closet hoarder.
February 26, 2011 11:19 PM   Subscribe

what do you do with your old clothes?

i have to admit that i am kind of a clothes hoarder mainly because i don't know what to do with old clothes (thankfully i have a huge basement—BUT i really need to clear these boxes of clothes out). there's the stuff that is in good enough condition to donate or to sell to a secondhand clothes shop (like buffalo exchange) so i do that, but what about the stuff that isn't? i'm talking about stained tee shirts or stuff that you've just worn to bits. or underwear. do you just throw them out in the trash? every once in awhile i will throw some items out in the trash (and i do throw out underwear) but this just somehow feels wrong. maybe it's a fabric thing because i feel the same about old bed linens. i somehow just can't get myself to justify throwing out these huge sheets of fabric—even tho some of them may be torn or threadbare. somehow fabric just does not equate to "trash" for me. should i readjust my thinking about this? do i just need to throw all this stuff out in the trash?
posted by violetk to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Frock swap or goodwill. Or the big city version of goodwill, putting stuff out on the street.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:22 PM on February 26, 2011

Give it away. The charities will give away or sell clothes that they can, but even if they're past usefulness as clothes they can be repurposed as rags:
posted by justkevin at 11:24 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Giving clothes to people who can use them - whether through donation or consignment - is terrific! But no-one wants your torn or stained clothing. It's just trash - put it in the trash without a second thought, and feel good for having cleared out your basement.
posted by moxiedoll at 11:25 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

According to this source, Goodwill and other donation sites will send the garments too worn for resale to be shredded for rags and the like. Here's the NRDC's take on it. Personally, I would make sure everything's laundered and then donate it. You never know if it's good enough for the charity to resell, and if it isn't then there's a place for it to go anyway. I would do this with the exception of underwear.
posted by therewolf at 11:26 PM on February 26, 2011

I give some of the nicer-fabric clothes to quilters and sewers. I am fortunate to know people who design recycled clothing. Since I'm plus size, a good sewer can make an entire new garment from one of mine. Otherwise rag bag or Salvation Army.

I've also given a couple nice coats and several pairs of shoes to some down on their luck folks.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:47 PM on February 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Well, I keep old tee's to use as cleaning rags, then they're off to the trash.
The local animal shelter loves to get bedding.
Almost anything put in a parking lot donation box ends up at the shredder.
posted by Marky at 11:58 PM on February 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

We use things like old ratty t-shirts for rags (especially good for polishing shoes), cut up and stuffed into old tube socks for dog and cat toys (donated to the Humane Society, and in use at home) and when in an unusually thrifty mood old clothing other than t-shirts, but not underwear, gets re-purposed into quilt squares for a wall quilt we've been casually working on for about a year. IN another 5-8 years it may be finished.

Everything else goes to Salvation Army or St. Vinny's if it's deemed donatable or even just wearable, if the wearer isn't too picky about stuff they got for free.
posted by motown missile at 12:13 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Moderately worn clothes are gratefully received by my local charity shop. Clothing in good condition gets sold on eBay. Once you have a template set up, you can list maybe 10 or 15 items in an hour - even if they sell at low prices, you could make perhaps $100.

Then there's the re-purposing. Anything torn or stained but made from particularly nice fabric goes into my fabric box for re-use. If there's not enough for a new garment, I can use it to make small items like travel pouches or grocery bags. Anything unusable as clothing or fabric gets torn into pieces for rags. Stretchy fabric gets torn into thin strips and used for attaching my tomato plants to their stakes. The rest are used for cleaning. When I tear up old clothes, I keep the buttons, hooks and functional zips to use for mending or altering other garments.

Also, for raised-in-the-Depression Nana used to do what she called "turning a sheet". Old bed sheets that are worn in the middle are usually okay at the edges. So my Nana would cut the sheet vertically down the middle, swap the two halves, and sew them back together with the good bits in the middle. I confess I've never done this myself - I think I'd find it irritating to sleep on a seam. But if you really feel bad about throwing out linen, you could give it a go.

