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SpringCleanFilter: Help me get rid of old clothes when Goodwill won't take 'em
March 27, 2008 11:26 AM   Subscribe

I have loads of old clothes I want to discard responsibly, but my local charities are quite picky about what they will accept. I'd rather not add to the landfill. Hope me!

Now that I have married Mr. Psho, I need to get rid of loads of old clothes I have that either no longer fit, look silly, or just need to go to Clothes Heaven.

Now, here's the issue: when I wear clothes, I wear them unto death. I have t-shirts that are older than most of you, and are frayed and stained from, well, wear. My local charities seem only interested in clothing that have some resale value -- I don't have many clothes in that category. I also have old undies, socks that have broken elastic and holes -- no one wants those, surely? (I live in Oakland, CA.) I was excited a few years ago when I discovered those green GAIA bins, but I did some research and I really don't want to support something quite so... controversial.

So -- what can I do with my misfit clothes?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord to Home & Garden (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Sell them all in one lot on Ebay. Make the starting price or the reserve price the cost of shipping.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:33 AM on March 27, 2008


Are you using them as rags? You should. You can also try donating them to animal shelters or other organizations which need rags. They may not want your undies, but socks and t-shirts in the falling apart stage would be good. Donating a passel of worn-out clothes is going to take some leg work. Maybe you can find someone who quilts or weaves or re-sews from worn-out clothing (I know at least three artists in SF who make clothes from worn-out clothes)? Advertise in your local freepress!
posted by crush-onastick at 11:39 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sell them all in one lot on Ebay. Make the starting price or the reserve price the cost of shipping.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints

And if you make any money, donate that to charity, and say as much on the auction.
posted by Grither at 11:40 AM on March 27, 2008


Animal shelters might take them, according to this link. You might have luck donating them as "rags" or "textile scrap."
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:41 AM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Throw them away. One of the most frustrating things about working in social services is dealing with donations, most of which turn out to be cast off garbage. People mean well, but some don't understand that just because someone is homeless or poor doesn't mean they want to wear clothes that are tattered and full of holes. When I worked with homeless families I had wealthy estates try to make furniture donations that I walked away from, couches that were so old the cushions had practically turned to dust and the upholstery worn threadbare and so on. I got into an argument over the phone with this wealthy insurance executive from Texas, who was trying to get me to empty his recently deceased mom's house. I was like, mf'er, I ain't your garbage man, you need a dumpster, not a moving truck.

You'll just be making work for someone else, who will wind up throwing your stuff away anyhow. Save them the time and effort.
posted by The Straightener at 11:43 AM on March 27, 2008 [4 favorites]


Great question! I have recently trying to research the same thing. (With not much luck.) The best thing I could find was a local non-profit recycling center that would take my usual glass, paper, metal, etc, as well as the weird stuff like clothing. The website says "Old, worn out clothing, curtains, drapes, towels, sheets and fabric are recycled into new cloth." The only problem is, each time I would go to drop off, it costs me $8. That's the cost of being "green", I guess. Also, there are supposedly rag dealers out there that will take the crappiest of clothing and shred them and turn it into pillow stuffing, or something. I haven't been able to find any rag dealers around me, though. I hope that somebody else can tell us the perfect solution to our recycle problem!
posted by molasses at 11:44 AM on March 27, 2008


Do you have "FreeCycle" in your area? If you list it there honestly you may be surprised that someone will want the worn out stuff. If there is no request for it then definitely put it in the trash for disposal.
posted by JayRwv at 11:51 AM on March 27, 2008 [2 favorites]


The Buffalo Exchange where I live goes through your clothes and the ones they wont buy they donate to a battered womans shelter. I would eliminate the middle man and take the ones that are sellable (that doesnt mean fashionable, only wearable) to Goodwill, Savers, Salvation Army or a thrift store and then call around to different shelters who might want them. According to some professor "Items charities can’t use go to “rag sorters,” companies that specialize in recycling textiles" so I guess you could ask the place what will become of your old stuff if they dont use it. Savers for instance claims to send their unsellables to third world countries (for a price of course).... I applaude your efforts to avoid making more trash! I just use the back of my broke down car to pile all the crap I dont want in.....when there's no more room I take it all to savers.
good luck!
posted by madmamasmith at 11:54 AM on March 27, 2008


If you know anyone living in the city of San Jose, their curbside recycling program accepts cotton, linen, polyester, rayon and wool fabrics.

