Americans throw away about 35 pounds of clothing each year. Often, we throw away clothes simply because they are out of style or worn out. For clothing that is obviously damaged or tattered beyond recognition, it is best to go ahead and toss these items. What we are talking about is that jacket, pair of pants, skirt, dress or shirt you stuff in the back of the closet along with those Ugg boots you haven't worn since the last time No Doubt had a hit. With a little imagination and creativity, you can rescue some of these fashion orphans and create a trendy wardrobe while doing your part to save the planet.
Start by getting an idea of what you have to work with. Pull out all the clothes from the back of the closet, the cedar chest, the attic or other old clothing graveyard you usually put stuff you no longer wear. Take inventory of what you have. Inspect each item. Throw out stuff that is too far gone to save. If you have items that need just minor repairs, put these in a separate pile. Create another pile for clothes that no longer fit you. These too can be recycled. We'll get to that later. Finally, create another pile of clothes you just stopped wearing for one reason or another.
Cut, Repair and Alter
Now that you've organized your clothing, the next step is to fix up what you can. These are the items you placed in the minor repair pile. If you are not handy with the sewing machine, take them to a professional to have altered or mended. A common fix with jeans or pants riddled with holes is to cut them into shorts. This concept can be applied to long sleeve blouses or shirts that are ripped or worn around the cuff. Turn old winter shirts into cool "new" summer tops. All you need to do is create a new edge where you cut the sleeves. Don't forget to measure. Unlike cooking, sewing is an exact science. You're pretty much out of luck with sweaters, unless only minor mending is needed.
Everything Old Is New Again
Go to the pile of stuff you just stopped wearing. Usually, this is because styles changed. Fortunately, everything old is new again when it comes to fashion. Remember the return of bell bottoms? Many high-end retailers now sell retro t-shirts with classic designs ranging from Coca-Cola to Star Wars. If you happen to have some of the original versions of these t-shirts, go ahead and dust them off and wear them again. If you are not exactly the same size you were when ET first phoned home, consider giving them to your kids or somebody you know as a gift. What was once hot and trendy for you is now retro cool.
Mix It Up
Again, this is for those items you just stopped wearing or the stuff you were able to fix up. Some of those old t-shirts can work well with the casual jeans you usually wear when going out on the weekends. Those tops that just don't seem to go with anything in your current wardrobe just might look great worn under one of your newer shirts. If you really want to have some fun recycling your clothes, have a retro party where everybody must wear stuff they dig out of their closets. Finally, just mix and match by wearing some of your old favorites with your current wardrobe. You will end up with a new look without the extra expense.
Fashion trends come and go and come back again. Make recycling your old clothes a weekend or rainy day activity and you just might find some "new" outfits and a few things that are now back in style. We all have certain clothing we hold onto for sentimental reasons, now you can actually get some use out of the stuff you toss in the back of the closet by bringing it back out. Who knows, maybe bell bottoms and Ugg boots will be hot again and you'll be all set.
Sheila Barnett writes on personal finance and budgeting for financialcalculator.org, a site with helpful information about debt management, investments, loans, net worth and plenty of finance tools like this compound interest calculator.