Spring Cleaning Your Wardrobe: How To Do It And What To Do With Unwanted Clothes

Last spring 235 million items of clothing were sent to landfill. Why not swap your clothes for high street vouchers instead?

We shouldn’t need a seasonal reminder to keep clutter at bay but warmer weather is the perfect prompt for some wardrobe TLC to stop our homes bursting at the seams.

And a wardrobe revamp isn’t just about rediscovering summer clothes, it’s an opportune moment to assess what you have collected over the years: and for anyone living with limited space, you neglect this chance at your peril.

But as anyone who has attempted to conquer the clothes pile will know - it is easier said than done.

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How Do You Spring Clean Your Wardrobe?

Do you strive for a minimal capsule wardrobe or just a few spare hangers here and there? And how long unworn, really is too long?

Start by moving the items you don’t need. The first stage of a revamp is about moving items you won’t be wearing for the next few months. In April this is heavy knitwear and thick coats. These winter items are bulky and likely to sit untouched until the end of summer, so you can move them out of sight (you’re not throwing away at this point). Find good storage solutions such as under-the-bed boxes or vacuum packing. Ensure they are well sealed so your clothes won’t be ruined by moths or damp.

Move on to the easy wins. Even the most sentimental clothes-hoarder can start by getting rid of items that are so uncomfortable to wear that either a) you never wear them out of the house or b) when you do wear them, you come home with physical injuries. See shoes that require blister plasters, bras that cut into your ribcage and knickers that leave you with sore red marks on your hips.

Ask yourself some honest questions. In January, Weight Waters estimated there are around £10 billion worth of unworn clothes in our wardrobes, and one reason some of them are unworn is because we’re waiting to get slimmer to fit into them. Anecdotally we can all vouch for keeping clothes that are the wrong size. If they don’t fit now (and haven’t for more than one year) then ditch them.

“The average lifetime for a garment of clothing in the UK is just 2.2 years."”


Think about whether the item is still relevant in your life. Some people adopt a hard and fast rule about not having worn an item for a certain length of time - this can vary from months to years on end. But this can fail to take into account occasionwear or the cyclical nature of trends. Instead it might be smarter to take the Marie Kondo approach: and ask does this still spark joy? Is this item relevant to who you are now as a person (not you 10 years ago). If not, time for it to go.

Have a trial separation. If you have a suspicion that an item needs to leave, but you can’t quite commit to ditching it, why not try a trial separation period? Psychologist Anuschka Rees, who helped write ‘Detox Handbook’ says to store these items out of sight. Then reopen the box six months later and cull the pieces you haven’t thought about since you packed them away.

Extend the life of items you want to keep. For items you haven’t touched in months because they are damaged or worn - WRAP, an organisation promoting sustainability, says the average lifetime for a garment of clothing in the UK is just 2.2 years - it doesn’t have to be the end. Alicia Taylor, a sustainable fashion business owner, says you can do this with small changes. Firstly through prevention and then repairs: “Most of us wash our clothes too often and at too high a temperature. Check the label, turn the dial down, hand wash where you can. And when the inevitable happens and a button comes off or a zipper goes - repair rather than throw away.”

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What To Do With Unwanted Clothes?

According to Oxfam, spring cleaning efforts in 2017 saw 235 million items (or 300,000 tonnes) of clothing sent to landfill as Britain tried to get to grips with their wardrobes. This is the equivalent of 50 rubbish trucks per day. Not only that but more than 25% of these items were put straight in the household bin.

So instead of creating more unnecessary waste, what should you be doing?

Sell your clothes online. Using eBay to sell clothes is nothing new, but it is good to keep selling in mind as an added incentive to get rid of stuff you’re unsure about. If you’re not a fan of eBay, then there are plenty of alternatives. The Depop app lets you take photographs with your phone and upload them straight from your camera roll. Quick and not too taxing.

Get vouchers for clothes. A new app, reGain, which you can download for free, will let you exchange your unwanted items of clothing for discount retail vouchers. Including Superdry, Asics, New Balance, Boohoo and Missguided. Using an app like this means you don’t need to go through the admin and hassle of selling your items to individual people.

Swap your clothes. If you prefer the idea of getting new clothes without spending any money, then consider going to a swapping event. Clothes swapping, known as ‘swishing’ involves everyone bringing their old items to trade for new clothes. This is recycling made enjoyable and there are swishing parties all over the country, listed here.

Donate them to charity shops. If you’re not invested in getting a monetary return for your items, then consider taking them down to your local charity shop. Research by Oxfam found that 49% of people believed worn out items can’t be donated, but this isn’t the case. Oxfam accepts all good quality or clean clothing and shoes (including vintage and retro items), even bras. They also take wedding dresses and accessories. The only thing they won’t accept is anything broken, dirty, incomplete or unsafe.

Give them to high street shops. Struggling to find a local charity shop? All is not lost. Plenty of high street retailers such as H&M, & Other Stories and Marks & Spencer, host ‘shwop’ boxes to put your donations in. These garments are then dealt with in one of three ways: sold as second hand, reused to turn into other items, or recycled.

Recycle with the council. Check to see if your local council collects clothes and textiles to be recycled, the details are normally on their website. Recycle Now says you can normally drop these off at recycling points and clothing and textile banks in supermarkets and local car parks – find your nearest one using their Recycling Locator tool.


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