Sustainably Cleaning Out Your Closet

Maybe you’re making the switch to a capsule wardrobe, or you’re diving into the world of sustainable fashion and want to get rid of the old you, or maybe it’s just spring cleaning time. Here’s a guide for how to own less clothes and how to start the switch to a more sustainable look from head to toe.

Instagram is full of fashion influencers, and if Big Brother treats you like they treat me, it’s also full of fast fashion ads.

Since this blog is for basics, I’m going to dive a little into what fast fashion is. If you’re familiar with that, you can fast forward to meet me at the caption that says “fast forward to today”.

What exactly is Fast Fashion?

Fast fashion, according to Investopedia, is a term used by fashion retailers to describe inexpensive designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends. As a result of the fast fashion trend, it is not uncommon for fast fashion retailers to introduce new clothes multiple times in a single week to stay on-trend.

Long story short, fast fashion makes runway fashion affordable. Sounds like a good idea in theory. *wrong answer buzzer sound* The issue? While this trend creates in-season items at low cost to you, it’s at a high cost to the environment.

I used to be a frequent buyer of what was trendy. I’d scope Forever 21 and H&M racks until I found the best deal, and I’d wear those cheap outfits into the ground. The issue is, most people get rid of the trend when it stops being trendy (looking at you, Zebra Print 2010). This also means that the clothes are only made for the quality of their expected lifespan, so they usually don’t last long. In fact, with all that turnover, the fashion industry produces 10% of all humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and pollutes the oceans with microplastics.

Fast forward to today

One of the slowest turning points of my journey to sustainability was admitting my problem with clothes shopping.

I wanted to know how to move toward a capsule wardrobe, but I didn’t know how to get rid of my clothes sustainably, so I basically just stockpiled them and panicked.

If you get nothing else out of this blog, or if you stop reading because you’re bored, remember this: the most sustainable piece of clothing you could have is the one you already own and still wear.

If you are a recovering shopaholic like me, the challenge of switching to a more sustainable closet can be a daunting one. Primarily, for me, the emotional value I attached to clothes was the hardest to say goodbye to. Marie Kondo’s documentary didn’t help, so I took matters into my own hands.

Identifying which clothes to get rid of; the backwards hanger method

I wanted to write this blog because of how effective this method been for me in cutting down my fast fashion wardrobe. As someone who lives in Wisconsin, having a capsule wardrobe didn’t seem like an option in my sustainability journey, since we range from -20° to 98° within a year, and those don’t merit one shared closet.

What I did: I flipped all of my hangers so that the hook was facing away from me in May (you could pick any month, just remember it). Now, whenever I wear something, I naturally hang it up facing the normal way. When May rolls around, I’m going to donate or sell all of the items that are still facing the wrong way, since I haven’t worn them in a year, no matter how sentimental I want to get about it.

If you’re feeling ambitious, you could also take all of your clothes off hangers and try to get rid of a few before you hang them back up. Another way to really make this effective is to hang up all your clothes that are normally in drawers so you’re honest about your full wardrobe. Up to you! Take it at your own pace.

How do I get rid of the clothes?

1. Poshmark or ThredUp

For anything with a brand name, currently in style, or in great condition, list your items on Poshmark, a clothes reselling app.

Poshmark is easy because you simply list your items, keep them in your house, and accept or decline people’s offers for your clothes as you get them. If you accept, Poshmark sends you a shipping label and all you need to do is put it in the mail. One easy way to get rid of clothes sustainably!

ThredUp is my backup plan, since I don’t own many brand name clothes. ThredUp sends you a clean out kit, and you put all your clothes you no longer want in there, mail it to them, and receive a low amount of money back. You get to choose whether they responsibly recycle what they don’t use, or send it back to you.

2. Give it to a friend

No explanation here. If you’re done with it, one of the most sustainable ways to get rid of clothes you don’t want is to give it to one of your friends that does want it!

3. Textile Recycling Programs

Figure out how to responsibly recycle your clothes. H&M supposedly has a clothes recycling program, but the cynic in me thinks that might be a little greenwashing in action.

I personally look out for USAgain boxes. According to an Isthmus article about Madison, “The company has 14,000 bins in 19 states, 10 in the Madison area. In addition to clothes and shoes, USAgain accepts hats, purses, gloves, belts, bedding, sheets, blankets, drapes and towels”. They resell the fabrics to places or people that want or need them and keep them out of landfill!

There are other brands that will recycle something with specific criteria, like Madewell and their jeans recycling program, or Nike and their running shoe recycling. If you do your research, finding a good textile recycling company is fairly easy.

I hope this helps a little with moving you toward a more sustainable line of clothing. I’ll tag some sustainable clothing gurus on my Instagram post @LowWasteLottie.

2 responses to “Sustainably Cleaning Out Your Closet”

  1. I never thought to hang up everything I have folded to really see which of those items I wear! That’s a great tip!


    1. If you’re trying to purge it’s a good way! Another option is empty a drawer and put things you’ve worn back into the empty drawer, anything in the original drawer doesn’t get enough love


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