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Updated: May 19, 2023


Nope. It isn’t the bogeyman hiding in our wardrobes that we need to be worried about. It’s the 1.6 billion unworn items that WRAP has estimated Brits have languishing away.

The same WRAP study revealed that each year we spend around £4 billion on clothing. Yet we have, on average, 118 items of clothing each.

Somewhere along the line, we’ve been misled into buying clothes that we don’t need. Now clothes are piling up in our wardrobes, clogging up charity shops and even going to landfill.

We all need to take a cold hard look at our wardrobes and decide what is surplus to requirements and what items we actually need.

There's a lot of merit to campaigns like Second Hand September (by Oxfam UK). It encourages us to only buy things second-hand during that month – if we need to buy anything at all. But for many people, buying preloved items seems like a punitive, penny-pinching measure – it’s for all of us to fight that idea, because that isn’t the case. Second-hand clothing ranges from designer fashion that goes for thousands of pounds on selling sites (like Vestiaire Collective) to your Dad’s really comfy and somehow stylish jacket. You can find all sorts of bargains in charity shops and second-hand stores. By making use of the clothes already on this planet, we can reduce the amount of waste that goes to landfill.

How to confront the monster in your wardrobe

As we get deeper into winter, it’s that time of year to start fetching out warmer clothes. This is the perfect time to have a bit of a fashion show of your own.

Our bodies and needs change with each changing season. And that’s okay. So even some of your favourite jumpers might not fit as they used to before. The temptation is to save things in case you fit into them again in the future. But if clothes are radically too big, ill-fitting or just not your cup of tea anymore, you need to them go.

You might also be faced with the prospect of having far too many good clothes to wear. It happens! The hardest part is choosing which clothes to keep.

Tricks to streamline your wardrobe

There are lots of tricks you could try when auditing your wardrobe. Some people use a hanger trick where they turn all the hanger hooks to face the back of the wardrobe. You keep track of the clothes that you wear based on how many hangers are turned around in the space of a month.

Another trick for keeping a smaller wardrobe is to have a deliberate focus. You may have already heard of the capsule wardrobe. The goal of this kind of wardrobe is to keep a much smaller collection of clothing that you constantly wear, with garments that can be interchanged to keep an outfit that is similar but also slightly different each day.

Akin to a capsule wardrobe, wellbeing wardrobes are again all about keeping a manageable set of clothes but at the same time doing good for people and planet. So if you need to buy more clothes it’s all about shopping second hand or purchasing from more ethical and sustainable brands.

A final way to streamline your wardrobe is the three-word method. The idea is that you take your favourite clothes and find three common words or themes to explain why you love those garments. Perhaps it is comfort, warmth, style, practicality and/or ease. You keep in mind these three words to trim down your wardrobe. If it doesn’t fit your brief, send those clothes packing.

This doesn’t mean chucking them in the bin. There are lots of ways to move on your old clothes.

The Good Stuff: Donate or resell

When you’ve worked out what clothes no longer serve you, you will need to sort them into a ‘good’ and a ‘bad’ pile. The good pile are clothes that can be worn again right away, in good condition. These are the clothes that you could either donate or sell to find them a new home.

Good places to sell clothes online include websites like eBay, Depop and Vinted. Don’t rule out the power of selling face-to-face. You could try things like car boots, but this can be a much bigger time commitment.

If your item isn’t worth a great deal, or if you’d rather donate a quality item to someone in need, then there are lots of options to consider. For convenience, it is easy to donate your unwanted clothes at your local charity shop. Second-hand shops may also be able to take your items. The new MIND shop in Jesmond welcomes a huge range of items (it even collects if you have larger items as well e.g. tables, sofas - email address We’ve put together a Google map of some of the many places you can donate clothing you no longer need - you can see it by scrolling down, and let us know if you've recommendations of places to add.

