What to Do with Old Clothes

We all have clothes in our closet that we don’t wear, clothes that have stains that won’t come out, and clothes that you were hoping you’d fit in to, but despite 5 years of dieting, they still won’t fit. At the very least, we all have socks or underwear that are now more hole than fabric. 85% of people clearly think that the right place for these clothes is landfills, but it really shouldn’t be like that. Fabric waste is a big problem in landfills: when it decomposes, it releases harmful methane, and dyes and other chemicals used to make the clothes get into soil and water. Fabric waste is really such a waste (great pun, I know): so much of it could be reused and recycled. And a lot of the clothes that end up in landfills are still perfectly fine to wear. This is why in this post I will give you ideas for what to do with clothes that you don’t want to keep.

If you have clothes that are in good condition, but you just don’t wear them or want to get them out of your sight, the obvious choice is either to sell them or donate them. Selling clothes can be done in many ways: at flea markets, online on forums or on Facebook, or through Zadaa (if you live in Finland or Sweden). If you can’t be bothered to try to sell your clothes, you can simply donate them to a local charity shop. You can also organise a clothes swap with your friends.

Another idea for clothes that you don’t like so much anymore is to modify them. I’m really lazy with sewing and I rarely have the patience to work on my clothes well, but even I have managed to modify some of my clothes. Even surprisingly small modifications can change the look of a piece of clothing (sometimes even just wearing a belt with something that’s too big can make a big difference). Just take out your sewing machine (or borrow your grandma’s, she surely has one) and try out different things. Pinterest and YouTube are full of DIY ideas for old clothes.

tm dress
I bought this dress last summer from UFF for my friends’ wedding, but the top was super revealing so I sewed a piece of cloth to it so I wouldn’t have to always wear a top underneath. This dress is also an example of my laziness: I’ve been meaning to add cloth to the hem to make the dress longer, but I haven’t gotten round to it.


I bought overall shorts from a flea market years ago that were much too small for me, but I really liked the print, so I opened the seams and sewed the shorts into a skirt, which fits me just right. I wore this so much when I was 16!
flower skirt
When I bought this skirt, it was about three sizes too big for me. I took the waist in quite a bit to make it into a high-waist pencil skirt.

If you have clothes that are literally broken, there are still plenty of things you can do with them. First of all, you can try to do your best to make sure the piece of clothing could be worn: a hole in your jeans doesn’t mean you can’t wear them anymore, you can simply patch them up. If you have a stain in your favourite top that won’t come out, you can try dyeing it so that the stain can’t be noticed anymore. If your pants are ripped, you can cut them into shorts. You can also cut up pieces of clothing into rags, make t-shirts into tote bags, use pieces of fabric in quilts or make little stuffed animals, with a stuffing of strips of old clothes. The list is really endless.

When you’ve done all you can to save your clothes, but they’re still pretty much waste, don’t throw them in the bin: take them somewhere where they will be recycled. You can take your fabric waste to H&M stores, where the fabric will be recycled into yarn for new clothes. However, this recycling process is still developing and is really at an early stage at the moment: it would take 12 years for H&M to use up 1,000 tons of fashion waste, which is roughly the same amount of clothes a brand that size makes every 48 hours . If you live in Helsinki and are looking for a better alternative, there’s a great second-hand store called Recci that takes all sorts of fabric waste, even broken underwear and socks, and gets them recycled to be used in insulation and even roads. Do a bit of Googling to find out if there is a place near you where you can get your fabric waste recycled if you don’t have a H&M or Recci nearby.


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