Closet cleaning: How to decide what to sell, donate, and discard

A couple months ago, I did a post on what to do to prep for a wardrobe rebuild and I wanted to go more into detail on what to do with some of the items being purged from a closet. My lovely friend, Kim, opened up her closet to me to help with some Spring cleaning and to use her items as a “sanity check” for some of the tips & trips I’m going to share in this post.

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So now that you’ve pulled all the unwanted items from your closet, how do you decide what to sell, donate, or discard?

Start by making 3 piles/areas for sorting
Each pile should correspond to either selling, donating, or discarding. I’m a super visual person, so it helps for me to have everything laid out on the ground to start before forming each of the areas and piles.

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How to decide what to sell
Crossroads Trading is one of my favourite places to sell to, mainly because their customer base (at least in Seattle) casts a wide spectrum of styles of clothing that they’ll choose to buy. At the tail end of every season, they’ll put out a set of flyers at each store to give customers an idea of what they’re looking to buy for the upcoming season. The card below was put out around the end of February, since their Spring buying started in mid-March. Having a good idea of the direction of items they’re looking for helped to determine which pieces of Kim’s should be added to the “Sell” pile.

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Since closet purges usually aren’t season-specific, Kim had a bunch of pieces that weren’t appropriate to try to sell for the Spring. For all of her Fall/Winter pieces, we made a separate sell pile for her to bring to Crossroads in September. One of the best tricks I learned about selling to Crossroads is to always stay on trend and be season appropriate with the items you bring in. The stores don’t like to have to store inventory for future seasons, so it saves everyone (you, the buyer, etc) time if your haul only has items specific to the season they’re buying for.

When to take your goods to Crossroads
Now that you’ve identified what’s season-appropriate, it’s time to figure out when to go to Crossroads to try to sell it. I’ve had the biggest success rate of items bought from me at the beginning of the season. Since the store is usually trying to start or build up their inventory for the upcoming season a week leading up to the next season, I’ve found that it’s crucial to get to the sell counter at this time. I encouraged Kim to take her haul at the beginning of March, since their Spring season officially started in mid-March.

She took all of her floral-printed skirts, pants, and tops, along with all of her chiffon and Coachella-looking tops to sell and said just over 90% of her items were purchased! So what about those other items that didn’t sell, or didn’t make the “sell pile”?

According to Value Village, the average family household throws away 280 pounds of clothes each year. Say what?? 280 POUNDS?! That number absolutely blows my mind, but doesn’t surprise me since our marketplace has shifted towards fast fashion over the years. To get the point across, Value Village set up a 10’x10′ display in Westlake Center this past weekend to showcase better ways to reuse clothing that we no longer want. Instead of throwing it out, we, as conscious consumers, are being asked to rethink the lifecycle of our clothes and alternative options to throwing clothes in the garbage when we’re ready to purge them from our closets.

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How to determine what to donate vs discard
As someone who loves to thrift, I think a lot about the condition of items I would be willing to buy. If there are holes or stains in the item, I’ll put it in the discard pile instead of the donation one. Even then, I try really hard to keep the discard pile as small as possible. Instead of throwing clothes away, I’ll try to repurpose them as rags for cleaning.

Hope the clothes sorting goes well! T’is the season for Spring Cleaning!!

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  • Step one for me is usually to offer pieces to my friends/sister – AND THEN we start with the selling. Make less money from it, but I love to see pieces that I struggled to wear looking adorable on my friends & family :)

    • TOTALLY agreed! Yes, step #1 would be sharing with family and friends. So curious to know if you’d be up for a swap sometime? I have a handful of handbags and other accessories that I think would be fun to swap if we can find a group to do it with. Thoughts?

  • Fat White Cat

    What were some of the ways suggested to reuse old clothing?

    • In the past, I’ve personally reconstructed them to make new pieces. In the cases that the condition of the clothes were poor, I’d turn them into house-cleaning rags. :)

  • Very helpful post!

    • Thanks Kristian! Would love to learn more about the womens shelters you’ve worked with to donate to. Wish they had some of these closer to the area in Seattle.

      • I think you may have me confused with someone else? I’ve never donated to women’s shelters (there aren’t any near by). I visited some homeless shelters and a sort of store-for-the-homeless in Cheyenne when I was younger for school (You had to be approved to “shop” at the store and they gave each customer so many credits depending on need etc. It was interesting).

  • Kari F

    There are some great online sites as well to send gently used clothing to sell. Check out liketwice.com and thredup.com.

  • I’m long overdue for another closet clean out. I did a major one last year (and donated 50 pounds of clothing!), so there isn’t much to go through. That said, it should really be an annual event.

    I actually have a bunch of old towels that have bleach stains. I’m going to call the humane society to see if they need them. I feel too guilty throwing them away!

    Bedknobs & Baubles

  • AH KATRINA! THANK YOU for helping me with my closet purge. Seriously, your picks were on point and it’s basically been funding our bubble tea runs for the last month :) I learned a lot from watching you sort through my clothes and I’m glad I have this post to reference every season!

  • Great post! I totally agree… in today’s fast fashion world, we need to be more conscious about what we buy and how we can re-purpose versus discard clothing. Great tips!