Think Before You Throw: How to Extend the Lifecycle of your Old Clothes

Following her stay-home guide on spring cleaning your closet, Charlie Collins from Creative Wardrobe works her magic on the practical side of things – from the best charities for donations to the most responsible fabric disposal companies.    

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all been having fun spring cleaning, and falling in love with your wardrobes all over again.

It’s a wonderful thing that we are all trying to stay busy with our spring cleaning and home decluttering in lockdown. Nonetheless, we also have a responsibility to dispose of these unwanted items in a way that is kind to our planet. There have been many recent reports of a huge increase in fly tipping during lockdown with recycling centres and clothing banks unfortunately having to close their services for the time being. Now more than ever, we need to think before we throw. 

With this in mind, here are my top tips for prolonging the lifecycle of your unwanted items – lockdown style. In my previous article, I encouraged you to use the Creative Wardrobe action cards to help you structure your cleanse so we’ll go through these one at a time.


Good news – this is a brilliant time to resell your items! The majority of us are spending a lot of time online at the moment, and I can speak from my own lockdown experience when I say that I have been selling like crazy in the past few weeks. That’s not to mention all the bargain vintage treasures I’ve been hunting down for my Creative Wardrobe community.

Thinking local is always a good place to start. Why not try posting an item you no longer want on your own Instagram Stories and see if there are any takers? The joy of this… no commission. I operate my Treasure Hunt sales by doing exactly this! 

For selling high street hits, my go-to online platform is Ebay as I find it hugely successful when it comes to sales and the app incredibly easy to use. Ebay is also a great bet for selling household goods such as pretty plates or vintage rugs (I speak with a guilty habit of collecting one too many vintage Hungarian plates). You will need to post your items to the buyers but as post offices are still open, as long as you are fit to do so, you can combine your once-a-week trip to the post office with an energising walk and some grocery shopping. If you’re unable to leave home, there is always the option to book your post collection online with Interparcel, allowing Hermes to collect directly from your home. This really isn’t as expensive as I had thought it would be and is a great option for lockdown.

For high designer items, I would use an expert platform like Vestiaire Collective, where I started my career in sustainability. Not only are items authenticated on your behalf, but the sliding scale commission means you can list high-value items without losing a huge proportion of your sale. Vestiaire are operating as normal during lockdown and you can read up about their safe approach to Covid-19 here.

Let’s move onto your ‘fix’ pile. I imagine most of these things here would have been plaguing you for quite some time! Now of course, we are not all expert sewers or upcycling enthusiasts, but I have listed some ideas below for these items.

For shoes that need re-heeling or re-soling, leather bags that need tidying up or even a leather jacket with marks, look no further than The Restory. Their services are temporarily paused in lock down but you can register for priority access once they reopen and have a special discount to use on your next service. You can even have a go yourself with their top tips for restoring your items from home.

For dry cleaning, I recently discovered London’s BLANC, an artisan natural garment care specialist who use biodegradable, non-toxic detergents and innovative wet clean technology as an eco-friendly and sustainable alternative to conventional dry cleaning. Although they are temporarily closed for the safety of their community, they are encouraging you to keep your garments ready for when they re-open and you even have the option for an at-home collection service for those that might need to self-isolate for longer once the restrictions are lifted. They have an in-house alterations service and my favourite part…they can even collect and recycle your old wire and plastic hangers following your wardrobe cleanses. Result! On that note, please do try and hold on to your hangers until after lockdown and hand them over responsibly, despite how tempting it is to throw them away. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for a BLANC in every city!
Lastly, if you have an old dress that no longer fits you but you adore the material, why not turn it into something new? I often encourage my clients to do this following my one-to-one appointments. Sophie Rist, Founder of upcycling lifestyle brand Agnes LDN, can help you find the best way to turn your old item into something new. She’s currently offering live sewing classes and DIY repair videos on her IGTV and you can still browse her brilliant selection of DIY sewing kits. Sophie and I also have a special slow fashion collaboration coming out in May all about turning something old into something new, so stay tuned!

Have a look at everything in your ‘donate’ pile. If you are merely throwing something old and tired away to make your life less cluttered, the chances are, this piece may not be so useful for the charity you have in mind and it might be a better idea to recycle it instead. Be really honest with yourself about what would be helpful for the charity.

Everyone has their own favourite charities they love to support and for me it’s got to be Smart Works, who help unemployed women get to back into work by providing them with free smart clothing and interview coaching. They can also be a happy home for surplus fashion stock which they use to fundraise with in their sales. 

Like most charities at the moment, their eight centres across the UK are currently closed so I spoke to Victoria Mullins, their head of wardrobe who advised kind supporters to “use this time to keep collecting clothes, shoes, handbags, accessories and unopened cosmetics as they will be desperately needed when we have been giving the go ahead to reopen. We know that when the restrictions are lifted, the need for our service will be greater than ever and your donations will be essential.”

This leads me onto a really important point following your wardrobe, bedroom and home clear outs, that you can safely and successfully donate your unopened beauty items to any number of deserving charities, such as Smart Works or Beauty Banks after the lock down is over. I also caught up with Bernado’s who told me that although their 700 shops across the UK are currently closed, supporters could either kindly hold onto their items until after lockdown, or book a contact-free collection for their pre-loved items via their partner Task Rabbit.

For your ‘donate’ pile, please do think before you throw. Holding onto your wonderful donations a little longer could make all the difference to your chosen charity once life gets back to normal.

Although lockdown doesn’t lend itself to hiring amazing outfits, it has never been a better time to list your wardrobe for rent, ready for when we all explode back onto the scene again. Covid-19 is certainly not slowing down the listing frenzy on sites such as Hurr CollectiveBy RotationMy Wardrobe HQ or The Endless Wardrobe – all of which hold the Eco-Age Brandmark for their sustainable approach. Victoria Prew, Co-Founder and CEO of Hurr recently took over my Instagram to help educate my community on the joys of renting. She advised listing clothes, shoes and accessories from cool, contemporary brands such as Ganni and Rixo, so long as they have an RRP of £150 or more. It’s also a great place to list both high designer and one-off vintage pieces which the Hurr community are loving right now.

We often have similar styles to our nearest and dearest. We know our friends better than anyone and we often get that feeling when one of our pieces we don’t want anymore would suit them. And one thing we know for certain is when we have our eye on one of their pieces… this is where the ‘swap’ card can be pulled to maximum effect! An eye for an eye, although rather more pleasant. Get swapping and enjoy newness at no extra cost.

When I say ‘chuck,’ I don’t mean actually mean chuck! I mean carefully and responsibly remove your unwanted items (that can’t be donated) from your home and pass them on in the best possible way. All over London (and in every city) there are recycling banks, where your items can be passed on responsibly. Though many of these have had to temporarily close, you can look up your nearest clothing bank on the Recycle Now website hereTraid has 447 clothing banks in London alone and operates across the UK and  then there’s LM Barry Textiles for mass fabric disposal which the lovely Emma Slade Edmonson brought to my attention recently.

I hope this article has encouraged you to explore new horizons for extending the lifecycle of your unwanted items in this crazy time. If there is no sustainable solution available to you right now, the impact of holding onto your items for just a little while longer could be vast.

Book a one-to-one appointment with Charlie for the ultimate sustainable wardrobe reset. 

Learn to spring clean your closet with Charlie Collins – the Creative Wardrobe way! 

Discover the best websites for shopping (and selling) second hand online