Sustainable Living

How To Refresh Your Wardrobe The Cheap and Sustainable Way

Is your wardrobe overflowing with clothes that you don’t wear anymore? It may be time to have a good clear-out and refresh your wardrobe!

The fashion industry has a bad rep at the moment, especially fast fashion which often involves child labour, poor working conditions, unethical practices, pollution and strain on the environment in order to provide us with cheap clothes. Thankfully, there are other ways to get new clothes without spending a fortune.

In this post, I am going to show you how to refresh your wardrobe the cheap and sustainable way. I will share some ways to get rid of old clothes responsibly and acquire new ones without spending lots of money, contributing to fast fashion or harming the environment.

How To Refresh Your Wardrobe Cheaply and Sustainably

What to do with old clothes you no longer wear

The first stage in refreshing your wardrobe is to clear out your old clothes. This includes clothes that are worn out, as well as newer clothes that you just don’t wear.

Another problem of the fast fashion industry is that the clothes are usually poor quality and end up being thrown away after a short time. They end up in landfill which causes even more environmental harm. Whether our clothes are fast fashion or not, it’s important to dispose of them responsibly when we are done with them.

Here are some things you can do with old or unwanted clothes, instead of throwing them away.

1. Take them to a charity shop

This is a great option for clothes that are new, nearly-new, or of good quality. You will be helping to support a charity as well as providing your clothes with a new home, so it’s a win-win!

2. Sell them on eBay or Depop

This is another good option, especially if you want to make a bit of cash from your old clothes. It’s best to only sell good quality clothes on eBay because you could get negative reviews if you sell clothes that are worn out. But either way, it’s important that you are honest in your descriptions and take photos of any flaws!

I have never used Depop before but I have heard that it is a great place to sell second-hand clothes, especially if they are of good quality.

Selling your clothes online is more effort than taking them to a charity shop because you have to take photographs, create listings, package and post the clothes. So you will have to weigh up whether the cash you will earn is worth the effort.

For a lower-effort option, you could sell all your clothes in one ‘bundle’ on eBay. This is easier because you only have to create one listing and send one parcel. Bundles are likely to generate more interest and bids, although you will probably earn less overall than you would if you sold the clothes separately.

3. Take them to H&M

The popular fashion retailer H&M has a garment collection scheme where they take in unwanted clothing and textiles of any brand or condition and recycle them. They claim that the textiles will be reused, re-worn or recycled with 0% going to landfill. For each bag of old clothes you hand in, you will receive a voucher to spend in-store, so it’s a good option if you want to get a little something back from recycling your old clothes.

4. Go to a clothes swap

I have attended several clothes swaps in the past and they are a fun way to pass on your unwanted clothes to new owners, as well as picking up some new (second-hand) clothes yourself. Clothes swaps all work slightly differently, but at the ones I attended, I just had to lay my donated clothes out on tables, and then go round and pick out whatever clothes I wanted. There was no rule for how many clothes you could donate or take away. It was also possible to give a donation of money if you had no clothes to bring.

I usually donated a lot more clothes than I took away because it was such a good way to clear out old clothes. It was great knowing that they would go to someone else, and it was fun seeing people looking at my old clothes and putting them in their baskets.

If you have lots of unwanted clothes that are still good enough to be worn again, I recommend finding out if there is a clothes swap in your local area.

5. Exchange clothes with a friend

An alternative to attending a clothes swap is to have your own clothes swap with a friend or friends. I have a friend who is a similar size and has a similar style to me so we often pass clothes on to each other. Often, I just text her a picture of a garment and ask if she wants it. If so, I bring it when I next see her. I’ve never organised a clothes swap with a larger group of friends but I think it would be a fun thing to do!

If relevant, you could also swap clothes with a family member who lives with you, and then you won’t even have to leave your house.

6. Take clothes to a ‘clothes recycling bank’

At your local recycling centre you will probably find a recycling bank for clothes and textiles. Some of these only take good quality clothes because they pass them on to a charity to be sold and raise money. Others will take all textiles, regardless of the condition, and recycle them into other materials. This is an option I sometimes turn to when I have clothes that are completely worn out and not fit for wearing anymore.

