Cleaning Out the Closets

Like just about everyone else in these later weeks of social distancing, I have been cleaning out my closet. Well, more accurately, I am organizing closets and drawers at whomever’s home I am currently staying at. I recently (finally) read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and doing so inspired even more cleaning and organizing. With endless time to do the long-neglected tasks and chores, everyone is Marie Kondo-ing the shit out of their homes, and I’m here for it!

But, of course, there are trade offs. It is a balancing act between sustainability and minimalism. As we revel in our clean closets, feeling lighter, the burden of having more than we needed eased a bit, our stuff that has not been dubbed important enough to return to the closet lies in bags. Hopefully your unneeded items are in good condition, and you have decided to donate them to a Goodwill/Salvation Army/etc. and that’s great. That’s better than throwing everything in the trash; well, kind of.

Sorry to dim the glow you feel for doing good and donating your worthless crap to charity, but the reality is that most of that stuff you are shlepping to the donation center will end up in landfill anyways. Imagine how many bags of clothes you purged from your closet; now imagine all of your friends doing the same, and everyone dropping those off together, at a donation center that is currently closed and therefore has no inventory moving out. That is, if you can even find a donation center that’s open.

This is not just a crisis in coronavirus times, though; these centers are overburdened with junk in normal times as well. Similar to wishcycling— putting more than what is actually recyclable in the recycling bin because it makes you feel better than throwing it in the trash—the bias we feel over the value of our old clothes causes us to see them for more than what they might be worth. Faded old brewery t-shirt that you used to love but no longer fits? The resale value on that is pretty slim.

Even with good intentions, donating to Goodwill should not get you off the hook guilt-free. I encourage everyone purging to take a look at what you are getting rid of, and remember that pile the next time you are tempted to over-purchase on things you don’t really need.

Some alternatives:

Poshmark. My mom, sisters, and I have had great success selling clothes on Poshmark for years. Basically, it is a social media site dedicated to buying and selling clothes. You sell individual items directly to a buyer, ensuring your item finds a new, loving home. Poshmark takes a percentage of the total sale, but included in that is a prepaid shipping label sent to you to affix to your parcel and drop into a mailbox.

It is a little time consuming on the front end to set up a “closet,” but in my opinion totally worth it for a few reasons. One: if you have name brand items that you know you will never wear but feel guilty getting rid of because of that voice in your head that keeps saying, “I spent money on this,” you get a little bit of money back. Two: your clothes get a second life with no middleman purgatory, which means they are more likely to be worn and loved. Finally, while I try to avoid most shopping these days, it is a good place to find specific items secondhand (oftentimes you can even find things new with tags for cheaper than you could buy in store); if you are a shopaholic who has yes to face your addiction, buying second hand is more sustainable than buying new.

(P.S. — If you sign up for Poshmark, use invite code HALEYCROS to get $10 off your first purchase!)

thredUP. I have yet to use thredUP, but I am intrigued by it. It is basically an online thrift store, and perfect for someone who finds the whole idea of setting up and managing a closet on Poshmark to be too much work. Clean out your closet, fill a box, request a shipping label, and send it in. You earn a portion of the money made on your clothes back or (I love this) you can opt for a donation kit instead. You’ll make no money back with a donation kit, but an automatic $15 will be donated to Feeding America to help those affected by COVID-19.

ReStore. ReStores raise money for Habitat For Humanity in the Portland area and are an excellent option for donating (and shopping for) furniture, building materials, or other household goods. Their website provides more information on what they do and do not accept. Beaverton and Portland locations are taking donations during the pandemic Thursday-Monday from 10-6, no appointment necessary. Keep in mind that, like Goodwill, they are not a solution to every problem, but they do provide a resource for doing good and rehoming your unwanted items. If there are no ReStores in your area, do a search for local charities still accepting donations.

Some resources:

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