You might be able to find a destination closer to you via Alameda County's Stop Waste program.
posted by jamaro at 11:57 AM on March 27, 2008


The Straightener said: "Throw them away. One of the most frustrating things about working in social services is dealing with donations, most of which turn out to be cast off garbage. People mean well, but some don't understand that just because someone is homeless or poor doesn't mean they want to wear clothes that are tattered and full of holes. ...You'll just be making work for someone else, who will wind up throwing your stuff away anyhow. Save them the time and effort."

Totally 100% disagree with this. This is a very first-world attitude. Just because a North American is homeless or poor doesn't mean they want to wear clothes with holes, sure... but there are some places where the choice isn't "nice designer castoffs" vs. "ratty castoffs", but "clothes vs. no clothes." This Seattle PI article offers good background on the same.

madmamasmith has got the basics. Take your "resellable" items to your local charities, and then take your more-worn items to Goodwill or Salvation Army (I prefer the former for conscience/principle reasons), where they will decide what their own market will bear. The rest will be sold for pennies on the pound to the secondary market, where the clothes will be shipped to countries that will consume them. And Goodwill profits (not by much, but still a profit). Win-win-win.
posted by pineapple at 12:11 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Seconding Freecycle. I've offloaded stuff that I wasn't sure anyone would want but got lots of quick responses. Usually, you can just leave it marked outside and instruct the party to pick it up.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:12 PM on March 27, 2008


You can also just keep them in a bags and use them as rags.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:14 PM on March 27, 2008


earlier I said: "take your more-worn items to Goodwill or Salvation Army" but sure enough, the East Bay Area Goodwills don't appear to participate in secondary market textile sales (yes, I saw your AskMe title, but I incorrectly assumed you were using Goodwill as a generic thrift store name! mea culpa!), so check with Salvation Army?

But, I still think that finding secondary market is preferable to just putting them in the trash or recycle bins. Reuse first!
posted by pineapple at 12:17 PM on March 27, 2008


It might be worth researching the hidden costs of the global secondary market (fuel to ship all that stuff a half-world away? What's it doing to the local textile market at its eventual destination?) in making your decision. I don't profess to be an expert on the topic by any stretch of the imagination, but my own decision was to try to keep the reuse or disposal local.

Mentioning this only because you were thoughtful enough to look into the background of the GAIA bins.
posted by jamaro at 12:41 PM on March 27, 2008


Totally 100% disagree with this. This is a very first-world attitude.

This is a very experienced social service provider's attitude.
posted by The Straightener at 12:50 PM on March 27, 2008


I have loads of old clothes I want to discard responsibly

Since being responsible about your old clothes seem to be important to you, I would like to point out the controversies surrounding donating your clothes to the Salvation Army or the Goodwill. The PBS documentary that I linked above discusses the detrimental impact of cheap second hand clothing on emerging economies and their textile industries. While the documentary focues on what happened in Zambia, it's not the only place negatively impacted by this exportation of second-hand clothing to emerging markets around the world.

Any paper artist will jump at any item that's 100% cotton. Fabric artists might be interested in non-cotton stuff as well. Also, call your local animal shelter, as some have suggested. Otherwise, re-used them yourself and make rags out of the used clothing. Or a braided rug, if you have more time.
posted by jujube at 12:51 PM on March 27, 2008


And upon preview, Thanks to pineapple for noting that the Goodwill in the East Bay does not participate in the secondary market. Good for them! And as jamaro says, do look into local reuse possiblities.
Kudos to you for being so responsible!
posted by jujube at 1:03 PM on March 27, 2008


Old cotton clothes are compostable, if you cut them into small pieces before tossing them on the pile.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:45 PM on March 27, 2008


I just want to echo what others have said about the problems with the secondary market, and the pain-in-the-ass it is for charities to sift through unwearable clothing. No offense, but your clothing sounds pretty unwearable. Ratty undies? Ick. Perhaps you can find a local textile recycling program?

