when i first moved to new york, i shopped at goodwill and salvation army quite a bit. i was on budget, and there was many a vintage gem to be found within those racks. i was happy to find blazers for $7, an insane sequin minidress for $14. i shopped there for the thrill of the hunt, for the fun of it.
that being said, every time i stepped foot into a salvation army or a goodwill shop, i did so with the knowledge that what was for me a “budget fashion” adventure was for others a necessity. shopping at a discount store was something i could choose to do. i had the means to shop elsewhere.
for many, there is no elsewhere. someone else’s used belongings are the only option, they’re all they can afford.
i’ve grown up fortunate; rarely in my life have i had to worry about money. of course, i budget, and i think about my finances, but i’ve never had to worry about whether i can eat, or afford a nice outfit for an upcoming interview, or pay my rent (okay, maybe i’ve worried about that last one a few times, dammit new york). i have a safety cushion, a family that will support me if i were to truly need the help, and a career that helps me afford not just the things i need, but the things i love and enjoy. i am damn lucky to be in that position, but i know quite well that many people are not that fortunate.
since i was young, my parents have instilled in me the importance of giving back to those less fortunate. i grew up volunteering at the local soup kitchen, working as a candy striper at the local hospital, and doing a family-wide closet cleanout multiple times a year (toys and all). we regularly donated our lightly used belongings to the local homeless shelters, our televisions and books went to the library, or to whatever school i attended at the time. for all of their bounty, my parents believe deeply in taking care of those around them, especially when those people have less than they do.
it’s not that i think donating my used clothes to goodwill is equivalent to doing some big mitzvah. it’s not like i believe my worn blazer will help someone afford their rent next month. but here’s what i do know: feeling good in your clothing is a luxury that should be available to ALL. feeling good in what you wear isn’t about how much you spend, or the name stitched into your sweater. it’s about putting something on and feeling like yourself. feeling like you can take on the world. it’s about feeling smart, feeling strong, feeling confident, feeling beautiful, or pretty, or badass, or whatever you want to feel on a given day. there is power in a good outfit.
and a good outfit is something everyone deserves – no matter what their budget.
perhaps its naive to think that my closet cleanout each season helps someone feel powerful, or strong, or beautiful. but why not give the clothes that once brought me joy a second chance at happiness? why not donate them to someone who might need them? who might love them? who might put them on and think, damn, i look good today?
even the smallest little acts of kindness matter. i’ve been raised to believe that when you have, you give. and so when i find that i have a surplus of anything – be it clothing, or shoes, or sheets, or food – i do my best to find a way to give it to someone who doesn’t. i don’t kid myself into thinking i’m changing the world, here, but i do like to think that maybe, just maybe, the things i do, and the items i donate, make someone, somewhere, smile. that has to count for something, right?
if you’re looking to donate your clothing, this list from elle should help.
MY TOP TIPS FOR CLEANING OUT YOUR CLOSET
1. if you haven’t worn it in 6 months, give it away. it’s a fact: no one wears everything in their closet. most of us wear about 1/3 of what we own. if you haven’t worn it in a while, it’s time to let someone else have a turn. it’s okay to hold on to pieces that have sentimental value, but if you don’t wear it often, chances are, that’s not going to change anytime soon.
2. try things on, especially if you haven’t worn them in a while. weights fluctuate, trends change, things that used to look amazing no longer look so great. just because it no longer looks incredible on you doesn’t mean it won’t look amazing on someone else. try things on to ensure they still fit, and even more importantly, that you still like them. things that look good on the hanger can look positively ridiculous on.
3. if it’s disgusting, don’t give it to someone else. as stated above, i’m ALL for donating your lightly worn clothes/shoes/etc. but no one wants your raggedy gym t-shirt with pit stains. if it’s gross, don’t donate it. no one will want it, and it’ll just go to waste. instead, tear up your old tshirts/sweatshirts, and use them as cleaning rags. used towels and sheets can be donated to local animal shelters. here in new york, kittykind (where i volunteer every so often) repurposes old sheets and towels as padding for beds for the cats we rescue.
4. you don’t need that many coats. new york cares does a coat drive each season, and i’m sure your city/town does as well. for those that live outside, especially on the east coast, winters are brutal, and a nice warm coat can help the homeless survive in the frigid temperatures. consider keeping a coat or two for your own purposes, and donating all the others (you know you’ve got a few old coats sitting in your closet) to those that need them.
5. be honest with yourself. that shirt you bought on sale that you’ve literally NEVER worn? you’re never going to wear it. that gift you never returned because maybe someday you’d like it? time to let it go. keep the items you truly love, wear often, and make you feel your best. donate the pieces that don’t make you feel like a million bucks (again, apply the “be honest” rule here).
be sure to wash and fold all of your items for donation. when you can, donate to a local homeless shelter or, if applicable, animal shelter, instead of a giant like goodwill or salvation army. happy cleaning!