Reuse, repair, upcycle text on light board on sewing machines background. Stack of old jeans, Denim clothes, scissors, thread and sewing tools in sewing studio. Denim Upcycling Ideas, Using Old Jeans.

Spring-clean your wardrobe in a sustainable fashion

Wardrobe workout time. A sustainable approach to recycling, donating, and selling your clothing

The warmer weather is finally here. And although I’m mindful of ne’er casting a clout before May is out and all that, I’m starting to think about packing away my black polo neck jumpers and endless fleece hoodies. But instead of just swapping everything over and getting out the summer stuff again, I’m going to update my wardrobe and do it in a sustainable fashion. Time for some big changes! *cracks knuckles…

The concept of a wardrobe changeover goes beyond merely swapping out seasonal garments. I don’t want to just put away my winter clothes and get out the summer ones again. I’ve been doing that for a few years now, and I keep packing and unpacking the same things, without ever even wearing them. So the first thing is to have a look at what I actually wear. Let’s get that sorted out first.

Read more: Don’t tell me what to wear in my fifties!

Donating: the first port of call

Many organisations accept wearable used clothing and distribute them to those in need. This practice supports communities and provides individuals with access to affordable clothing options. Donations can be made to local charities, shelters, or charity shops. Some organisations, like The Salvation Army, have donation banks and even offer pick-up services. In fact collect for a number of different causes.

If you’re going to take your clothes to a charity shop, check with them when you drop off, and see if they do the Gift Aid thing. If so, your £1 can become £1.25 for them, as part of a tax deductible scheme.

Recycling: giving clothes a second life

Recycling clothing is another thing I’m going to look into. I’m not much of a tailor, but I have a few ideas. I’ll look into repurposing old fabrics into new items, for example, worn-out t-shirts can be cut and sewn into cleaning rags. And I’ve seen videos showing how old jeans can be transformed into tote bags which could be fun.

If you don’t fancy repurposing your own clothing, check out local textile recycling services, where clothes are processed to reclaim fibres and materials for new products. Search on google, or ask around. There’s likely to be someone doing something nearby. This not only reduces waste but also lowers the demand for raw materials, contributing to a more sustainable fashion ecosystem.

Clothes swap parties: sharing the joy

It’s hardly a new idea, but one I often forget about, and I love this. Swapping clothes with friends. Not only is it a good way to overhaul the old wardrobe, it’s a fun way to socialise. Invite your friends round who also want to revamp their clothing collection, everyone bring a bottle or some snacks, and make a fun thing of it. Whatever’s left in the pile at the end of the party can go to charity, or recycling, and you’ll probably all have a few new-to-you bits to add to your outfits.

Selling: monetising your wardrobe

Selling unwanted clothes is an excellent way to make a few bob from a wardrobe update. Online platforms such as Vinted, Depop, and Preloved (as well as old fave eBay) have made it easier than ever to sell second-hand clothing. List items, set prices, and reach a wide audience of potential buyers. High-quality, brand-name, or vintage pieces tend to fetch higher prices, making this a lucrative option for those looking to declutter.

Not only that. By participating in this resale market, individuals contribute to reducing the demand for fast fashion and promoting more responsible consumption patterns. Now isn’t that a nice thing to do?

The environmental impact of fast fashion

The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries globally, responsible for significant carbon emissions, water usage, and waste. Fast fashion massively contributes to this problem by promoting a cycle of rapid production and disposal. Many garments end up in landfills after only a few uses, contributing to environmental degradation.

By embracing a wardrobe update, we can reduce our environmental footprint. So get sorting!

Your wardrobe makeover – top tips

Assess your wardrobe

Start by taking everything out of your cupboards, wardrobes, and drawers. Lay it all out where you can see it. This will give you a clear picture of what you own. And help you identify what you no longer need or wear.

Sort your clothes

Create three piles: one for recycling, one for donating, and one for selling. Be honest about what you wear and what you don’t. If you haven’t worn an item in the past year – two at a stretch – it’s time to let it go.

Check for wear and tear

Inspect each item for any damage such as stains, tears, or excessive wear. Clothes in good condition can be donated or sold, while those that are too worn out should be recycled.

Recycle unusable items

For clothes that are beyond repair, or too worn to donate or sell, look into textile recycling programs. Many areas have drop-off locations, or you can use collection services like WeJustRecycle who will send you a bag, and come and collect.

Prepare items for donation, and decide where to take them

Wash and fold clothes that you plan to donate. Ensure they are in good, wearable condition. Research local charities, shelters etc that accept clothing donations. Don’t forget to ask about Gift Aid, to bump up their donations.

Identify sellable items

Select high-quality, brand-name, or vintage items that are in excellent condition for selling. Items that are designer, trendy, or unique tend to sell better. Take the time to clean and press these items to make them more appealing to buyers. Work on your sales description to make sure the items sound amazing!

Take clear, well-lit photos of the items you’re selling. Write detailed descriptions, including size, brand, condition, and any unique features. Be honest about any flaws to avoid returns and unhappy customers.

Set prices

Research similar items to get an idea of pricing. Start with a fair price that reflects the item’s condition and brand. Be willing to negotiate or offer discounts for multiple purchases to attract buyers.

Enjoy your new wardrobe!

After the changeover, keep your wardrobe organised to prevent future clutter. Regularly assess your clothing to determine what you still wear and love. Make conscious purchasing decisions to maintain a sustainable, clutter-free wardrobe.

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Sam Harrington-Lowe

As editor at the Tonic, Sam works with an extraordinary array of...

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