Pineapple, even that article notes that the secondary market is banned in some countries because of the economic issues it causes, and the rags only get through due to bribes. In this case you're supporting third-world corruption. Poor local governance is undoubtably responsible for an awful lot of third-world issues, but it doesn't help when local people can't build economic independence because they're crippled by world trade markets. The people they describe buying closets full of designer clothing for cheap are buying clothing in good condition--which potsmokinghippieoverlord's is not, if her description is any indication.
posted by schroedinger at 2:12 PM on March 27, 2008


If your old clothes are not in wearable condition, either throw them out, use them as rags, or cut out the sections that are in the best shape and use them for crafting or quilting (or sell them on Etsy or Ebay for others to do the same).

Why in the world would someone homeless want torn, stained, ratty clothes? I know that any clothes are better than none, but they have a surplus of donated goods already that have to be sorted through, with the non-wearable stuff just getting tossed out one further step down the line (the Straightener is right).

Don't feel guilty about throwing away something of no value. Next time, if something goes out of fashion or doesn't fit you, then you can donate it in a timely matter to someone who needs warm, wearable clothing.
posted by misha at 2:39 PM on March 27, 2008


Nth recycle. Where I grew up (Ann Arbor, MI), you could recycle textiles---just put them out in a bag marked "TEXTILES" next to the recycle bin. . . .
posted by FlyingMonkey at 2:41 PM on March 27, 2008


Do you have any friends that work on cars, motorcycles, or bicycles? My friend has a bicycle shop and I give him all my old clothes and towels so he can use them as rags.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:52 PM on March 27, 2008


One of the things my roommate in college used to do is take single socks, old undies, and frayed t-shirts and sew them into pillows, pads and blankets for other people's pets. Example: ball up all the smaller items inside an old tshirt and sew the arms, neck and bottom together. Animals typically love the smell and softness and who cares if they get chewed to hell? Especially puppies... you can line a crate with old clothing to make it soft and warm for them.

Also as suggested above you can cut the clothing into strips and braid it into a nice area rug for your kitchen/laundry room/back porch. Just coil the braiding when you're done and sew it with a leather needle and some unwaxed dental floss.

Tshirts make great rags for washing cars, windows, and dusting.

Filling a single sock with gravel or bird seed and sewing the end shut = door stop.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 2:57 PM on March 27, 2008


From this page:
"Many large charities, like Goodwill, will sell unwearable clothing to textile recycling centers (which generally do not accept donations from individuals).

Athletic shoes that are no longer in wearable condition may be donated to Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe Program, a project that grinds up and recycles athletic shoe material to build playground mats, basketball courts, and running tracks."

From this page:
"Offer unwearable clothes and towels to local animal boarding and shelter facilities, which often use them as pet bedding."

More about textile recycling is here, and I thought this was interesting:
"About 145 billion pounds of recyclable clothing are still routed to landfills every year... The textile recycling industry is made up of used clothing dealers and exporters, and fiber recyclers. Most are small, family-owned businesses with fewer than 500 employees. They purchase clothes as 'mixed rags' surplus from charitable organizations or work out agreements with cities to place collection bins at strategic locations."
posted by Houstonian at 6:26 PM on March 27, 2008 [1 favorite]


Use the gross clothes for rags- no one wants old undies or un-elasticed socks. Otherwise, you can drop them off at the Wishing Well free box in Berkeley, 1700 Channing. I'm sorry to say the one in People's Park that had been there 35 years has been torn out by the University. Only wearable stuff, though, please.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:36 PM on March 27, 2008


I have found that if you slap a "Free" sign on anything, someone will take it. It amazes me actually. You might box it all up and run an ad it the paper or on the radio giving away the lot of it. Just make sure you say that whoever takes it has to take everything and there are no returns.
posted by sapphirebbw at 7:00 PM on March 27, 2008


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