Zero-Waste Decluttering Part 1: Clothing

My last blog post about redefining waste touched on how I started composting and taking our used clothing to be recycled. The once tedious chore of dealing with our garbage has become a joyful act to live a more earth-friendly lifestyle.

As I build my organizing consulting business, I decided to offer a Zero-Waste decluttering option. One of the biggest reasons why people have trouble getting rid of things is the guilty feeling of being wasteful. By offering my clients a green option, they will not only be relieved of their negative feelings toward discarding, they will find joy in doing something positive with their discarded materials.

The KonMari method of decluttering is to sort through categories of items in a specific order instead of decluttering by room. Over the next few weeks, I’ll go through each of the categories and offer suggestions to declutter with zero-waste.



The average American throws away 70 lbs. of clothing annually.

We are now living in a “disposable fashion” culture of clothing produced cheaply with synthetic material and often made in factories overseas where laborers work under brutal conditions. Fashion designers used to only design for 4 seasons, but now they can design as many as 52 collections a year.

Shopping for clothes can become addictive because of that instant gratification. Our brain gets a release of dopamine, a chemical signal that helps to control the brain’s reward and pleasure center. Our clothing can give us a sense of confidence. They can make us feel sexy or motivate us to work out harder in the right athletic outfit.  We feel fit-in when dressing appropriately for an event. A plush robe or a pair of worn-out sweatpants can help us feel relaxed. These are all such big responsibilities for our clothes to handle. And by taking the time to sort through and find the ones that truly sparks joy for us, we are rewarded by the positive feelings they bring. However, there are so many pieces we own that do just the opposite.  The uncomfortable, ill-fitting and fashion mistakes sometimes cost us not only money, but stress, guilt, and regret. So take the time to say thank you and goodbye to the ones that have “fulfilled their purpose”. They have taught us to never buy that style, color, or fabric again. And for the ones that made you look and feel great on a special occasion but haven’t seen the light of day (or night) in years. Anything that no longer sparks joy still deserves a proper farewell.

Any item in good condition that you think your family or friends might enjoy, put them in a bag and label with their name. Give or send the items as soon as possible. Include a note that they are not obligated to keep them if the clothes don’t spark joy for them. And ask that they donate or recycle anything they don’t want to keep.

Goodwill, Salvation Army, local thrift stores, charities, and churches have drop-off locations all over the country. Most places will give you a tax-deductible receipt when requested. You can also pack a box full of items to donate to Goodwill and ship it for free by printing a label from

Bridge to Success is an organization that takes business attire donations.

Cinderella Project is an organization that takes party/prom dresses for underprivileged youth.

Loved Twice collects clothing for newborns and distribute them exclusively through social workers in hospitals, shelters, and clinics.

If you live in a house or in an apartment building that allows you to have yard/stoop/garage sales, you can make some quick cash just outside your doorstep.

Selling purses, designer clothing, jewelry, and accessories online is easy and most effective through is better for seasonal or specialty clothing such as winter coats, or baby clothes (in bulk, not individual pieces). Take a few nice photos, write a description, and buyers will contact you by email. For your privacy, I’d advice you to create a separate email account if you are planning on doing a lot of selling online. Also, please make sure you read the fine prints for these websites for safety rules and regulations. Keep in mind these options take a little more time to respond to the potential customers, however, you can sell at a better price than a yard sale.

Some neighborhoods also have second-hand or consignment stores. So check your local listings. has become very popular to sell or buy designer women and children’s clothing. However, they charge you a $9.99 processing the items you place in their clean-out bag (they’ll mail you a pre-paid bag in the mail). The payout for each piece is probably less than you’d expect, but they do carry some nice designer second-hand clothing in near-new condition if you want to save some money. Also, if your items sold is worth less than $9.99, you don’t get any credit from your sales. It’s not a great policy, but they have to cover their expenses. is the largest online consignment and thrift store.



Maybe you have a friend whose style you admire, or want a fun theme for a get- together by swapping your clothes and accessories. Trading is not only a great way to add some new pieces back into your wardrobe, it’s a great way to connect with your friends and family. (Only do this after you have gone through your own clothes, and knows what style of clothing you like, and what’s missing from your wardrobe.)



Do a search online for “upcycling ideas for clothing” and you’ll find tons of innovative ways to repurpose your old clothes. There are also many craft ideas that you can do with little kids such as making clothes for their stuffed toys. Better yet, make a stuffed animal out of your old clothes. A nice patterned shirt cut into a square or circle can become a fun gift wrap. All those old concert t-shirts can turn into awesome retro pillowcases.

Even if you are not the artsy-craftsy type, maybe you know someone who will be excited and inspired to turn your old clothes into cool creations.



Up to 95% of the clothes, shoes, and linen in our landfill could have been reused or recycled. Different cities now offer textile recycling so nothing is wasted. Even some large apartment buildings have special bins that will get picked up by the donation/recycling organization. Who knows, maybe someday the clothes you recycle will come back as your favorite outfit!

The American Textile Recycling Service  has partners and donation bins in 12 states.

Bag2School is a used clothing drive that helps raise money for your school. will pay $0.10 per pound of your used clothes. They collect adult and children clothing, shoes, belts, and purposes.

SMART-Secondary Materials And Recycled Textiles has more detailed information if you want to learn more about the subject.



I hope you enjoyed this article. Be sure to follow my blog. Next time, I’ll be sharing tips on Zero-Waste decluttering books.

3 thoughts on “Zero-Waste Decluttering Part 1: Clothing

  1. sachany says:

    Getting conscious about how much we waste (as a society) is really important. Thanks for this article!

    • simplejoywithann says:

      Being more conscious is absolutely right. We are all so used to consuming that we don’t stop to really think about why and what we buy. It is tough for me since my degree and previous career is in advertising. Now with a new perspective, I can only continue to share my beliefs and experience to help people become more conscious shoppers, and more responsible consumers.

      Thank you for reading!

    • simplejoywithann says:

      Thanks for your comment! I find myself so much more aware of tv commercials and advertising. I’m all for promoting companies being responsible and becoming more earth friendly.

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