With the rise in popularity of Marie Kondo and ‘tidying up’ around the world, people are donating more clothing than ever. It feels good to donate gently used tees or jeans, but this era has created a flood of donations that no one seems to want. So instead of dropping your garbage bags full of used clothing at Goodwill, or other popular donation locations, where up to 85% of your product will end up in landfills, be strategic about how you donate, sell, or upcycle what you no longer love.
Donating clothes is often top of mind for me because as an influencer I get so much product sent my way. The pile above displays how much I received in only two days. This is by no means a complaint; I am very grateful for the product, but it does get out of hand and the guilt I feel about what to do with it all can be overwhelming.
I’ve spent a lot of time researching where to do this so that you don’t have to. Use this post as a cheat sheet next time you do a closet purge. After I finished this post I saw that Green Matters also posted a list of the best places to donate clothes. So check that out too for even more ideas!
Where to Donate Used Clothing Locally
Buy Nothing Project: The Buy Nothing Project has started a revolution with Facebook groups that will provide the freeware for you to set up local “gift economies.” These gift economies are sharing groups, where members of a community get to know each other by giving, asking, and expressing their gratitude. My friend Meg told me about this initiative and is a part of her local group. You can find a Buy Nothing group near you (there are over 3000 of them!) here. They’re not just for clothing though; they can be for cooking meals, offering your professional services, or whatever you can do to spread kindness.
Women’s shelters: My personal favorite place to donate my clothing and Amalia’s old baby clothes is to a local organization that supports teen moms during pregnancy and post-partum. It will take 10-15 minutes of research to find something similar wherever you live. Give them a call directly to find out what they need most.
Local churches: Many local churches and other religious organizations host clothing drives for local charities. They will usually accept donated items even if you don’t belong to the congregation.
Local hospitals: My best friend from childhood works in a psych ward in Boston that accepts donations for their homeless patients. She suggests that you call your local hospital to see if they have a need there.
Local homeless shelters: Many local homeless shelters accept clothing donations which is especially important in the winter when there is a serious need for coats and blankets.
Where to Donate Used Clothing Online
Dress for Success: Dress for Success is an international non-profit that “empowers women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life,” operating in more than 150 cities in 30 countries. Dress for Success gives clothes directly to these women in need, so they collect mostly women’s professional wear. Find your local affiliate here.
Room to Grow: Room to Grow accepts baby and toddler clothing, as well as other baby gear like toys, books, and high chairs, to be donated to children born into poverty. They work with parents in New York and Boston for the first three years of a child’s life, providing clothing and necessary products related to raising a child. The parents also get support from a licensed social worker during those years.
Operation Deploy Your Dress: Members of the armed forces attend a lot of military balls, and the cost can be high. Operation Deploy Your Dress is a 100% donation-based, volunteer-run, Military Spouse-founded nonprofit that accepts used formal dresses and gives them to soldiers or their spouses to wear during holiday festivities.
Operation Prom: Another great place to donate gently used formalwear is Operation Prom. They connect teens in need with free prom outfits. Operation Prom currently operates in nine states, and tuxedos are also accepted at some of those locations. They’re closed for the season now, but you can sign up for their email list to get notified when they’ll be looking for more dresses/tuxedos next.
One Warm Coat: I learned about One Warm Coat when they partnered with J.Crew last year for a coat drive. They give your donated warm coats and blankets to adults and children in need during the winter. They have donated over 5 million coats to people in the US (and 10 other countries) so far.
Blue Jeans Go Green: J.Crew also introduced me to this organization that recycles your used jeans into natural fiber insulation for homes. According to their website, it takes roughly 500-1,000 pairs of jeans to create enough insulation (approximately 2,300 square feet) for one average-sized home in the US, so get donating today! You can drop off jeans locally at these stores or mail them in for free with this form.
I Support the Girls: This organization helps provide bras, underwear, and menstrual hygiene products for homeless women and girls. They believe that women shouldn’t have to choose between buying clothes and their dignity. I absolutely love their mission: We believe that providing essentials- bras and menstrual hygiene products- to girls and women experiencing homelessness not only helps them maintain their dignity but it also empowers them. Women can stand taller with a properly fitting bra. They feel and look better when going on job interviews. Their self-esteem rises. Additionally, given access to menstrual hygiene products, teen girls aren’t embarrassed and forced to miss school a few days each month.