Related post: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – A Few Tips

7. Use your old, worn out clothes as rags

Instead of taking worn-out clothes to a recycling bank, you could cut them up to make rags. These are useful for cleaning and will extend the life of your worn-out clothes before you ultimately throw them away. I sometimes make useful cleaning cloths out of old socks because they are a perfect size. You can also use old clothes to make reusable make-up wipes.

I hope this list has helped you decide what to do with your old clothes

You will probably need to choose more than one of the above options because certain clothes will be suitable for different purposes, depending on their quality. I recommend sorting your clothes into different piles depending on where is best for them to go.

Is your wardrobe still overflowing after a clear-out? Check out my hacks for organising your wardrobe!

A woman sitting on the floor and sorting folded clothes into piles.
Photo by Sarah Brown on Unsplash

How To Get New Clothes Sustainably

Once you have cleared out your old and unwanted clothes, it’s time to fill your wardrobe with clothes you want to wear! There are plenty of ways to get ‘new’ clothes without spending a lot of money or harming the environment. You can get clothes in many of the same places that I mentioned above for clearing out your clothes. Here are some ideas:

1. Buy clothes in a charity shop

Buying clothes from a charity shop is much cheaper than buying them new, and if you look thoroughly you can find some good quality items. You will be supporting a charity too!

2. Buy clothes on eBay or Depop

You can find almost anything you want on eBay, and give someone else’s unwanted clothes a new home. For a real bargain, look out for bundles. You might not end up liking everything in the bundle, but you can pass on any individual items in the ways discussed above.

I have never used Depop but I have heard that you can get second-hand designer clothes for massively reduced prices on there.

3. Go to a clothes swap

As mentioned above, clothes swaps are a great way to pick up new clothes for free by swapping them with your own unwanted clothes. Usually, there is nowhere to try the clothes on. I tend to pick up anything that I like and I think will fit, and try it on at home. If any of the clothes don’t fit or don’t look good on, I simply take them back to the next clothes swap and swap them for other clothes!

4. Exchange clothes with a friend

As mentioned earlier, I have a friend with whom I regularly swap clothes as we have a similar size and style. If you have a friend whose fashion sense is similar to yours, why not ask them if they would like to have a clothes swap sometime?

5. Make your own clothes

If you are creative and good at sewing, why not buy some material and make your own clothes? To be extra sustainable, you can buy second-hand fabric on eBay or even repurpose fabric from your old, worn-out clothes.

6. Repair or alter your clothes

You might be able to salvage some clothes that you would otherwise get rid of, by altering or repairing them.

I had a grey jumper with a yellow stain on the front where I carelessly dropped my dinner down myself. The stain wouldn’t come out, so I couldn’t wear the jumper anymore. Then I had an idea. I had recently done a mini cross-stitch and I sewed that onto my jumper to cover the stain. Luckily it was in just the right place that it looked like a logo. I now have a custom jumper and nobody knows there was once a stain there!

A grey jumper with a cat cross-stitch sewn onto the front of it.

If clothing doesn’t fit, you can often alter it. For example, if the sleeves are too long you can roll them up and sew a new hem. Or if your sewing skills are not up to scratch, you can ask a friend to do it for you or take your clothes to a seamstress.

7. Buy from sustainable brands

If you need a particular item of clothing and you can’t find it from any of the sources above, you may need to buy it new. In this case, it’s better to buy from a high-quality, sustainable clothing brand. It may be more expensive but high-quality clothes will last longer so they will be cheaper in the long run.

Here are some sustainable clothing brands that I’ve come across:

8. Find new combinations within your existing clothes

This is a way to find new outfits without actually getting any new clothes at all! Go through your existing clothes and see if you can find some new combinations that you didn’t think of before. Layer clothes in different ways to create a different look. Something I like to do is to layer a jumper over a dress. This makes it look like I am wearing a skirt – so the dress can be worn in two different ways.

When I come up with an outfit that I like, I sometimes take a photo of it. Then, when I am in need of outfit inspiration, I can go back through my outfit photos and choose one.

Now you are ready to refresh your wardrobe!

I hope this post has given you lots of ideas for what to do with your old clothes, and how to get new clothes cheaply and sustainably. When did you last have a wardrobe clear-out? Do you know of any more ways to refresh your wardrobe? I would love to hear from you – let me know in the comments!

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How To Refresh Your Wardrobe The Cheap and Sustainable Way

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