Of course, if you don't feel like doing any of that, most charity shops accept worn-out items, too. Stained or torn clothing won't be sold for people to wear, but that doesn't mean it's worth nothing. Anything made of cotton gets sold by the kilo and turned into useful stuff, like the paper that money is printed on. Other fabrics are sold to cleaning companies for use as rags, or shredded and turned into those big padding sheets that movers use to protect furniture in their trucks. Most old fabric is useful to somebody - there's not really a good reason to throw it in the trash.
posted by embrangled at 12:42 AM on February 27, 2011 [4 favorites]

Wear them to rags, and then use left-over jeans to patch other jeans...
posted by rodgerd at 1:34 AM on February 27, 2011

I save the things that are too worn out to wear but I just can't bear to part with, ostensibly for use in some future DIY project (e.g. T-shirts with interesting designs on them get stuck in a bin for some future t-shirt surgery). Boring t-shirts get used as rags around the house. Everything else gets periodically trashed or picked up by Big Brothers, along with our old linens.
posted by btfreek at 1:36 AM on February 27, 2011

Use as:
-rags for cleaning
-bedding for cats/dogs
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:58 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I wear my clothes until they're worn out. Then I bin them, or use them when I'm toiling in the garden and holes don't matter.
posted by Decani at 2:40 AM on February 27, 2011

I give the decent stuff to Goodwill, anything 100% but too ratty to donate get used as dust cloths/carwash rags, underwear gets tossed out, towels and sheets go to the animal shelter. Socks with holes get stuffed into other socks along with some catnip to become cat-sized mauling toys. I keep a set of tatty but sturdy clothing for messy jobs at home, such as painting or gardening. Also, check with your local garbage service: in my area, they accept fabric in the recycling bin.

As an aside, try to avoid falling into a mindset where waiting to find the perfect home for your cast offs become an obstacle to getting rid of stuff. It's a comfortable excuse but in truth it just leads to stuff piling up so high that just getting started becomes too daunting to start. If that's you, if you're feeling yourself heading that way, give yourself permission to go donate everything by the boxload and let someone else sort it out. Then set up your sorting processes and get rid of stuff before it fills more than a grocery bag.
posted by jamaro at 3:42 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you have a significant other, I have a naughty suggestion for the ratty clothes...a friend told me once that he and his girlfriend sometimes saved their old, stained, hole-y clothes as costumes for in-the-bedroom roleplay -- they'd dress up in them and enact mad impassioned "oh my darling i want you so much I have to rip the clothes directly off your body" scenarios, during which they actually WOULD rip the clothes directly off each other.

....Then they'd use the remnants as rags around the house.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:16 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Wearables: local charitable thrift shop

Old bedding, blankets: Humane Society (check your local org's wish list)

Stained and torn: local thrift shop; bagged separately and labeled as "Stained--for baling" (rags for recycling) so that nobody wastes time looking through it. I do cut buttons off these items and save them for projects/repairs.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:35 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

I donate clothes in good condition to Goodwill.

The yarn in old sweaters can be reused by people who knit/crochet, or for mending.

Offer anything in less than great condition on freecycle, with a brief description included. People are often interested in free kids' play clothes or work clothes (e.g. for painting or other dirty work), and don't care about the condition. And others will use it for rags, pet bedding, or any of the options up thread.

And definitely consider asking your local shelter - that's a great idea. I've used old t-shirts to restuff dog beds.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:27 AM on February 27, 2011

Rags or in the case of items like underpants, throw them away.

If you know any painters (of the artistic not house variety), tshirts make great paint rags and they'd be happy to take 'em off your hands.
posted by sonika at 7:18 AM on February 27, 2011

Almost anything put in a parking lot donation box ends up at the shredder.

Wait, is this true, Marky? So I've basically been throwing away bags of perfectly good clothes all these years?
posted by torticat at 7:32 AM on February 27, 2011

I went to a party last fall where we all brought clothes we no longer wanted. The clothes were all laid out in sections (pants, skirts, jackets, evening wear, accessories, etc.) Then we all went through it and chose stuff to take home. (Yes, there was wine and nibblies, too!) Whatever was left was given to women's shelters and an organization that collects clothing for women restarting their lives and going back into the work world. The evening was fun, and I got rid of a ton of stuff, and scored some fabulous "new-to-me" clothes. As mentioned above, my problem had been wanting to find "the perfect home" for a lot of my old items. This was the perfect answer to that.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 8:24 AM on February 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

If you have the time and a little skill, you may want to make a rag rug. If you don't, a knitting circle or other group of crafty people in your area might appreciate the fabric.
posted by thatdawnperson at 8:25 AM on February 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

I tend to post such white-elephantesque things on my local Freecycle-- if you specify that the clothes are ripped/stained, then you'll get responses from people who are happy to use them in that condition.