I want to give a shout-out the reader who introduced me to this! Learn how to donate here.
Big Brothers Big Sisters: The Big Brothers Big Sisters Foundation pairs at-risk kids with teen and adult mentors all over the US. The foundation accepts any type of clothing in good condition and your donations go to the foundation’s resale stores, and 100% of the proceeds benefit the charity. Check your zip code to see if they can pick up clothing in your area.
It’s From the Sole: This nonprofit refurbishes your old shoes and delivers them directly to people in need. They working work with the homeless communities in New York City and other major cities. They have distributed more than 24,000 pairs of shoes to the homeless and less fortunate individuals in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Houston, Seattle, Paris, and London, among many other cities. Learn how to donate your shoes here.
Host a clothing swap: This would be a fun activity for girls’ night and I can especially envision it for my friends with old kid’s clothing. You can get rid of the clothes that you no longer love and get new pieces all for free! For anything that doesn’t get picked, donate it to anywhere else in the list above.
Where to Donate Clothing in Bad Shape
Planet Aid: All of the organizations listed above will take gently used clothing that isn’t full of holes or covered in stains, but I did come across one organization that takes your clothes in literally any condition. You may have seen one of Planet Aid’s 19,000 donation bins across the country. They recycle unusable clothes to save textiles from the landfill. Their mission is to create a sustainable environment while helping charities at the same time so they do both! Clothing donations are recycled through textile recycling, or sold at resale shops. Proceeds from the resale shops go toward helping developing nations. Click here to find a drop-off bin near you.
Where to Upcycle Used Clothing
Respun: The t-shirt brand Marine Layer has a recycling program that’ll give your old tee a new life. Send in old tees (any brand) and they’ll turn your shirt into one-of-a-kind recycled tees. Plus for each shirt you send in, you’ll get a $5 credit to Marine Layer. Read more about the program and/or order a free recycling kit here.
Eileen Fisher: This eco-friendly clothing brand will take back any of their old clothes still in perfect condition. The clothes are given a good-as-new cleaning and resold through their Renew program. Many of the pieces they take back are damaged beyond repair. Their Waste No More team transforms them into one-of-a-kind artworks, pillows, and wall hangings using a custom felting method. Read more about their upcycling initiatives here.
Patagonia: They don’t exactly upcycle your used clothing, but you can send/bring in your gently used clothing and they will resell it for you on Patagonia Worn Wear, a site that sells only used clothing. This is also a great place to shop for Patagonia pieces at a steep discount.
DIY. I am the world’s worst DIY’er, so this option would be a hard no from me, but well + good has 15 cute ideas for how to upcycle clothes you already have in your closet with DIY projects. Transforming a denim skirt from oversized jeans is pretty cool!
Where to Sell Used Clothing
What’s great about selling your old clothing is that it’s helping the fashion ecosystem by allowing someone else to buy something great that isn’t brand new. You can also make a few bucks if you’re in need of cash. If you’re not strapped, consider donating what you make from selling old clothing to one of your favorite charities.
ThredUp: ThredUp is a giant online consignment store that also has an amazing donation aspect to it. They carry over 35,000 brands at up to 90% off retail prices. Not only do I suggest selling clothes to ThredUp, but I also suggest shopping there because you can get incredible used clothing! Order a free donation kit here.
Poshmark: There is no donation aspect to Poshmark, but it’s a great way to get rid of old clothing and for someone else to buy something used that they love. Poshmark takes a cut of the sale but you do everything else yourself. They send a shipping label for each sale and you handle shipping out each package from home. It can be quite lucrative if you do it right. You could also get a group of girlfriends together to create a Poshmark shop, similar to hosting a clothing swap. Your group could split the profits or donate them to a charity that you all love.
Local consignment stores: Consignment stores can be tricky, because they are really picky about choosing which pieces they think will resell. They will clean them up and sell them, and you’ll get a cut of the profit. It’s the same idea as ThredUp, but on a local level. When I used to live in Manhattan, I would sell old clothing at Buffalo Exchange. If there is a location near you, I highly recommend them. They’re very easy to work with.