Not all shops will be accepting clothes all the time, depending on demand. So it is worth staying connected with local charities in and around Newcastle on Facebook. Charities such as North East Homeless and Peace of Mind North East will often put up a list of items that have been requested by individuals. This way you know that your items are going straight to the source of need.

Clothes Swapping

Another option for moving on your good clothes is to try clothes swapping. This might be as simple as finding a friend or family member of a similar size and passing on or exchanging clothes. You might even make an event of it, getting friends round to have a catch up and mini-fashion show! There are also much larger events where you can find good homes for your unwanted clothing - watch out for Swap Shops (DiverCity runs them several times a year). Swapping means you can rescue some other clothing, without having to spend anything.

The Rags: Upcycle, donate or use recycling banks

It is simple enough to move on good quality clothes. But what do you do with the clothes in your wardrobe that are damaged, worn out or have missing buttons or broken zips? Each garment may need to be treated differently here.

You might decide that a garment can be rescued just by getting it repaired. A hole in a pair of jeans can be repaired effectively and invisibly by using a patch. This may be a task that you defer to somewhere that does alterations. Here are a few suggestions for Newcastle; you can find many more on Climate Action Newcastle's repair and repurpose guide, and please let them know if you know others - or add comments below this blog:

· Launder and Press, based just off Chillingham Road, NE6 5AW

· Ohh Sew Beautiful, Stoddart Street, NE2 1AN

· Marcus King Tailor, North Street, NE1 8DF

· Supastitch – Grainger Street, NE1 5QG

· Darned Fine – Cobalt Studios, Boyd Street. NE2, 1AP

Another option is to have a go at upcycling your damaged clothes. This might be small-scale, trying a technique like sashiko, where you use coloured thread to embellish and visibly mend your clothing. This works great for durable items like denim jackets or well-wearing trousers.

At the other end of the spectrum, you may completely take your clothing apart to make it into a whole new piece of clothing or something completely different. For inspiration, here are some fantastic upcyclers across Newcastle. You might even be able to send materials to local upcyclers so they can use them in their projects.

Rags are probably the hardest thing to recycle when it comes to trimming down your wardrobe. You may have been hanging on to something worn-out, as you were wondering what to do with it. We quizzed various charities over email, with varying responses. Some charities said that they only take items that they can sell in the shops. For many charity shops, rags are considered a ‘low volume market’ which means that there isn’t a huge advantage to selling them. It’s always best to check with your local charity shop before you bring them down.

Another suggestion is to ask local mechanics if they can make use of rags. These can be useful for soaking up oil, cleaning etc.

The best thing you could do with rags is to use them in upcycling projects. There is a wealth of ideas online for this. You could:

· Make a t-shirt tote bag

· Turn rag into cleaning cloths

· Make a draught excluder

· Create a braided rug; this involves cutting up fabric scraps and weaving them together to create braids

· Give a traditional Japanese wrapped gift by transforming your old dress into furoshiki

· Create beeswax cloths by using an iron to melt and spread beeswax across your old cotton t-shirt. Great for wrapping up food.

Whatever you do, it is vital to keep clothes moving. We are all perhaps a little guilty of wanting to hang on to a few too many clothes. Thankfully there are lots of ways you can move these clothes on. The most powerful way of avoiding a cluttered wardrobe in the first place is to do your best to buy nothing new. It means resisting those tempting sales or trendy garments and instead embracing and learning to love the clothes you already have. When you do need to replace something you could always try to buy something second-hand which may save you money as well as helping to reduce the amount of textile waste going to landfill.

Many thanks to Declan for his insights!! You can find out more about Green Heart Collective on their website

109 views2 comments


Oct 27, 2022

Most of the charity shops I take things to in Newcastle are happy to accept stuff for recycling as long as you bag it separately. They can make some cash by selling to rag supply companies.😉

Declan Wiseman
Declan Wiseman
Dec 08, 2022
Replying to

Yep important to keep it separate. That said, some UK charities don't take rags because there isn't enough money in it!

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