Friday, January 11, 2008

Out with the Old, or What to do with Unwanted Clothing (DO NOT THROW IT AWAY!)

This is the time of year many of us resolve to change our lives, change our eating habits, our bodies, our pocketbooks, our closets. The fireworks and celebrations (maybe, unbridled merriment?) of New Year’s Eve somehow give us a psychological break from the year before – allows us to think that all is not lost and that a new _________ (fill in the blank) is only a few months of semi-serious commitment away.

So, yeah, I am one of those people. Not only have I resolved to do a bunch of green things, but I am also working to change my diet, drink less beer (grrrrr . . . that will certainly make me grouchy on Friday nights) and clean out my closet once and for all. There are just so many things in there that I groan at when I am looking for something to wear. It has got to stop!! I have a solid collection of pieces that should work well together – that DO work well together – I just need to bite the bullet and ditch everything else. And even though my shopping habit is well underway to being fully controlled by now, I still buy a new piece of clothing here and there (be it new or secondhand or vintage), so I consistently add more than I remove. My small closet is crammed with clothes. Blech.

I was further inspired to get on with it by Johanna’s great blog from her site called A Serious Job is No Excuse. You need to check it out here. Only, I would just add one question to ask yourself to her great list at the end – Should I get rid of this, or should I just go to the gym more? Honestly, don’t you think you should go to the gym more? Really.

So, you have successfully edited down your closet with the aid of Lucky Magazine, Elle, aseriousjobisnoexcuse . . . Now what are you supposed to do with all that stuff that you are editing out of your fashion repertoire? Definitely DO NOT throw it away!! Unless the garment is falling apart at the seams (which begs the question: why the hell is it in your closet anyway?) there are many things you can do with your stuff. Below is just a partial list. So, get going already. You haven't fit into size 28 jeans since high school, just face it.

Things to do with clothing you no longer want:

Be a Do-Gooder: Donate it Locally

Suited for Change: This organization provides professional clothing and “career education to low-income women to increase their employment and job-retention potential and contribute to their economic independence”. They accept suits, blazers, skirts, blouses, dresses . . . you get it. It has to be season appropriate, pressed and ready to wear. You also must make an appt. to drop things off. Appointments are available on the first Saturday of most months from 10 am to noon and on most Wednesdays between 11 AM and 1:30 PM. So, although they make it rather hard for people to donate, just think about the good your suit will do in some other woman’s life. To left is a little "before and after" pic from their website.

Goodwill: Takes the clothes that you donate and sells them in their retail stores to help fund the employment, job training and placement programs for area residents with disabilities and disadvantages. There are a bunch of locations in DC and in Virginia and MD. Find the location closest to you here.

Bread for the City is an organization that provides vulnerable residents of Washington, DC, with comprehensive services, including food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services. They accept clothing donations at their SE center.

Salvation Army: The Salvation Army accepts donations of clothing and other household items which it sells at its Thrift Stores to raise money for programs that help the poor and the recovering. They will pick up your donation if you have a large amount of things (say clothing AND furniture), but you will need to drop off a smaller donation at one of its many local locations. Find a donation center closest to you here.

Freecycle or Craigslist: If you are not totally uncomfortable with a perfect stranger coming over to your house to grab your stuff, then these are great sites to get rid of your things. I had a friend who (almost) completely furnished his group house with free stuff from Craigslist. Freecycle is a bit more complicated in that you first have to join the DC group on Yahoo Groups. But, there are literally thousands of free items posted to the Group every month. And, after you join, it is very easy to post your items. And, I have to say that I have always met really interesting people through my sales or give-aways this way - sometimes getting into hour long conversations with them or getting a very useful contact for something else in my life.

A note about those ubiquitous Planet Aid Donation Boxes: There is a lot of controversy about the Planet Aid organization. It is true that they take your clothing and “recycle” it in that they sell it to others. However, recent investigations have shown that the money made from the sale of the clothing does not actually help poor people in developing countries as the organization claims. So, if that is the absolutely easiest thing for you to do other than throwing your clothing away, then go ahead. But there are definitely much better organizations to share your cast-offs with.

Earn Some Cash: Sell It

Ebay: Oh how I love Ebay. Ever since I read an interview with Alicia Silverstone in InStyle Magazine where she said that she only wore vintage leather shoes because of her thoughts on animal-cruelty and the environment, I have tried to buy most of my leather footwear from there. I have gotten so many awesome vintage pieces on Ebay - especially shoes! However, there are a lot of pros and a lot of cons to selling things on Ebay and a bit of a learning curve. But, if you have some time and learn quickly, this may be the best bet in terms of getting a good price for your items. Check out some tips here (scroll half way down for the selling tips.)

Craigslist: Do you have a unique outfit that doesn’t fit anymore? Or a pair of gold boots? Or a winter coat that is just a little too short? Try selling it on Craigslist. Always post a picture and be reasonable about your price. Is it better for it to sit in your closet or to make someone else happy?

Consignment: There are MANY consignment stores in and around DC. Here are some of my favorites.

Secondi in Dupont: for all your lightly worn designer label items. They are kind of picky about what they accept, but the prices are pretty good (you keep half of the selling price) and anything that is not sold is donated to charity. They accept things that are in-season and are not out of date fashion-wise. But, don’t take anything from, like, H&M or the Gap, etc. My experience is that you will most likely sell about 70-80% of what you bring in and the rest will be donated (note: they do not return your items to you, they donate them).

Annie Creamcheese: Located in Georgetown, Annie carries a nice collection of vintage pieces so if you have the same to sell, this is a good place to go. She has recently started carrying non-vintage items and the prices are a bit steep, but I think she buys things outright if she likes them, so it might be worth checking out.

Secondhand Rose (1516 Wisconsin Ave NW, 202.337.3378): This store is more upscale and specializes in designer merchandise. So if you have any Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Yves Saint-Laurent, Ungaro, Ralph Lauren, etc. lying around then bring them right over to my house . . . um, I mean . . . anyway, this is a good place to get rid of those things.

Get Creative

Hold a clothing swap: Get a bunch of your friends and their friends and host a clothing swap. For some tips on holding one, look here. Clothing swaps are all the range in NYC, as they are super green, girly and fun. Serve snacks and drinks, tell stories about the clothing you are trading in (go on, tell them about that time you got a little tipsy on champagne cocktails at All About Jane and spent a fortune on those white jeans that you could never actually wear in public, but then were too embarrassed to return.)

Repurpose it: Cashmere sweaters make great toss pillows, scarves, hats, arm warmers, draft blockers. If you don’t care to make them yourself, donate them to your local crafter – they always love high-end fabrics.

Cut up items for rags: Why buy paper towels? Most likely, unless you are just a very filthy person, nothing in your house is so dirty that you must dispose of what you use to clean it with. Why waste money on paper towels? Use rags and then throw them in the washing machine. Voila! Saves trees, reduces waste, reuses your ex-boyfriend’s favorite Patriots jersey. Cool.

All right. Enough for now. Must wash dog.


Kiki said...

The Mustard Seed in Bethesda is another wonderful consignment shop. And they'll actually take your H&M, Target, Old Navy, etc. stuff!

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