Clothing Donation Cons: The Dark Side of Donating​

Decluttering and organizing my closet always leaves me feeling productive with a clear headspace. It feels even better when I donate

clothes so they can live a second life, but what if I told you that all those clothes you feel so good about donating are rarely even purchased and could end up in a landfill anyway? Feels kinda counterproductive, huh? Unfortunately, the reality is simply throwing your garbage bags full of old clothes in those random parking lot bins isn’t doing much for the less fortunate or the environment. In today’s post, I’m going to chat about the cons of clothing donations and alternatives to ensure your old clothes really do get a second life.

Goodwill store front - Clothing Donation Cons

It’s a great idea to give your clothes a second home and I am in no way putting anyone down for their efforts to donate their clothes for a good cause. I just want to inform people that some forms of donating don’t work as well as others. In reality, a major chunk of donations don’t sell. According to this CBC article, 75% of clothes donated to thrift stores go unsold and instead are sent abroad to be resold. An article by Fashionista reported that in 2014, 11% of donations that were deemed unsellable were sent to landfills. A blog post by The Elephant Journal explains that once these clothes are shipped off to third world countries, they are sold at extremely low prices and local tailors can’t compete, harming their own economy.

Possible Solutions to turn a Clothing Donation Con to a Pro

Skip The Bin

Instead of throwing your garbage bags of old clothes into the nearest parking lot bin, donate them directly to people in need. It can be difficult to be sure where your clothes will go after putting them in a bin. Instead, you can bring your clothes to a homeless shelter, women’s shelters, and youth shelters. Here, you know people who really need clothes will get them right away. Thrift stores like Value Village have been caught in scandals for reselling name brand donations for unfair prices. If you donate directly to a shelter, the people who need them the most won’t have to worry about these barriers.

Clothing bin, a donation con

Hand-Me-Downs

Whenever I go through a closet purge, I like to let my friends have a look at what I’m getting rid of. I did this recently with my best friends Meagan and Sarah and together, they took about half the clothes I decided to purge. This allows your old clothes to have a fulfilling second life.

When I was young, the majority of my clothes were hand-me-downs from family friends and neighbours. I always got very excited when my parents would bring home a bag of clothes from a friend’s child who had outgrown them. You can sleep knowing the clothes you purged aren’t in a landfill and are actually being used. You could even make an event out of it and host a clothing swap with your friends!

handy-me-down clothing
Here is a pic of my best friend being silly and wearing a 90s Calvin Klein Tee – One of the many items she took from my clothing purge

Re-Sell Clothes in Good Condition

While going through my old clothes, I found a few pieces that were of very good quality and just didn’t fit me any longer. These clothes were in amazing condition with light wear and some even had their original price tags. I felt kinda bad for my own wallet knowing I had spent all this money for nothing. I might as well have thrown money in the garbage. Luckily, websites like Depop and eBay exist so you can try to earn back some of the money you had spent by reselling these garments. For example, I had a pair of orange label vintage Levi’s in my closet that no longer fit. I didn’t want to hold onto a pair of jeans that I’ll never wear. I also don’t want to just get rid of them without knowing if they’ll go to a good home, especially when they are worth a pretty penny. By selling your good quality clothes you know they are going to a new home and not a landfill. You also get a little more cash in your pocket.

Depop screenshot
Depop is an Instagram-like app that you can buy clothes directly on

Repurpose Worn Out Clothes

If you do continue to donate to thrift stores, you should only donate pieces that are still in fairly good shape. The better the quality the more likely the item will be purchased. If you’re trying to donate clothes with rips, holes, or stains, you’re likely just sending your garbage to someone else. Instead, you could try and repair your clothes, put patches over the items, or use them for something else. For example, my mom used to use worn-out pajama pants as rags to clean her car and the lawnmower. This way you get the absolute max use out of your clothes, and save money instead of buying brand new rags that are going to get dirty and warn anyway. You could also repurpose old clothes for pajamas instead of buying brand new ones. In my opinion, it’s kind of a waste to buy brand new clothes that you only sleep in and the outside world doesn’t see. If you feel the same way, just use old clothes!

For all my friends who are good with a needle and thread, consider using the fabric from your old clothes to make something new! Extra tip: This also applies to thrift shopping, choose clothing that you wouldn’t have normally bought because it doesn’t fit you or it’s not your style. Alter it so the item does fit you, or do something completely new to it. Coolirpa, a YouTube creator makes some really cool videos where she picks dull old items and turns them into beautiful one-of-a-kind pieces. I highly recommend checking her videos out!

Just Something to Think About

All of these points are just ideas that I want people to think about the next time they go through a closet purge. I am in no way criticizing people who normally just drop their clothes off at a bin or a donation center – the convenience is hard to beat! I’ve been there before and I know its certainly better than just throwing your clothes away. I just wanted to share some clothing donation cons you may not have previously thought of. I also wanted to shed light on options that might be better for your community, your wallet, and the earth. Feel free to comment your thoughts and ideas below. I love reading other opinions. Have a good weekend and talk later!

Em

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *