It’s been a few years since Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up turned everyone on the internet into a minimalist whose perfectly organized sock drawer “sparks joy,” but I still love a good closet purge session. Nothing is quite as uniquely satisfying as bagging up a bunch of items that I don’t need and getting them out of my tiny apartment.
However, in my haste to free up closet space, I had been blithely sending any- and everything off to the dumpster in a jumble of assorted plastic bags. Then I realized there were certain things that I should never just throw away, because there are much more sensible, environmentally friendly, and possibly profitable things to do with them instead. Here’s my list:
1. Anything vintage: Instead of putting vintage items in the “toss” pile, see if you can sell them. I’ve sold vintage items such as silk scarves I’ve been gifted or accumulated but will never wear, old pins and brooches I collected from someplace or other, and vintage dresses I pick up from thrift stores that don’t fit any longer and just make me feel slightly guilty every time I open my closet. There’s definitely a market for vintage items out there on sites like eBay and Etsy, and selling these gems gets them into the hands of someone who will appreciate them — and puts a few bucks back in your pocket at the same time.
2. Socks: Once your socks get irreparable holes in them or lose their partner, use them for cleaning rags. Fitting a holey sock over your hand and wiping down picture frames and bookshelves with them works just as well as a fancy feather duster or those disposable microfiber sheets, plus they’re free. I generally use old socks as cleaning rags over and over again, and just give them a rinse and then toss them in the laundry with everything else when they need to be washed.
3. Jeans: Raise your hand if you have a pair of jeans or two sitting in your closet that you can’t or don’t wear anymore but are loathe to just toss. *Raises both hands* Instead of getting rid of them, keep around an old pair to use to patch up other jeans, especially in that spot between the legs near the crotch that always seems to develop a hole faster than any other place. If you’re not handy with a needle, you can find an iron-on adhesive that’ll do the trick. Alternately, if your jeans are in good condition, and especially if they’re a premium brand, see if you can sell them on Poshmark or ThredUp. If all else fails, send them to the thrift store. Your “too small” might be someone else’s “fits perfectly and are perfectly worn in” dream jeans.
4. T-shirts and undershirts: I keep a stash of old t-shirts to use for rags in place of paper towels. Some of them I’ve cut into squares for staining furniture or greasing my bicycle chain, some I’ve crumpled up to stuff my Moroccan pouf, and some I keep around to wear when I’m painting or doing other extremely messy activities that call for an outfit I truly don’t mind ruining.
5. Packing materials: It took way too long to realize that I should hold onto the packaging that comes with online shopping and birthday presents instead of tossing it out. Now I have a stash of padded envelopes, cardboard boxes, tissue paper, and bubble wrap on the top shelf of my closet. It keeps me from having to make an extra trip to the store every time I need to mail a package, and it means that I can get that item out the door much faster by removing that step, which is especially key if you’re selling something and want to get it to the buyer ASAP. Plus, padded envelopes are expensive but can be infinitely reused with the strategic placement of a new shipping label or addressee information, and you’ll never find me buying bubble wrap again. And the next time I move, I won’t be the one buying pricey brand new cardboard boxes from the moving van company, either.
6. Tennis shoes: Once my running shoes reached the end of their useful life, I used to feel bad about just tossing them in the trash. Then I learned about several organizations that take donations of old tennis shoes. If your shoes still have some life in them, find an organization, such as Give Your Sole or Soles for Souls, that collects shoes and distributes them to those in need. If your shoes are well and truly worn out, programs like the Nike Reuse-a-Shoe initiative recycles them into a material that can be used to surface running tracks, playgrounds, and athletic courts. My local running store has a collection box for just that purpose, and they give bonus loyalty reward points for every pair donated, which makes it even easier to say goodbye to my worn-out shoes.
Will all of these tips save you hundreds of dollars? Probably not, unless you have some really pricey items in your closet to sell. What they will do, though, is make you stop and think before you blithely dispose of something you paid your hard-earned money for and that required time and resources to make. This is a good approach to take when it comes to the things already in your possession, and it’s a great approach to take when you’re trying to get out of debt, save for your future, and act like a responsible adult — one who always has tissue paper and bubble wrap on hand.
A grant writer by day and personal finance fanatic by night, Marisa is an avid traveler who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. When she’s not reading or writing for work or play, she enjoys running, thrifting, and searching for the most authentic Mexican food in the city.
Image via Unsplash