Please share any other great organizations that accept clothing donations or any other ideas you have below!
NYC people: just wanted to share my go-to way to donate clothes
The NYC greenmarkets usually have a collection tent for their textile recycling program. There are locations all over the city on certain days each week, and also Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx (website has all the info). Also bonus tons of amazing and fresh local food
This is great! Thanks for sharing, Nicole.
H&M stores have textile recycling too!
Good to know! I have such a hard time supporting them since watching The True Cost, but it does seem like they have more and more sustainable initiatives. I’m interested to see what happens next for them.
Hi Julia! This is such a wonderful post – I struggle with what to do with all my clothing I no longer wear.
I am local in Stamford, what shelter do you drop off clothes to?
Malta House and Person to Person are both great!
This list is AMAZING – I sent it to everybody! Thank you!
Yay thanks Christine! Appreciate you spreading the word.
Thanks for a really thoughtful list. I had never heard of several of these, and am going to pass along the information for I Support The Girls to the organization where I volunteer that supports homeless families (mostly single moms and their children).
Amazing. Thanks for doing that, Cate!
I just wanted to take a minute to applaud you for your posts lately – I really admire your efforts to educate your followers on more sustainable fashion which is so important as well as your fearlessness in making some recent political posts. I understand that many bloggers do not want to get political or delve into difficult issues like fast fashion because they fear it may alienate some followers, and I really respect you for having the courage to speak your mind even if some people do not like it. I have been unfollowing a lot of fashion or lifestyle bloggers lately because I feel like they are only encouraging us to buy, buy, buy without thinking of the consequences (other than fattening their wallets), but I obviously still follow you because I love your posts and you are doing more than just encouraging us to buy things – you are encouraging us to think before we buy and to try to do some good. Thank you!
Thanks so much, Lauren. I really appreciate that. I’m trying and I’m glad that it’s resonating with you. If you ever have topics you want to see more of on LS, let me know! Open to new ideas.
I drop all our clothing that’s too gross to be used again at our local North Face store; they recycle it. Shoes too!
Very cool! Will add it to my list, thanks.
Julia, what a thoughtful and well researched post! As someone who loves clothes (and who has 3 girls that also now love clothes!) I could do much much better. Both in my purchases and donations. It always seemed a little bit daunting to sit down and figure out (again 3 kids lol) but this has taken all the guesswork out of it – thank you! You’re doing a wonderful job xxMelissa
Thanks Melissa. That means a lot! So happy this was helpful for you.
Thank you for this!! Donating items is no easy task. I am obsessed with our BNC community in Cambridge!! It’s an amazing way to connect with your community while clearing out. So much easier to pass things on when you know you are passing them to someone who will actually use them. And you’d be amazed at what people need/want. I’ve passed on not only clothing and kids stuff, but also packing peanuts, food, and magazines. Feels good not passing things on to a landfill.
Thank you for this amazing thoughtful comprehensive list! It made me think how I can transform my family’s clothing donations to have positive impact for people and the environment. It also gave my teen daughter ideas of how to organize projects at her school for collecting/donating prom dresses and women’s hygiene products.
YES! That just made my day. Thank you to you AND your daughter for working to make a difference.
Great list, thank you! Just a quick FYI about Dress For Success.. I don’t know if this is only my local chapter but since they literally take your donations and put them right on the racks for women to browse, they require the donations to be clean, neat, ironed, on hangers, etc. I.e., not all shoved into one bag! In addition to clothes, they also accept work appropriate accessories, handbags and shoes and new/unopened toiletries, pantyhose and cosmetics.
Good to know, thanks for the tip!
Julia I love this!! I need to find a place to take some old clothes of mine, and not sure where to go since moving to the east coast! This will make my errands a lot easier tomorrow!! (Also, another place to donate used clothing is to my closet ahahah!)
Thank you for the great post, Julia. Nice blog. To share my thoughts, it’s much easier to give something away. It is great if it is to someone I know is pleased to receive it. Indeed, I also give things to the charity shops, which goes without saying.