Donating vs. Selling Well-Loved Clothes

Since adopting the capsule wardrobe a few years ago, I have experimented with various ways of giving away, selling and donating the clothes that I decided not to keep. I believe it’s important to let go of the clothes you’ve decided not to keep before you assess what you have decided to keep. Your first instinct is generally correct, and, if you look at the piles of clothes you’re getting rid of, you’ll likely disregard that first instinct and say to yourself “Oh but I need that!” When, in reality, it will likely sit in your closet unworn.

Perhaps that’s just my experience speaking, and the twenty-plus pieces of clothing that I’ve kept for no reason since I began the capsule wardrobe (they’re leaving today, I promise).

In a culture where we associate different articles of clothing with different events or experiences, it is difficult to let go, regardless of price or functionality. My first attempts with the capsule wardrobe, and the items I struggled to let go of, were marked by this incessant “one day I will be cool enough to wear that” declaration in the back of my head, or the classic “don’t throw away your memories”. When your memories are tee shirts from middle school with less-than-adorable perspiration stains, perhaps it’s time to make some new memories? I think yes.

Giving Away

When I was in high school, my mentor at the time lent me a dress for a homecoming dance. The day I went over to try it on, she had been cleaning out her closet, and thus offered me some of her the clothes she no longer was wearing. Then (and still now) I thought her one of the most stylish and classy women I knew and was always trying to copy her style. It was so fun for me to incorporate those pieces she gave me into my wardrobe. They were in good condition, no flaws to be seen, but she simply did not use them as much as she would have hoped and didn’t want to keep the excess. Following her example, I began offering some of my favorite pieces clothing—ones I wasn’t getting any wear out of, but were still in good condition—to my sisters and other friends who might enjoy them.

I love the above process, giving those much loved but unworn pieces to friends who appreciate them. Earlier this week, my dear friend Isla and I were talking about pieces I’ve passed along to her—turns out her favorite sweater is one that used to be hanging unworn in my closet. How fun!

Donating & Selling

However, if you don’t know any friends who wear the same size as you (or perhaps are not interested), you have two options: donate or sell. I’ve done both, and overall I recommend donating your clothes to your local women’s shelter, Goodwill, Red Cross or something along those lines.

In the first few months of experimenting with a capsule wardrobe, I truly struggled to let go of those higher quality pieces I was no longer wearing. I felt so ungrateful! Some of them, I kept and worked to incorporate into my wardrobe—an exercise in gratefulness and creativity. Others, I decided I would try and sell. I’ve tried two methods of sale, a local resale shop and an app (Poshmark); I didn’t like either.

This is entirely my opinion, but I believe donating or giving away clothes is the best way to let go of them. First, so many people need clothes and it’s an awesome way to give back to your community. It seems insignificant, but someone will truly benefit from that coat you haven’t worn for five years. Secondly, the process of selling your clothes (online or in a store) is lengthy, somewhat frustrating, and does not return much profit. Thirdly, you end up doubting your original decision to take the pieces out of your wardrobe.

Clothing consignment stores are very selective, they generally choose to resell the clothes by what is trending at the time. When I took my bag of clothes in for the first time, hoping to make a profit, they kept perhaps 3 of my 15 items (the rest they donated) and I received pennies on the dollar of what they sold the clothes for. Understandably so, they are a business and trying to make a profit, but I found the process more exhausting and emotionally distressing (But you don’t want my beloved sundress from 8th grade? Why?!). The same goes for the online sale process, little profit is made and you end up holding on to the clothes for as long as it takes for someone to decide they want to buy them (which can be a long time). Given my experiences, I highly recommend donating over selling—though I do understand the desire to sell the clothes, we’re all broke!

Today is my donate day. I’m currently in my room, looking at my pile of clothes and shoes I’ve sorted through, about to bag them up and take them to Goodwill. I’m fighting the desire to keep a few items, fearing I will get rid of something I might miss—but I’m going to put them in the donation bag anyways. I will forget about them as soon as I drop them off, and someone new will benefit from the things I donate.

I’m letting go in favor of living with less, celebrating my true style, rejecting consumerism and excess, and learning that I don’t have to have it all to be happy.

All the best,

Mary Grace