What to do with clothing that can't be given to Goodwill?
November 21, 2007 6:36 PM   Subscribe

What to do with the clothing of someone who has passed away? Goodwill is not a option.

The deceased was an older female and left many clothes and shoes behind and the family does not wish to give them to Goodwill as they feel it is rather impersonal in this situation. Some have been given to other women in the family, but there's still a huge closet of very fine clothing and shoes which the family does not wish to give away to just anyone.

Any ideas? This is in Bowie, MD if it matters.
posted by Brandon Blatcher to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe sell them on eBay and donate the money to the deceased's favorite charity?
posted by Lillitatiana at 6:38 PM on November 21, 2007

donate them to a theatre company?
posted by twistofrhyme at 6:40 PM on November 21, 2007

There are nonprofits out there that help underprivileged women get into the job force, including finding them proper clothes to interview in--maybe there's an organization like that in your area.
posted by carrienation at 6:40 PM on November 21, 2007 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Not a bad idea, but it's a painful time for the family and the work of auctioning and then packaging the clothes would be too much.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:41 PM on November 21, 2007

Donate them to a women's shelter.
posted by dobbs at 6:42 PM on November 21, 2007

Best answer: If there are any suits or good shoes for job interviews, try Dress for Success. They give suits and professional apparel to women in poverty, in addition to job training.

Otherwise, I know that many homeless or battered women's shelters are always looking for clothes.
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:43 PM on November 21, 2007 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Do they have to do it so soon?

Yes, the house is being packed up and sold.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:55 PM on November 21, 2007

You could have a little party to celebrate the person's life. Then afterwards take a sturdy chest, pack everything in there and pick a special spot to plant it.

Pick a date that you would like the chest to be dug up and then keep this date in your family as time passes. Then, say 50 years down the road, a family member(s) can return to the spot find the chest and revisit the family member they knew nothing about. They will have some very interested artifacts to enjoy for years to come.

Each person at the party could write something about the life of the deceased. These notes would give the future more information about the person that lived a life in the clothes they see before them.
posted by bkeene12 at 6:56 PM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

We had a garage sale to get rid of my grandparent's household things after my grandfather died within two years of my grandmother, and watching people buy things to use (clothes included) that had belonged to my grandparents was actually kind of nice. We took the things we wanted, but otherwise it was satisfying to see them go to a new home.

I'm seconding liquorice, as well, regarding time. Right now things are probably too painful to look at these as just objects and not as part of the person, as it were.
posted by MadamM at 6:58 PM on November 21, 2007

If there's a local Freecycle, you may be able to get someone who is the same size to take the whole collection.
posted by xo at 7:10 PM on November 21, 2007

Battered women's shelter.
posted by konolia at 7:15 PM on November 21, 2007

Women's shelter, Dress for Success, and depending on the vintage, there is probably a theatre company in your area that could use the clothing, if she would have approved.

I'm partial to the theatre company idea, myself, knowing that we work really hard to find our costumes, and that we prize and care for the vintage ones to the best of our ability.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:15 PM on November 21, 2007

Typically in that situation you have an estate sale to get rid of all items left in the house. There should be companies you can hire to manage the entire sale from advertising to staffing and selling. Look in the yellow pages.
posted by JJ86 at 7:19 PM on November 21, 2007

When my Mom's friend passed away, she made some of her shirts into bears (like teddy bears) and gave them to some of her friends. I thought that was a pretty neat thing.
posted by cdmwebs at 7:31 PM on November 21, 2007

How about neighborhood women who might be in need?
posted by amyms at 7:37 PM on November 21, 2007

Might sound impersonal, but basically they don't have a lot of options. Do any of the kids want to wear dead mom's stuff? Probably not. If they don't want it sold at goodwill (don't blame them, Goodwill's just a writeoff for Wal-Mart), they probably don't want them sold at an estate sale.

So they can give them to a local program that helps send women to work, as someone mentioned above, or they can sell them to someone random, or they can give them to people who can actually use the stuff. If she was a kind woman, I can't imagine that she'd want her family to destroy the clothes instead of giving them to people who could make positive use of them.

Long story short: SHE doesn't need them anymore. SOMEBODY does. It's STUFF. People AREN'T stuff, contrary to what grief makes us think.
posted by TomMelee at 7:49 PM on November 21, 2007 [2 favorites]

Many hospitals have thift stores that help special causes like cancer research. Or maybe a big garage sale and donating the proceeds to the favorite charity of the deceased. I don't quite follow the Goodwill post above being a write off for Walmart. In my community Goodwill does a lot of job training and affordable housing programs, parenting classes, adult literacy classes, etc. and the money stays in the community. They are a worthwhile organization and they help a lot of people. I don't know if you've ever shopped in one, but all kinds of people shop at Goodwills, at least where I am.
posted by 45moore45 at 7:55 PM on November 21, 2007

I came in here to recommend freecycle too. I live pretty near you (in Reston, VA) and our freecycle group is quite active. You really feel like you make a connection with the person you give stuff to. I had some jewelery of my mom's that I'd been toting around for 14 years after her death. It was really more of a source of pain than anything. I freecycled it to a lady nearby who makes jewelery. It really felt like the stuff had a chance to bless someone else instead of clogging up my life. It was a tremendous weight off me.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:57 PM on November 21, 2007 [1 favorite]

A couple of ideas:

Are any of the clothes pre-80s vintage? Call a local vintage shop and ask if they would like to come out and make an offer on the whole lot.

Take some of the items in to your local museum and see if they want them. If you have photos or stories about the garments (where they were worn, etc.), bring those for the museum to copy. Do some of the garments have labels from local department stores or shops that no longer exist? A local museum might want those.

Put an advertisement in the newspaper or on craiglist and offer to sell the whole lot by appointment. You might find someone who will come over and give you a flat price for everything, particularly if there are vintage or designer pieces in there.

I know a lot of vintage clothing dealers around the country. If you have vintage clothes, I might be able to put you into contact with someone in your area who can potentially come over and buy.
posted by pluckysparrow at 8:05 PM on November 21, 2007

Put the stuff in boxes, get an inexpensive storage unit for three months or so and let the family re-evaluate what to do with the clothing when their feelings are a bit more settled. At that point, they may decide that it is just stuff, or maybe it will be a comfort to go through it one last time after the newness of the loss has worn off.
posted by necessitas at 8:31 PM on November 21, 2007

Upon re-reading the question, was the clothing a collection and/or source of pride for the deceased? If so, it makes sense that the family would consider goodwill or similar places too impersonal. Depending on how "fine" the fine clothing is, many museums have designer-specific and decade-specific exhibits. I'm not sure where one would start a search for those museums/exhibit curators, but maybe someone else here would have a better idea.
posted by necessitas at 8:35 PM on November 21, 2007

if the clothing is of high quality and in good condition, there may be an upscale consignment shop you can take them to. (especially eveningwear, dresses, and good shoes and accessories.) they will sell the items in exchange for a portion of the sale. i imagine there are even some in washington that are nonprofits for various charities, if that helps soothe the sting. you can either distribute the proceeds among the heirs or donate to a charity.

if there are any suits or business-casual wear, i would definitely second (third) dress for success. they really do wonderful work.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:39 PM on November 21, 2007

When my grandmother died, one of my aunts took some of her clothes and made little outfits for dolls/teddy bears for the grandchildren. It's a lot of work and would destroy some of the clothing, but I thought it was pretty cool.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:47 PM on November 21, 2007

Best answer: My grandma was strongly identified by the clothes she wore. My family hired someone to make quilts out of them when she died. Each of her children have a memento in a ridiculous animal print quilt.
If they want to give them away, though, than I have to agree that Dress For Success is the organization you want.
posted by Wolfie at 9:56 PM on November 21, 2007

You can still sell the stuff on ebay, but do it through an ebay trade assistant - there are links on the site - they'll sell your stuff for you for a fee
posted by mooza at 11:08 PM on November 21, 2007

There are people that will make "memory bears" - basically teddy bears made from the fabric of a loved one's clothes.
posted by Ostara at 11:10 PM on November 21, 2007

Seconding the quilt idea. Maybe if they use the most nostalgic items of clothing to make the quilts from they'd be more comfortable letting the other things go.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:03 AM on November 22, 2007

Having had to do this not to long ago, we packed everything up nicely and stored it for a short time. Many family members had different ideas on what they'd like to do and it was easier to let a bit of time pass instead of deciding "right now".

Actually ended up doing a variety of the things mentioned already which made everyone happy.

One of the things we did was take quite a bit of clothing to a local resale shop that took the items on consignment.
posted by ChainzOnline at 5:18 AM on November 22, 2007

Bowie MD is not far from Washington, D.C., where lots of needy women could use nice clothes.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:49 AM on November 22, 2007

Response by poster:
Upon re-reading the question, was the clothing a collection and/or source of pride for the deceased?

Yes, very much so.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:52 AM on November 22, 2007

I am sorry that you are dealing with a death in the family.

I have been on both sides of this situation. I am a vintage clothing dealer who clears out estates. I also lost my mom several years ago and had to deal with a huge amount of her clothing.

