How to responsibly get rid of the clothes you don’t want

Robyn Davies

Robyn Davies

Raise your hand if you have a pile of clothes you want to get rid of.

Yep, that’s most of us (and if you did last month’s conscious closet edit, you definitely have at least a few “noes”).  

What’s a gal to do?  Instead of dumping stuff at Goodwill or Salvation Army** (or, gulp, throwing them away), I’ll guide you through how to responsibly get rid of your clothes and shoes.  It takes a bit more effort, but it’s totally worth it because your “noes” are more likely to be reused and it helps you buy more intentionally going forward. Good, right?  

Let’s go!

First, sort your ”noes” into two categories: items that are in good enough condition to gift to a friend, and items that aren’t.  

Next, sort the good condition items into brand categories: designer, contemporary brands (think Anine Bing, Veronica Beard, Stuart Weitzman), mall brands (Gap, J.Crew), fast fashion (H&M, Zara), and non-designer vintage (pieces from 20+ years ago).  From here, I’ll help you decide whether to resell, donate, or recycle.


Designer & Contemporary Pieces

I recommend consigning your designer and contemporary pieces with TheRealReal or your local consignment store (like INA in NYC) because people buying designer/contemporary secondhand tend to have more questions, and it can be a hassle dealing with the back and forth.  Consignment stores do all the work for you–you just have to drop off/ship your items, and after your item is sold, you receive a percentage of the selling price.  The RealReal’s commission structure is based on their rewards program–the more you sell, the more you earn.  You start earning between 40-55% of the selling price of your item, and can earn up to 70-85%.  Local consignment stores’ commission rates vary by location.    

Mall Brands and Fast Fashion

For your mall brands and fast fashion clothing and shoes, I like Poshmark.

Poshmark is a peer-to-peer resale marketplace.  It’s essentially an eBay, but primarily just for fashion (and now beauty and home).  The difference is that Poshmark is socially driven, meaning that in order to sell your stuff, you need to engage with other people on the platform by sharing their listings.  The sharing is a bit tedious, and if you don’t do it, it’s hard to sell your stuff.  The payoff is that you get a higher percentage of your sale than with a consignment store.  Poshmark takes a flat commission of $2.95 for all sales under $15, and 20% commission for sales of $15 or more.

Non-Designer Vintage

You can sell vintage on Poshmark, but you’re more likely to find buyers on Depop, or your local Buffalo Exchange.   

Depop is similar to Poshmark in that it’s also a peer-to-peer resale marketplace that’s socially driven, but the merch and clientele veers on the cooler side of things.  It’s typically styled a lot better too, so keep that in mind when you’re listing your items.  Depop charges a 10% fee for all sales made through the BUY button, plus a transaction fee from either PayPal or Depop Payments.

If you’re like, “Robyn, that’s way more work than I wanna do,” Buffalo Exchange is the way to go.  Simply book an appointment and then come by the store.  One of their buyers will take a look at your stuff, select what they think will sell, and give you a price on the spot.  You can then choose whether to get 25% of their selling price in cash or PayPal or 50% in a Digital Trade Card.  A couple of tips: take into account the store’s vibe when bringing in pieces to sell (for example, the Buffalo Exchange in New York is edgier than the one in Richmond, VA) and don’t take it personally if your stuff isn’t accepted 😉  They may just not need what you’re offering right now.  


Shoes & Clothing

If reselling is just not for you, I’m a big fan of donating to Soles4Souls (S4S).  S4S is a nonprofit that accepts your gently used shoes and clothing to help people start businesses in places where job opportunities don’t exist.  


You can donate new and gently used bras, sports bras, mastectomy bras, prosthesis, and new panties to The Bra Recyclers.  They’re a for-profit textile recycling company that supports nonprofit organizations by providing them with bras and other lingerie.


Okay, so what to do with the things that aren’t in good condition?  


You can recycle your clothing with TerraCycle’s Zero Waste Box.  You’ll notice that it ain’t cheap–the smallest box starts at $123, which for most of us is a lot.  Why so pricey?  Contrary to what we’ve been taught, recycling is expensive.  I included it because it is a recycling option, and also to highlight the true cost of recycling our stuff.  

If you’re located in NYC, New Jersey, or Connecticut, you can drop off your unwanted clothing and household linens including sheets, towels, and fabric to Green Tree Textiles.  The clothing and textiles are sourced to fibers and rags manufacturers.  

Underwar, Bras, Socks, and Tights

Knickey, a sustainably-minded underwear brand, will recycle your old underwear, bras, socks, and tights–including mens and kids–and turn them into new materials like insulation, carpet padding, and furniture batting.  Plus, they’ll include a free pair of Knickeys with your next order. 

Alrighty, so like I said, responsibly getting rid of your stuff takes more effort.  You’re probably wondering, “so how does this help me buy more intentionally going forward?”  Well, by taking ownership of what happens to your clothes and shoes after you no longer want to wear them, you’re more likely to buy pieces that you’ll keep for the long run, instead of one-and-done items, because you know the work that goes into responsibly getting rid of them. Also–don’t beat yourself up if you can’t resell, donate, or recycle everything.  No one is perfect.  The key is start somewhere–be more aware of your shopping habits, and take an active part in where your unwanted clothes end up.  The more of us who think and act this way, the better for people and the planet <3 

If you have a fave place to resell, donate, or recycle, share below!  I’m always on the lookout for more options, especially for folks located outside of NYC.   



**I don’t have anything against Goodwill or Salvation Army–they do great work!  It’s just that they’ve become the de facto dumping ground for a lot of our unwanted stuff, and that creates additional (expensive) work for them.  If you do donate your items to Goodwill or Salvation Army, make sure everything is in good enough condition to gift to a friend.  

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