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Where can I recycle clothes?

August 29, 2023

Where can I recycle clothes? It’s an incredible feeling, to have very few possessions by choice. Minimalism is freeing. It has been argued that a couple of generations ago, people didn’t have so much stuff. Objects were made to last longer, were more expensive, and harder to come by. Most working-class people did not have a lot of disposable income. And so, before fast fashion, before a new wardrobe for every summer holiday became a thing, before, in fact, mass consumerism, most people did not have very many clothes.


The ones they did have they took care of carefully and kept in good condition. They knew about stain removal, they knew about trying not to spill things down your front in the first place. They knew about carefully hand washing hand-wash only items, and they knew about using a razor blade or pill-comb to remove bobbles on sweaters.  In the past, people also knew you don’t have to wash things every single time you wear them, but maybe just hang them outside to air. You only threw clothing away very reluctantly, after it had been made into a child’s dress and that had been made into a doll’s dress and that had been made into a cleaning rag. There was hardly any textile waste, as clothes and other textiles were reused or recycled.

Where can I recycle clothes? And Why?

Old Rags Into New Cloth- Salvage in Britain, April 1942

Old Rags Into New Cloth- Salvage in Britain, April 1942 – 942_D7435

However, after this generation came what became known as the baby-boomers. It became much easier to buy things, a lot of things. If your top got a mark on it, just get another one. If your jumper needed dry cleaning, it was cheaper to go to the shops. The problem is, that some of this generation still have the frugality of their parents instilled into them. They like shopping. They are excited by the freedom to buy new things, more or less whenever they want. But, they can’t bear to get rid of the old things. They are just hanging on to the old ones, in case they eventually want them one day.

Too Much Stuff

Oxfam clothing and shoe bank

Where can I recycle clothes? Thrift store local organizations recycling collection – Oxfam clothing and shoe bank textile recycling using recycling bins

But this poses a problem. For storage, for finding clothes you actually want to wear. Sometimes they come back to long-stored treasure, and unfold it to find that the clothes moths have been at it. Sometimes it’s more like long-forgotten treasure, and it they go and buy more than one, because they don’t remember they had a very similar thing already. Some people think, oh well, I don’t really need to change things. I won’t be moving, I have room under the bed and in the spare room to put stuff. I can’t bear to part with anything. And my children can deal with this all after I’m gone.


But children don’t necessarily want to recycle clothes. It’s a lot of work, sifting through accumulated possessions. Although they don’t have the same emotional attachment to it that you do, they have an emotional attachment to you. And it’s hard to get rid of something that you valued. And so, you have to be brave and start to do it yourself. You have to take to heart all those exhortations to have a capsule wardrobe. Or if not a capsule, at least a one-cupboard wardrobe. 

Swedish Death Cleaning

Have you heard of Swedish Death Cleaning? It sounds gruesome, but it’s very sensible. It’s not about techniques for post-mortem washing of bodies in Sweden. It’s a gentle decluttering which takes the burden off your living relatives, after you pass away. But it’s also very freeing for yourself. It’s suggested for over 65’s, but you can do this at any age. I’m not over 65, but I have done it because if I ever need to move, I don’t think it will be to a bigger place.

I don’t want to spend money on a storage space, and my friends and relations don’t have space to indefinitely store my possessions either. Plus it’s nice to think I won’t be lugging boxes and boxes of books, and bags and bags of clothing. So for me, the idea of an imaginary house move is very motivating. And I promise, I don’t miss any of the clothes I recycled.

Where can I recycle clothes? A mindset.

The mindset to try to get into is that it’s not stuff that makes you happy, but experiences and relationships. I’d rather have a meal with friends than a new ornament. And you also have to think of the joy your possessions will bring other people. That book that you won’t read again? Someone else will love it. The skirt that doesn’t fit? Ditto. I love books and clothes, but do I need so many? No.


That’s why libraries, actual physical libraries, were invented. For borrowing books and then taking them back. And it’s a similar thing for vintage stores and charity shops. While you can’t borrow clothes, you can, effectively, swap them. If you feel like shopping, bring some old clothes with you. Sell or donate them, and then buy less than you just got rid of. Make it a rule that if you bring one thing home, you must put two things in the charity pile.

Where can I recycle clothes? And Spark Joy While Doing It?

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But even better, make it a rule that you must spend time going through your old stuff. You’ve heard of shopping from your mum’s/sister’s/flatmate’s closet, how about shopping from your own? Unpack everything, and look through it. Think to yourself that you’ll wear that one at the weekend, or that for an upcoming birthday. Take delight in the things you own. And if it doesn’t “spark joy”, then pass it on.


Psychologically, it’s said to be freeing to divest yourself of long-held possessions. You can push back against the overwhelming world we live in, by feeing up space in your house and therefore your mind. Clutter can be stressful, and who needs that?