I'm a big fan of Vivienne Westwood's mantra "Buy Less Choose Well." Articles on mindful purchasing and creating a better capsule wardrobe can be found everywhere including on this very blog. But the fact remains that with every new purchase, something else "needs to go."
Growing up, closet purges were a seasonal ritual in my household and no new clothes were allowed in, until the old ones went out. I've continued this ritual every Christmas with my kids just before Santa comes. It's a great character building exercise (that's also a bit cruel)...but it helps keep our closets under control.
Once a year we sit with our kids and have them ask themselves if they actually ever played with their toys from last Christmas. As you can imagine the answer is almost always certainly "no" (cue the sound of wailing and regret) as we get down to the business of giving things away and writing a better Christmas wish list for the coming season that includes less barbies.
In many ways adults are the same exact way. Closet purges give us a chance to evaluate what worked and did not work last year. For example, did I really loose the weight that I promised myself to fit into those three skirts? Did I really start working out every day and thus need 10 jogging tops? If the answer is "no" then into the donate pile it goes!
Ok, so this method isn't exactly the method endorsed by Marie Kondo "Life Changing Magic of Tidying up," but there are seeds of it in there and you are more then welcome to ask yourself if something truly "sparks joy" as you toss it aside.
But the question still begs NOW WHAT!? I've accumulated two trash bags full of items that are still "good" but just not "good for me."
I hate hauling things to my local Salvation Army and Goodwill, (not because these are "bad" charities) but because I've been inside those places and I can't imagine that my vintage Helmut Lang skirt that is two sizes too small for me will get the proper respect and attention it finally deserves!
So here's the scoop. The are SO many other options. It may take a little doing, but if we are all being "mindful" about our purchases then let's be "mindful" about our give-aways too.
Rentals - Clothing rentals are truly the best and most sustainable thing we can all do to improve our currently un-sustainable fashion system. Of course there are certain items that you wear daily such as socks, shoes, underwear and classic staple wardrobe pieces such as a white button-down shirt, great fitting jeans, (and coats!) that you may want to "own." But evening dresses, and those trendy items that give you major FOMO should all be rented. My favorite fashion rental service is Designer Share since it's peer to peer (meaning you can rent those sparkly tops that you were about to give-away, share the love, and make yourself some money!!!
Consignment - Ok let's say you just want them out! There are so many options for consignment these days. In fact tonight I'm rushing off to a party tonight hosted by TheRealReal and I'm bringing two designer bags with me that I know I can get out of my house while making a commission on the sale. Yay! And everything that the The Real Real does not accept will go to meaningful charities such as our next ones.
Charitable Organizations - Here in Chicago there are SO many people looking for high-end interview and workplace appropriate clothing in order to break into their next career. I'm talking about women supporting women. Can I get an Amen! Charities such as Bridge to Success and Dress for Success can take your beautiful suit, blouse, or coat that you may have grown out of, or fallen out of love with, and give it to a person looking to make a change. Project Style is another great one specifically for at-risk teens and youth in the Chicago area.
But Lastly, Don't Trash Anything! - Surely there will be items in there that you can't imagine ANYONE will want. (Yes I'm talking about those dirty t-shirts, socks, and undies) Those items can and should go toward clothing recyclers and NOT the trash can. According to the Atlantic, Americans put 10.5 million tons of clothing in landfills every year and are only currently recycling 15% of their used clothing. We can do better. Salvation Army and Goodwill may not be the best home for your designer skirt but these charities DO link up with clothing recyclers, as do countless other clothing recycling bins throughout our cities. Many of those items you deem as "nasty" can in fact be broken down into industrial rags or even recycled into new clothing.
So please, next time you purge that closet - Remember the three R's IN THEIR ORDER to make it easy AND meaningful!
1.) Reduce - this your first priority! - Buy Less! Choose Well! Make it Last - through Care and Repair!
2.) Reuse - choose Rentals, Consignment, and Amazing Charitable Organizations when you are ready to give-away the "good stuff"!
3.) And Lastly Recycle (and never trash!) those "nasty" items. (Trust me, no one will ever know that they belonged to you in the first place...)