What to Do With the Clothes You No Longer Wear

11 Things You Can Do With Old Clothes You Don’t Wear Anymore

No matter how gently you treat your garments, at some point, there will come a time when you won't be able to wear them anymore, whether it is because of lifestyle or size changes or because your beloved clothes are too worn out to be sported.  

But just like treating clothes with care will influence and lengthen their lifespan, how you deal with them once they no longer belong to your closet will make a difference in their overall environmental impact. 

According to the EPA, textile waste generation amounted to 17 million tons in 2018, making up 5.8 percent of total municipal solid waste generation. Discarded clothing is the chief component of this textile waste, whose recycling rate was 14.7 percent in the same year. 

That is why choosing a different, more conscious route might be a better call than just tossing out the clothes we can no longer wear. In this article, we present you with many eco-friendlier options, some perfect for worn-out pieces and others ideal for gently-used garments: there is something for everybody!    

Turn them into reusable cotton rounds

This tip is perfect for upcycling clothes made of natural fabrics that are slightly stiffer and heavier than elastic and thin, like those commonly used to manufacture polo shirts or sweatshirts. To turn an old garment into reusable cotton rounds, you only have to place the piece lying flat on a flat surface like a table or the floor and keep it still with a few heavy objects placed on the edges. 

Then proceed by tracing as many circles as possible on it with a pencil or, better yet, some tailor chalk. You can cut them out, pile up three circles for each reusable pad, and secure the edges with a simple blanket stitch. 

With this simple DIY, you will not only keep a worn-out garment from ending up in the landfill, but you will also save on money and waste as you won't have to purchase single-use cotton rounds anymore.  

Craft reusable pads out of them 

Another project that allows you to employ old clothes as its primary material is to craft homemade reusable menstrual pads. Pieces made of breathable, heavier, and soft fabrics are especially suitable for this project. There are a lot of great tutorials online to help you with this sustainable DIY, and it's a fantastic way to use other old textiles like towels and robes in addition to clothes. 

Shred them into pillow stuffing

If you have to deal with a worn-out knit sweater, hat, scarf, or pair of mittens plagued by so much piling no lint shaver can do anything about it, then you could rip it apart and use it as a pillow stuffing. This easy-peasy project is a fantastic option if you have a throw pillow at your place that is a bit saggy and could use some firming up or if you have some pretty fabric lying around that you're thinking of using to craft a lovely pillow cover. 

To do this, you don't need a fancy rotary cutter or proper fabric scissors, as precision is not a concern here. Just cut the garment into tiny pieces to replicate the texture of regular pillow stuffing for a fluffy, comfortable result. This process can be a touch time-consuming, but it's a mindless and relaxing one too. So you can easily carry it out while you enjoy a movie or a tv show or chat with a loved one.       

Cut them into cleaning rags

This one is probably the easiest DIY ever, but also handy and perhaps a bit underrated. For this one, you can use old, faded, or irreparably stained clothes made of no-knit and no-impermeable fabric, like the cotton used for classic t-shirts. 

Cut your piece into rough squares, or if it's a smaller garment like a tank top, just cut it around the seams: that's all. You can use these DIY multipurpose rugs to dust around the house, clean your car or bathroom, or as kitchen rags. 

Bonus tip, if they are made of a fabric that leaves around quite a bit of lint, try not to use them to clean shiny or see-through surfaces like those of windows or mirrors, but use them instead on matt ones like wood or ceramic.    

Use the fabric to make produce bags

Old, un-elasticated garments are the perfect basis for DIY produce bags, another project that can save you waste in two ways by allowing you to repurpose a piece you no longer can or feel like wearing while also helping you avoid having to use single-use produce bags for your groceries. 

To make them, wash and dry your piece, then cut the fabric into rectangles as big as your garment allows and your heart desires. Then fold your rectangles in half and sew a seam on the sides and around the top edge by folding it twice, pinning it with pins, and sewing along them. 

To make this a beginner-friendly and faster project, you can tie these produce bags up with a ribbon or even a hair tie when you close them up at the store.    

Host a garage sale with your friends 

If you have a bunch of pieces that are still in good or better condition but that you find yourself having to part with, then a terrific way to go about it could be to host a garage sale with your friends if they, too, have some clothes they have been thinking of selling. 

It could be a fun idea for a weekend outdoor group activity and a lovely occasion to get to know your neighbors a little better, in addition to being an excellent way to part from your clothes reasonably.  

Sell them through brands' resale programs 

Selling clothes when we no longer wear them is a great way to responsibly deal with them if they are still in good or better condition. Aside from popular clothing resale apps and websites like Vinted and Depop, you could also sell your used clothes through their brand's resale program. Via these programs, customers can sell and buy their second-hand pieces from the brand on the same website where the company offers its brand-new garments. It's worth checking if the brand that manufactured the apparel you would like to sell offers this program.  

Make a DIY bed for your pet 

Sometimes we find ourselves with more old clothes to deal with than just one or two pieces, like when we have to dispose of the clothes we used to wear back in school because of a move or the old clothes the kids have outgrown.    

A splendid way to upcycle larger quantities of old clothes is to use them to make a big, comfy DIY bed for your pet. You can use the softer, larger pieces as the pet bed lining, and the smaller garments are the stuffing. 

The more garments you use in this project, the plusher the bed gets, which is always a plus for our pets. 

Compost natural fabrics

If you are not feeling like engaging in creative pursuits and have to find a way to dispose of heavily worn-out clothes or even just the scraps from any of these upcycling projects, know that there may still be an alternative to simply tossing them out in the trash.  

If you have a composter at home or your city offers this service, and the clothes you have to get rid of are made of 100% natural fabrics like cotton, hemp, or linen, you can compost them, as they are biodegradable. Remember that the same doesn't apply to blended fabrics where one or more of the fibers are synthetic.  

Keep them and hand them down to younger loved ones

Many of us inherited beloved clothes from our parents and grandparents. Wearing these family heirlooms is a great way to feel connected to our older loved ones in our everyday life, and clothes with a story behind them are always so much more special. 

Do you have clothes that are still in excellent condition and mean a lot to you that you can no longer wear because of size or lifestyle changes? Consider keeping them around for your younger loved ones to inherit when they are old enough to wear them. 

There is no sweeter way to give your clothes a second life. Just store them properly, so they get to them looking as new as possible. 

Make DIY fabric coasters

This project is perfect for giving your old fleece jackets and coats a new life. You can get creative with this one and create cute multi-color patchwork DIY fabric coasters or cut them in any shape you like.

To make them, you can trace your shape of choice onto the garment you are repurposing. Then cut and assemble a couple of layers per coaster. When you have finished, sew them right sides together, leaving a small gap. Turn your coater-in-process inside out via that gap and stitch around the coaster to secure the edges.  

With all these ideas, you'll find a way to sustainably deal with clothes you no longer wear that work for you. Happy sorting!  

About the Author:

Roberta Fabbrocino is a journalist specialized in climate change and sustainability-related topics. Her articles have been published in several international eco-publications. Roberta also works as a content writer for sustainable companies.



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