How can I ethically get rid of these clothes?
December 27, 2012 5:00 PM   Subscribe

I want to give away clothes! But how can I do so ethically?

I need to get rid of a lot of new and gently-used clothing. Assuming I'll discard the unwearable/shabby items, what is the most ethical way to give away all of these clothes?

- The clothes are either slightly used or new (some with tags!).
- They are J. Crew, Gap, Ann Taylor, etc. There are no full suits, but some would be appropriate for professional wear (skirts, tops).

- I do not want to donate them to an organization that will dump them. This rules out a huge number of groups (Purple Heart, Salvation Army, etc.). Unless there is a definitive statement about dumping, I do not feel comfortable donating my clothes to an organization. I would prefer to throw them out over donating to a group that will dump them.

- These clothes could probably be sold (to a store, on Ebay, etc.), but I have neither the time nor inclination to do so myself.

- I live in Washington, DC. I am definitely open to local charities who are looking for specific clothing items! I have not had much luck looking myself, though.

- I am very much sensitive to the fact that clothing donations are not an efficacious means of charity. I really just need to get rid of these clothes, and I cannot stomach throwing them out when they are good quality. Not all of them are mine; some of them haven't been worn.

That's about it! Any and all ideas welcome, even if they're something like "put a box on your porch".
posted by quadrilaterals to Grab Bag (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Dress for Success?
posted by peagood at 5:07 PM on December 27, 2012 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Every January a friend of mind hosts a clothing swap - she invites eight or ten people, we all clean out our closets, and we bring wearable stuff we don't want and browse everyone else's discards. It doesn't get rid of everything by any means - you'll still have stuff that doesn't get picked up that needs to go somewhere - but it's a fun way to spend an afternoon and give at least some of your stuff a loving home.
posted by restless_nomad at 5:09 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Freecycle & Craigslist will make sure they go to someone interested and generally in need.

Many domestic violence shelters or homeless shelters will take clothes for immediate distribution - if you use those search terms for your municipality/county/etc., you'll probably have a pretty good list of sites that will have a link titled something like "donate" with details on what they'll accept. I wasn't clear from your item on local charities as to whether or not you'd already done this precise step.

And this is an option that I recommend with hesitation but it's worth considering: if there's a place where homeless/indigent folks gather for a meal, you could make the pile available to them. This could be problematic on a number of fronts, though.
posted by batmonkey at 5:12 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: These are great. Also wanted to note that I am open to reuse ideas on any level (like animal shelters using t-shirts as bedding).
posted by quadrilaterals at 5:15 PM on December 27, 2012

Mod note: please don't turn this into a debate about the OPs choices and just answer the question, MeMail the OP or move on. Thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:24 PM on December 27, 2012

I had a chat with a Goodwill employee a few weeks ago as she was putting my donated items on hangers. She said that they don't actually distribute clothes to people in need -- they make money for their programs by selling the clothing. If you go to one of the stores, you'll notice that most of the clothing is in good condition. If a donated item has a button missing, a stain, pilling, or lots of wrinkles, or if it needs washing, that's what gets dumped. They don't want to give space to the garments that aren't going to sell.

If your clothes are in season and nice enough that you'd give them to a member of your family, they're probably nice enough for someone to buy. They'll go straight to the sales floor.
posted by wryly at 5:27 PM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

I used to volunteer at a clothing bank at the local YWCA called the Working Wardrobe. We distributed office-appropriate clothing to women who were entering or reentering the workforce from disadvantaged conditions -- I saw everyone from recent emigrants to prison parolees. Your local YWCA may operate a similar service.
posted by cirocco at 5:29 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: For the unwearable/shabby ones, contact a couple of animal shelters before you throw them out!

In emptying out my dad's house after he passed, they were more than happy to take all the old towels, sheets, pillowcases, and blankets I could give (like 10 giant trash bags full). My understanding is that some become cuddle blankets for the animals, some become means of cleaning up after them - but everything will almost certainly get used for something. Worth at least giving them a call to ask, as they seem to be accepting of all types of cloth-like donated goods. FWIW I dropped off bags at the Animal Welfare Leagues of Arlington & Alexandria - they were super grateful, and will give you a receipt if asked.
posted by raztaj at 5:33 PM on December 27, 2012 [6 favorites]

Freecycle - someone (who needs/wants them enough to come to your house to get them) will come get them off your porch. I got rid of a random box of unopened canned goods that way.

There aren't really any Goodwills nearby, though there's a thrift store way up on Georgia Ave. I don't know if they have any non-profit affiliation.

Secondi is a second-hand/consignment store just north of Dupont circle, if selling them is easier after all.

Good luck! There's not a lot of good thrifting in DC, so there's not a lot of possible donation options.
posted by foodmapper at 5:36 PM on December 27, 2012

My favorite thing is to check around for local women's homeless/domestic violence shelters. Clothing like what you describe is often of great interest for them.

