After a while, even the most versatile wardrobe feels a little stale. We grow accustomed to the items in our closets and have a hard time getting excited to put them on. A wardrobe refresh is always a welcome thing—and a wardrobe refresh doesn’t have to mean a total closet overhaul. Instead, it can just be picking out a few items that get you excited. According to the Cleveland Clinic, just the pure act of browsing for something new releases dopamine, which is “the hormone neurotransmitter in your brain that makes you feel good.”
While wardrobe refreshes are exciting, they can also be problematic. When it comes to clothing, about 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills in 2018, and the main source of that waste was clothing. When refreshing your wardrobe, it’s important to do so sustainably so your old clothes don’t end up filling a landfill instead of benefitting a cause that could use them. Here’s how to refresh your wardrobe and do so in a sustainable way.
The first step in any wardrobe refresh is figuring out what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of. To keep your wardrobe refresh sustainable, you have to know what you need and what you don’t need to keep yourself from buying unnecessary items and contributing to clothing waste. In other words, you need to try on everything in your wardrobe. Try on all the items in your closet, from that midi-dress you bought in summer 2013 to your booties to your tunic tops that make up your everyday work wardrobe.
This way, you’ll know exactly what fits and doesn’t fit in your wardrobe, so you won’t risk buying yourself a new black dress when you have a perfectly good one already.
After going through your wardrobe and coming up with designated items that you want to get rid of, host a clothing swap with your friends. This will keep your clothes from ending up in a landfill or going to waste at your local dump. Encourage your friends to bring over clothes and accessories they want to swap, too, and treat the day like a free thrift shopping adventure. You and your friends will likely come across familiar items in the swap that you’ve admired on your friend wear time and time again — like those cool high-rise jeans or a bright sundress they wore to a summer wedding.
Many organizations throughout the country happily accept new and gently used clothing, shoes, and accessories in all sizes and styles. You can donate items from your own wardrobe refresh, or items from your kids’ wardrobe refresh, or your partner’s wardrobe refresh. And the item doesn’t have to be in perfect shape to be donated, it’s okay if you donate a pair of kids' jeans that have a little bit of wear and tear.
There are bound to be local thrift shops and non-profit groups that will accept your donations, along with nationwide brands like The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries. It’s not hard to find a place that will accept your second-hand clothes.
Donating your unwanted clothes is good for the environment. Period. According to Ohio Valley Goodwill Industries, “Goodwill organizations divert millions of pounds of items from local landfills every year,” every year. Plus, it feels good — second-hand clothes are usually much cheaper than their brand-new counterparts, which means more people can afford your used-to-be-favorite items.
It’s surprisingly easy to fill our closets with things we don’t need. Whether you’re browsing an online shop or out on an errand, it can sometimes be hard to resist sales or items you think you need. When going through a sustainable-focused closet refresh, don’t let yourself buy things you don’t need. Instead, purchase versatile items like a women’s white blouse that can go with many items in your closet. Buying closet staples will help keep you from going overboard and buying clothes that may end up going in the trash in a few weeks. When in doubt, go for the staples like cashmere sweaters, jeggings, blue jeans, and wool jackets.
Think through your wardrobe refresh to keep it sustainable. Don’t quickly throw things away without trying them on or offering them to a second-hand store. Do make a point to know everything in your closet so you can make the most of your wardrobe all year round.