Not to brag, but last year alone I gave about 10 loads of clothing to the Goodwill — it seems high, but my tiny NYC apartment can only hold so many Gap sweaters and old pairs of jeans, so every month or two, my husband and I do a little mini-clean of the closet. I am a big proponent of giving clothes away (over trashing or selling them on eBay); there are so many worthy causes that are always looking for clothes (check your local Salvation Army, Goodwill or local church), but you have to be smart about these things. Before you put clothes in the donation pile, here are 5 things to consider:
1. Is it a ‘classic’? There are some fashion pieces that are just timeless; cashmere sweaters, little black dresses, and a good trench come to mind — but there are many more. We’ve listed some below; when assessing your own closet, just follow this rule: as long as “a classic” fits and doesn’t have stains, keep it.
Some examples of ‘classics’: flattering black pants; a tailored blazer; a DVF wrap dress; perfect-fit T-shirts; nude pumps; cable knit sweaters; white Oxford shirts; ballet flats; leather belts; cashmere cardigans; cross-body bags; leather clutches; the list goes on.
2. Will it make great vintage? I’ve kept all my old Lacoste polos and Lily Pulitzer dresses (yes, I went through a preppy phase) because I know these brand-name items will make great vintage in the future. Ditto for real fur, pearls, designer dresses, cashmere sweaters and all other non-stained, luxury items. Think of them as 1) an investment, 2) a gift for your future daughter. She’ll be stoked to inherit them.
This rule can apply to more than just designer; a great concert t-shirt (Lady Gaga) may become a collectible in the future. Hello, eBay!
3. Will it come back in style? We all know that trends are cyclical, so even odd items like fringed moccasin boots or flared jeans that you might think are “over” or passé will probably be relevant again (and again) in the future. Here’s how you know what to keep and what to give away:
- If it doesn’t fit, it never will. Give it away.
- If it has some time stamp on it (like jean cut-offs with a Britney Spears logo on them), it isn’t a “classic” (see above) and needs to stop taking up space in your closet.
- If its stained or otherwise unwearable — you know what to do. Editors’ note: many charities won’t accept stained clothing, but it’s worth a try.
4. Would it be a great Halloween costume? I’m not kidding about this one: before giving clothes to the Goodwill ask yourself whether it would make an awesome Halloween costume. That Forever21 red mini-dress could make a great last-minute Devil costume; that old Hawaiian shirt of your boyfriend’s could be perfect for a Weekend at Bernie‘s get-up; and that cray-cray fur vest could double as a hippie or Olsen twin costume. Take these gimmick-y items out of your regular closet rotation, and store them away in the costume bin. (Please tell me you have a costume bin).
4. Does it make a good hand-me-down? If someone you know — your BFF or kid sister — would want it, it’s probably best to offer unwanted clothes to your kin and close friends before sending them to Goodwill. Invite a few friends over to raid your closet, then make a donation bag of what’s left.
For more great advice, check our 5 Tips For Making Your Closet Look Like An A-Lister’s, and the Do’s and Don’ts of Dressing for this In-Between Weather.