As a second option, I like thrift shops. People of lesser means really appreciate being able to find nice, wearable clothes there.
posted by bearwife at 5:41 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Goodwill is great. They give you a pretty darn good tax deduction for the donation, they employ people who need the work, plus it allows people with low income a chance to by good clothes. I personally donate to them and shop with them.
posted by Vaike at 6:49 PM on December 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Get in touch with a hospital social work office. People without friends or family to bring clothes for discharge need stuff to wear! Twice, once alone in a distant city after a car wreck, I have been very glad to have the hospital give me a coat!!! Both times it was in the winter. My other clothes were recovered from the wreck that one time, but most people's stuff is never recovered.

In DC we have so many travelers, and I am sure stuff like jeans, tops, or basic fictional casual stuff would be appreciated!
posted by jgirl at 6:54 PM on December 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Dress for Success is a really great option.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:31 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

They give you a pretty darn good tax deduction for the donation

Please note that you will be on your own to determine your tax deduction, regardless of who you take your clothes to. Goodwill and most other places give you a receipt with a date on it and nothing to indicate what you donated or how much it's worth. Goodwill does provide some tax information to help you with this. If you are truly donating so much, you should make a list of everything so that you can determine the value.

When I donated a huge pile of old professional clothes, I make a list and also took some photos (just a few, not one of every item) before the clothes went into the bags. I just wanted to make sure to have something to back up my deduction. No idea if it would have held up to an audit, though.
posted by cabingirl at 8:08 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey! You sound like me! I know a few organizations that host clothing swaps occasionally - Quiet Mind Yoga and I think Democratic Gain both had clothing swaps. N Street Village accepts clothing for women. There's also Suited for Change - I just dropped off clothes there once during the work day and they emailed me a receipt. Martha's Table runs a thrift store for which they accept donations. Lately, I've been selling clothes at Buffalo Exchange - they will give you cash and if they don't think they can sell it, they will donate it to Martha's Outfitters. My latest issue of Real Simple also mentioned but it looks like it will soon be YardSellr. Good luck!
posted by kat518 at 8:28 PM on December 27, 2012

Best answer: Seconding kat518 on Martha's Table. They're a little particular about the state of donations (info here) but are basically taking the place of Goodwill, which as foodmapper mentions above aren't really present in the District.
posted by psoas at 8:35 PM on December 27, 2012

Best answer: Covenant House is a great charity. from their website: Homeless kids come to Covenant House in crisis. Immediately and without question, we meet their basic human needs – a nourishing meal, a shower, clean clothes, medical attention, and a safe place away from the dangers of the street.

I have been donating to them for years. Office attire would be beneficial for job interviews.
posted by JujuB at 10:37 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do you know of a local organisation that helps homeless, "street-involved," troubled/screwed-over teen-agers? There's a demographic that's often overlooked (everyone says 'domestic violence shelter for women,' but not 'teens' shelter' when these sorts of questions come up). I bet even more worn and more casual stuff would be appreciated, and the newer and more work-suitable stuff would be a godsend to some teen girls who have nothing nice to wear to job interviews, jobs, dates, etc.

Haven't checked it out but Covenant House DC certainly accepts clothing.

...on preview: yes, there. They are also asking for donations of bibles; I don't like charity-with-strings-attached but Google suggested they are the only people in DC helping young people, so...
posted by kmennie at 10:42 PM on December 27, 2012

There is a Covenant House in Washington, DC.

Helping Homeless Kids in Washington DC

001 Mississippi Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20020
Phone: (202) 610-9600
posted by JujuB at 10:49 PM on December 27, 2012

The Clock Tower is another local(ish) thrift store run by charity (Northern Virginia Family Service). You can call them up and ask what percentage of clothes are sold, but I believe it's fairly high. You'd have to take your stuff out to Falls Church, though.
posted by anaelith at 12:16 AM on December 28, 2012

If you can't find a good place to donate them, you could take them (at least the new with tags items) to one of those businesses that do the eBay selling for you (for a cut), then take whatever profit you make and donate it to the charity of your choice.
posted by mikepop at 5:57 AM on December 28, 2012

The people at Goodwill told me (article here) that shabby/stained clothing had several other post-wearing uses, including as insulation, etc.

Goodwill and the Salvation Army will not sell defective clothes or shoes, but they do offload them to textile recyclers, who either ship them to Third World countries where they may have a chance of a second life, or sort and resell them to textile "de-manufacturers" who can turn them into materials that can be worked into new materials, whether it's cleaning rags, carpet padding or rubberized playgrounds.

Forty-five percent of recycled clothes are sold to other countries, 30% are turned into cleaning rags and 25% are turned into fibers for stuffing or insulation, according to the Secondary Materials and Recycled Textile Assn.

Not that that should change your mind - and some great ideas above, but I was amazed, after being brought up to never donate stained/shabby clothes because it was disrespectful, to learn that Goodwill wants those, too (I can't support Salvation Army for their other very problematic policies).
posted by Pax at 5:58 AM on December 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone! I'm setting up a clothing swap, figuring out a donation to Dress for Success and Convenant House (and checking out the other local groups mentioned, like Martha's and N St Village), and bringing my discards to the animal shelter.
posted by quadrilaterals at 6:28 AM on December 28, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you ever visit Philadelphia, we have CareerWardrobe, who accept donations of womens' clothing. They assist women with clothes and help for professional jobs.
posted by Susurration at 5:01 PM on December 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

« Older It's all about the horseradish   |   Help me stop waffling about my continuing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.