Alternatively, you can use them as dusting rags (mentioned above) or dress-up clothes for your or a friend's children. Oh, and I don't know what the Audobon Association would say, but I also like to cut some old clothing into short, thin strips and spread it around the yard in the spring during nest-building season-- always cool to come across a robin's nest in the fall that incorporates bits of my cast-off T-shirts.
posted by Bardolph at 8:59 AM on February 27, 2011

Except for worn underwear even really worn clothes can be donated, rag pickers pay charities by the pound for unwearable clothes.

One trick I'm using to determine what should be donated- at the beginning of the year hang clothes with the hanger facing "the opposite way", meaning with the opening facing you. When you wear the outfit put it back but with the hanger the "normal" way. At year end, take any clothes facing the opposite way to a charity. You haven't it worn it in a year, give it away!

You can also put items in drawers upside down and use a similar process.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 9:01 AM on February 27, 2011

Oh, and along the lines of thatdawnperson's suggestion: rag baskets are slightly less daunting/time-intensive than rag rugs, and still very pretty and useful.
posted by Bardolph at 9:02 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Things like worn underwear and socks and t-shirts I take with me traveling - and just dispose of them when on the road. Less to take back with me at the end of a trip. (In the case of the t-shirts, they're not stained or hole-y, just worn and old). I've even done this with old tennis shoes which were nearly worn through at the sole.

Everything else goes to Goodwill.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:59 AM on February 27, 2011

In our county, you can put old clothing and fabric scraps into the green recycling bin (the one for paper) which then gets picked up curbside. I imagine it goes to the same place that it would if the thrift shop deemed it unsellable.
posted by fancyoats at 10:59 AM on February 27, 2011

Maybe it will help you to frame this issue if you can work on mentally re-categorize these things.

This clothing you speak of is essentially broken. A shirt with a big stain on it isn't "perfectly good except for a big stain." It's a broken shirt. A pair of jeans ripped up the middle of the butt isn't "perfectly good except for being almost ripped in half," it's a broken pair of jeans.

As with other broken things, there are some ways you can deal with the problem. They can be torn up and used for rags (but how many rags does one person need)? Or you can dump them at the nearest thrift shop, which may be able to get a pittance for them when sold by the bale to clothing recyclers that grind up the fibers and use them to, like, stuff couch cushions and stuff.

But if you have as many bags of broken clothing as I suspect, then here is my advice: take it all to the dump. Declare "Broken Clothing Bankruptcy."

It will hardly take you any time at all, and then you'll be free of that anchor weighing you down. On the drive home from the dump, you will feel light as air. Giddy, almost. It's a great feeling!

The world is awash in clothing; broken clothing most of all. Take all your twinges of guilt, store them up, and use them to prompt you to do the right thing the next time an item of clothing breaks. Use it to remind you how bad your closet can get, to strengthen your resolve never to let it happen again.
posted by ErikaB at 11:09 AM on February 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

For a second there, I thought I'd posted this and forgotten about it--I had exactly the same question, and was planning on asking it sometime soon.

Inspired by the other answers, I called my local Goodwill, and they told me that some clothing is sent to third-world countries (like wearable clothing in need of repair) and everything is at least recycled--nothing is thrown in the trash. So thanks to everyone for giving me the info I needed to get rid of my stuff that's in need of repair, but doesn't fir me anymore.
posted by yuwtze at 11:56 AM on February 27, 2011

Thanks for the reality check, yuwtze! I will also confirm that Goodwill is happy to take every scrap of used clothing -- holey socks and underwear included -- so long as it's washed before donation. Things they can't resell in their stores goes to less fortunate places or gets recycled. Your scariest pair of underwear, washed, is worth something for its fiber content, and Goodwill is happy to take it off your hands.

It's bad karma to put any used clothing in the trash.
posted by FLAG (BASTARD WATER.) (Acorus Adulterinus.) at 3:30 PM on February 27, 2011

I wash it in the washing machine, dry it on the clothes line (so it is 100% dry, crisp, & fresh-smelling), and then donate it to a major op shop (like the Salvation Army Op Shops.)

1) My definition of 'too worn to wear' might well be different from that of the charity; and

2) All the major charities sell the really worn clothes to industry by the bale, as rags for making paper, cleaning machine oil off factory equipment, etc. etc.
posted by Hot buttered sockpuppets at 3:34 PM on February 27, 2011

Have you tried your local am-dram company or youth theatre? There are plenty of shows which require a chorus of people in stained and tattered rags. Much better to receive a donation of clothes that are already partway there than to inflict the breaking down process on perfectly good clothes!
posted by the latin mouse at 10:49 PM on February 27, 2011

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