shirts, t-shirts, neckties, and jean material. This is a good project for a sewing beginner as pillow patterns aren’t too tricky or complicated. If you’re feeling adventurous, use a work shirt and tie to create a work outfit pillow, similar to the way you’d create a quilt square.
Difficulty level: Easy to medium-hard. As with the quilt, t-shirt and dress shirt fabric is easier to work with than jean material. Adding a tie onto the pillow will create an extra step but not necessarily increase the level of difficulty.
Keepsake Christmas stockings
Create a keepsake Christmas stocking using denim, ties, or other heavy material that isn’t see-through. This is a fairly easy project for a beginner, and patterns can be found online.
Difficulty level: Medium. As long as you are working with a good pattern and understand how to sew, this should be a pleasant project that doesn’t pose too many problems.
If your family celebrates Christmas, ornaments could be the perfect give-away keepsake using your loved one’s clothing. All you need for this project is a star or heart pattern, some fabric from their shirt, jeans, pants, tie, or other item, and some batting to fill it.
Difficulty level: Easy. You can find a pattern or create your own. As long as you have two matching stars or hearts, you can hand-sew one side together, fill it with batting, sew the remaining side and you’re done. This is a simple project and can be accomplished for those who are beginners or brand new to a sewing machine or hand sewing.
Remembering Your Loved One
Clothing is a significant part of our lives. As such, a deceased loved one’s articles of clothing can bring back fond memories, making it hard to let them go. Donating the majority of these items will certainly allow their legacy to continue on, while creating a keepsake out of a few pieces will help you and your loved ones keep their memory close.
- “Donate Stuff.” Donation Dos and Don’ts. Goodwill, 2021. goodwill.org