The holiday season is a great time to clean out your closet and donate your old, but still wearable, clothes to charity. As people pour into shelters to escape the winter cold, the need for clothes is ever-greater. This is also the time of year when many organizations sponsor major clothing collection drives. Here are a few tips for cleaning out the closet.
Clean Out the Closet in One Day
Some people recommend you set aside 15 minutes a day until the job is done. I’m more of a get-in-done-in-one-shot kind of person. It maye take a few hours, but then it will be done. Set a start time of around ten AM. Turn up the tunes, pour a warm beverage or some nog, then get to work.
Gather Boxes and Bags in Advance
The easiest way to clean is to set up two boxes: toss and give away. I usually leave the keepers on the hangers. If you have a lot of shelving, you may need a keeper box as a temporary holding spot. When a box gets full, either open another box or switch to paper or plastic bags.
Don’t spend too long hemming and hawing over any particular item. You know what you haven’t worn in a year, what you don’t like, and what doesn’t fit. If your first instinct is to toss it, then toss it. If you’re first instinct is to keep it, then keep it – for now. You may want to take a bit of time determining whether something is a toss or a giveaway though. If it’s seriously worn or irreparably dirty, then toss it. If it’s just worn at the cuffs and hems but the zippers and buttons are still attached and there are no holes or major stains, then it’s worth donating.
Be Strict with Yourself
Unless it’s your wedding dress or another keepsake item that has sentimental value, don’t talk yourself into keeping an unworn shirt from three seasons ago just because you got a great deal on it. If you haven’t worn it, you never will. If it’s never fit, give it up. Most likely, it never will. You can, however, keep one pair of “skinny jeans.” No, not those horribly fashionable skin-tight jeans only supermodels could wear. I mean the pair of jeans that fit perfectly a few years ago, but are a little snug now. If you’re trying to lose weight, they may be the motivation you need to get in shape.
Be Careful with Shoes
When you’re throwing out shoes, check them carefully before putting them in the donation box. Charities usually can’t use shoes with worn out soles. Scuff marks are fine and broken laces are easy to replace, but toss them out if the sole is nearly worn through, the leather is broken, or there are holes in the top.
Clean the Shelves, Too
Once you get done with the hangers and the floor, make a sweep of the shelves. Reconsider the pile of old pillows stacked at the top, the stack of old purses you’ll probably never use, and various other items that get stuffed up there. Toss what you won’t use, but consider keeping all the free tote bags you’ve collected – they make great grocery bags. Either set them aside so you can transfer them to your car, or give them away so recipient families will have something to carry their “new” clothes home in.
Check the Other Closets and the Dressers
If you have a spouse or children, make the event a family affair. Children especially need clothes because they grow so quickly, and many shelters run low on children’s clothes due to hand-me-downs. If you don’t plan to have more kids, go through the clothes to find items suitable for donating. You should also ask your kids to sort through their toys. Something they no longer play with may make another child’s holiday if it’s in good condition. And what about garage storage? Look for canned goods, pots and pans that are in good condition, anything that can help a needy family get back on its feet. Once you start looking, you’ll find a lot of items you can give away. When I cleaned out my closet and dresser, I gave away four bags of clothes and shoes, and that was just me, not my husband.
Make a Final Check
Once you’re done, return to the closet one more time to see if there’s anything else you can part with. Now that you’re in full cleaning mode, you may be more willing to get rid of stuff.
Arrange for Pick-Up or Drop-Off
Finally, don’t let this stuff linger in your home or garage. Call a local church, St. Vincent de Paul, the Salvation Army, or a local homeless shelter to arrange for pick-up or drop-off. We’ve donated to both the Los Angeles Mission and Beyond Shelter, a local service that helps families rebuild their lives. If you have good winter coats, visit One Warm Coat to make your donation.
Anytime is a good time to clean out the closet. If you can’t do it before the holidays, consider it for early January. There will still be people in need during the harsh winter months. You might also consider making it an annual event, or even seasonally if you store your winter and summer clothes in the off-season.