Cleaning Your Closet in Eco Style

The New Year is a perfect time to tackle those goals you’ve had in the back of your mind. You know, the earth-shaking ones like volunteer at a local charity, solve world hunger, and clean out your closet. It may seem unimportant, but bringing order and organization into the small things in your life leads to more order in the big things. And isn’t that something we really could all use? Here are the tips and ideas you need to get you decluttering your closet without creating more waste.

Just Get Through It!
The most difficult part of most projects is simply getting started. Instead of thinking about how much time you’re going to need to clean out your closet, think about how much less upkeep you’ll have to do afterward.

  • Set a time limit.

Give yourself one hour to do as much as you can. Set a timer and start it after you set up.

  • Set your criteria.

You can set your own criteria for what stays and what goes, but don’t make it overcomplicated. Remember, the basic idea is to keep only what you enjoy wearing (and what looks good on you) right now. Anything else should go to someone else or some other use.

  • Get your bags/boxes.

Have several large boxes, shopping bags, or trash bags. Just because you put it in a trash bag doesn’t mean you have to haul it to the landfill.

  • Go!

Pull out every item, piece by piece. Don’t take more than a few seconds each one; go with your first instinct. Love it? Wear it? Then keep it. Toss it in the big box for keepers, lay it on your bed, or put it right back into your closet. For everything else, toss it into one of two categories: the still-good-enough-to-wear but not working for me category, or the old-ratty-not-fit-for-wearing category.

What To Do Next
The next thing to do? Well, first let’s talk about what not to do. Don’t leave those bags of non-keepers sitting around, trip over them for a few weeks, and finally shove them into the hall closet where they will molder away until time indefinite. And the other alternative? Don’t throw everything in your car and haul it to the landfill, or stuff it all into that oversize trash can at the end of the driveway. Neither of those “methods” will help create less waste, and that’s the goal here.

Pass On the Good Stuff
Clothes are expensive, both as a final end purchase and for all the energy it takes (both in human labor and in energy consumption) to produce those clothes. So the last thing we want to do is waste them. What we want is someone to be wearing and using those clothes. You have several options for passing yours along.

  • Give them to a friend

Have a girlfriend who is close to your size? Fold everything, pack it up, and give her a call. Most people are happy to save money and get new clothes.

  • Swap

If you’re in the market for new clothes yourself (and who isn’t?), then arrange a clothes swap with several friends. Everyone brings a box or bag of good clothes to swap out for others. Everybody gets new stuff without buying new stuff.

  • Donate

There’s a charity in your area who can use your clothes. If you’ve got nicer pieces that you can’t stand hauling to Goodwill, contact a local church or women’s shelter and ask if they need – or know where to take – clothes to donate for women needing help to get back on their feet.

  • Consignment, Craigslist, or Freecycle

Your other options for getting your clothes back to good use: find a consignment resale shop in your area and you may be able to make a little money for them. You can also sell clothes on Craigslist; for designer duds, this can be a good option. If you just want to get them to someone who can use them, post an ad on a “free classifieds” site like Freecycle and you’ll have someone eager to come get your cast-offs quicker than you can say ‘clean closet’!

Reuse the Ratty Stuff
Okay, so how about that stuff that fell into the old-ratty-not-fit-for-wearing category? You can’t exactly pass that along to your friends… but you can find a use for it beyond the trash can. Here are some options.

  • Repurpose

Old t-shirts can be cleaning rags; use old clothes to wrap delicate items for storage, to let your kids use for craft projects (sock puppets, anyone?) or as shop rags.

  • Get them to people who can use them

If you’re not a crafter or sewer, then get in touch with people who are. Old clothes are ripe material for new projects, so donate your pile to someone’s crafty habit and you’ll not only have a cleaner closet, you’ll be contributing to the creative process.

Image: ginnerobot