I second pluckysparrow about contacting a local vintage clothing store or dealer for any of the clothes that are pre 80's. I would recommend NOT selling on consignment - just one price for the lot. Then the dealers will sell the clothing to people who will appreciate it - your relative's dresses will be worn to weddings and proms and for special occasions. I think it's a very cool way of recycling and continuing someone's legacy. And as a dealer I always try to honor the person who owned the clothing before I got ahold of it.

Post-80's might be hard to get rid of at a regular consignment store as most seem not to want to take anything that's more than a couple of years old. I think donating them to a local "Dress for Success" group would be best.

I understand that there is something intensely personal about a person's clothing. I could not handle my mom's stuff after she died and had to have someone else donate everything to Goodwill. However, some pieces were kept and made into quilts. One quilt was beautiful. One quilt was horrible - it disturbs me on an aesthetic and emotional level and I keep it hidden away. So if you decide to do this, you should ask to see some example of the finished work.

Good luck with this!
posted by suki at 6:18 AM on November 22, 2007

Put the stuff in boxes, get an inexpensive storage unit for three months or so and let the family re-evaluate what to do

A caveat: my brothers and I did this with a lot of stuff after my father died; it's going on two years now and the damn stuff is still in storage and the inexpensive monthly charges have added up to a thousand bucks and I still don't know what to do with all of it. I really wish we'd bitten the bullet and made decisions back then.
posted by languagehat at 7:10 AM on November 22, 2007

Best answer: My condolences to you and your family on your loss, Brandon Blatcher.

Googling Bowie, MD charities, a few of possible use came up.

Dress For Success Washington, DC
717 2nd St. NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 544-3373
Distance away: Approximately 14.32 miles (from Bowie)
Items Accepted: Business Clothes for Females

Catalogue For Philanthropy, Greater Washington.

Southern Comforters Quilt Guild of Bowie, Maryland Our annual quilt show raises funds for local charities, and several committees oversee special projects for those in need in our community.

Bowie Crofton Pregnancy Center Life-affirming counseling and resources for those facing unexpected pregnancies.

Associated Black Charities

Consignment/thrift stores, Maryland.

National Association of Thrift and Resale Shops, NARTS, in Maryland.

2007 Maryland Charity Campaign - Alphabetically
posted by nickyskye at 8:19 AM on November 22, 2007

Seconding thinkingwoman - consignment.

There are most definately upscale consignment stores in your area and their clientele will treat quality clothes with respect.
posted by jkaczor at 11:19 AM on November 22, 2007

When my husband's grandmother passed away, she left behind a closet full of beautiful clothes in very good shape (some never worn). Even though she'd been in her 80s, her clothes weren't "old lady-ish" - she'd done most of her shopping in later years via QVC. When my MIL was cleaning out grandma's closet, she asked me if I'd wear any of those clothes (luckily grandma and I were about the same size). As it happened, I had recently accepted a new job that didn't allow jeans and sloppy shirts like my previous job had, so grandma's beautiful blouses and dress slacks were a lifesaver for me - I didn't have to run out and buy a whole new wardrobe. My MIL told me through happy tears that it would have made grandma happy to see someone get some good use out of her clothes. So, in a nutshell, I am nthing donating to a Dress for Success-type organization.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:43 AM on November 22, 2007

when my mother died, we simply invited women from the groups she belong to (which performed charity work among other activities) to come over and help with the disbursal of clothing. many of the women found it a nice way to connect to my mother one last time (and also recall which items were favorites, which ones she looked good in, etc.), and because these women were already connected to social service organizations, many of them brought along their own bags and boxes and saw to it themselves to insure clothing was made available directly to people in need. with many women there, this took perhaps about an hour and it was then over and done, allowing us to move on to other important tasks.

i supervised, but did not help, and it was comforting to know these friends of my mother's cared so much for her that they were willing to help out and also to continue the principles my mother herself would have followed (she would have had no qualms about going through anyone's possessions after they died!!) their kindness is something i will always remember
posted by kuppajava at 11:46 AM on November 23, 2007

Seconding that vintage stores may buy the whole lot. They get a lot of their fine clothing from estate sales, but also are happy to find people like yourself with a relative's beautiful fine clothes that they wish to pass along to someone who appreciates them. Vintage stores are also better equipped to repair and sell fancy-dress clothes than consignment stores are. Also seconding that nicer consignment stores are where I buy almost all of my business clothes.
posted by desuetude at 12:48 PM on November 23, 2007

Response by poster: The family really liked the Dress for Success option and are gonna go with that. Thanks all!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:05 PM on November 26, 2007

« Older Can a man safely use prenatal vitamins?   |   Help with Display Panel Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.