A green way to declutter your wardrobe

If you’re planning a big wardrobe chuck-out for the new year, here’s a greener way to do it.

I found a nice little article on wardrobe decluttering the other day, so thought I’d share it with you.

It’s about what to do with your cast-offs – that big pile of rejects that you assemble at the end of a long day of riffling through your wardrobe and throwing out. 

There are, of course, several different reasons that you might want to throw something out, but you can take an eco-friendly approach to what to do about it. 

1 – it doesn’t fit.

If your clothes don’t fit because they’re too small, and you’re really not going to lose the weight, then think about selling them on Ebay, swapping them with your friends or simply giving them away. Care2connect gives a list of organisations that would be grateful for your cast-offs and although these don’t apply to European readers, we can usually head for the charity shop or an Emmaus drop-off point. I get together with my girlfriends about once a quarter to swap clothes and those that no-one wants are taken to Emmaus, where they’re given to poor local families. 

If your clothes don’t fit because they’re too large, then consider having the good ones altered and discard the rest as above. Particularly if you’ve lost weight, don’t keep overlarge clothes hanging around the house – it’s way too much temptation. 

2 – it’s out of date.

It depends on how out of date and in what way, but there might be a possibility of salvage here. If a piece is of good quality or a favourite but the collar or shoulders are wrong, it can be worth having it retailored to a more contemporary style. Only do this, however, if the item’s really worth it – a good wool suit, say, or a coat – because otherwise it’s usually more cost-effective to get rid of it and buy a new one. Have the job done professionally – resetting a shoulder, for instance, is a job well out of the skills range of the average home sewer.

3 – you’re bored with it.

Sometimes you do get sick of seeing the same old thing and it can be hard to get excited about an item you’ve worn a thousand times. Here is where it’s handy if you’re handy – if you can find some way of altering a garment yourself. My favourite thing is dyeing. Back in the days when I was an impoverished student, I used to buy all manner of charity-shop clothes in awful colours and have them dyed black at Sketchley’s dry cleaners. I’d then add new trims and buttons and voila – completely different.

Although it’s more difficult to get clothes professionally dyed these days, you can still do lightweight items yourself in the washing machine. I use Dylon dye, at twice the strength recommended, and my towels, sofa covers and sheets also all get revamped every so often, along with jeans and t-shirts. For a more complicated approach, I use the shibori dye technique, but I’ll leave a description of that for another time.

Adding new trim or a fake-fur collar or new buttons to a cardigan or jacket can completely change its appearance if the basic garment is sound – you can find these in notions departments. And while you’re in town, why not head for the library and see if you can find one of those books about revamping your clothes that were all the rage in the 1980s? Some of the ideas seem laughable now, but others, such as leather elbow patches, still work. I’m willing to place a bet that patching your jeans with brightly coloured iron-ons as we all did in the 70s will once again become the rage in the economic downturn.

4 – it’s past its best.

If that means that it’s frankly shabby but you like it, consider giving it one pass through the dyebath – a good dye job can cover a lot of fading and give you an extra year’s wear on a garment. If it really is too knackered, then either pension it off for rough work, give it away or think about recycling it in some way. In this house, all our dusters and floor clothes are made from old pyjamas and t-shirts, while old jumpers get felted in the machine and cut out for patchwork (or given to my friend M to make bags with). Even if you don’t do craft yourself, you may find a local craft group will be grateful for your old fabrics, especially anything in lightweight cotton, which quilters love to work with. 

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