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Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024
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The DC student guide to your end-of-year closet cleanout

How to sustainably donate, sell or upcycle old clothes in the D.C. area

As winter break approaches, students with overflowing closets can use their newfound free time to get rid of old clothes. Instead of disposing of these items, consider meaningful, environmentally-friendly and creative ways to donate or reuse the pieces. Whether you’re looking for donation options in D.C. or upcycling ideas that can be done from anywhere, this guide is a great way to start the challenge of a closet cleanout. 

Donation options

Donating old clothes ensures that they will be sustainably reused instead of entering a landfill and can also help individuals in need. Consider giving to these reputable D.C.-area companies that work to better their communities. 

Clothing Recycling Company

Clothing Recycling Company has around 50 drop-off bin locations across the DMV, 11 of which are in D.C. The donated items are supplied to several organizations that Clothing Recycling Company is partnered with, such as Downtown Day Service Center, which provides services to people experiencing homelessness in D.C. Conveniently, there is a drop-off bin a block away from the Tenleytown Metro stop and several others in Northwest D.C. 

See the full map of bin locations here

Suited for Change

If you own any women’s professional attire that you no longer use, Suited for Change is the donation destination for you. Suited for Change’s mission is to “equip women in need in our community on their path to financial independence by providing them with professional attire, coaching and skills training,” according to its website. Located in downtown D.C. about four miles from AU, the organization accepts clothing donations on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. A guideline for donating here is: If you would feel confident wearing your items to an interview, then Suited for Change’s clients would likely feel the same way. 


Goodwill is a widely reputable option for donating clothes or just about anything else you might want to get rid of, including accessories, shoes, furniture and more. Check out its full list of accepted items here. The only local donation center is a bit far from campus, but it is an easy drop-off process.

So Others Might Eat (SOME)

Located near downtown D.C., about five-and-a-half miles from campus, SOME is a group working to help those experiencing poverty and homelessness in D.C. by providing a variety of services, including clothes free of charge. You can find its list of needed clothing items and donation center hours here

Selling clothes

While D.C. has dozens of consignment shops such as Current Boutique, Secondi, Georgetown Emporium and Clothes Encounters, a majority of these options only accept high-end, designer clothing. Try out online stores such as Depop, Mercari, Poshmark, Etsy or eBay to sell cheaper clothes. This can be done anywhere, so it is a great choice for any student. 

Upcycling clothes

This winter break is a wonderful time to embrace creative outlets. Upcycling clothes is a crafty, fun activity that provides satisfying results. Here are a few easy upcycling ideas to create stylish looks.


Have an old denim piece that just isn't doing it for you anymore? Don’t get rid of it right away. There are several fun, simple ideas that can transform your jeans, jean skirts or jeans jackets without too much effort into items such as a tote bag, basket, rug, pillow and more. This denim upcycling guide contains 30 crafty ideas for creating unique clothes, accessories and decor out of old jeans. 

Painted and embroidered jeans have been trending for a few years now. For those who own denim that is still wearable, hop on this trend by doing it yourself. If embroidery is the route for you, check out this hand embroidery on denim guide to learn the basics, or look on Pinterest or Google to pick out a design you like. Then, head to a local craft store to buy the correct thread and needle.

Painting jeans is an option for the artistic to beautifully decorate the pockets or any other area on your denim items. A simple way to add a design is drawing with fabric markers or even sharpies, explained in this tutorial. If you’re a fan of the pearl detailing trend, here is an article on how to create pearl-accented jeans. 


Another major 2020 trend has been tie-dye everything. Instead of buying new tie-dye clothing, you can upcycle old sweatshirts, sweatpants, T-shirts, socks or face masks by adding your favorite tie-dye pattern and colors. This tutorial is a great resource to start the process. 

Upcycling tops 

This YouTube tutorial shows five easy ways to upcycle an old T-shirt into stylish, trendy crop tops. There are hundreds of other tutorials out there, especially for no-sew options. Just search “upcycling ideas no sew” on YouTube or Pinterest.

Men’s button down shirts

Various tutorials have been made explaining how to upcycle old men’s shirts into dresses. Check out this YouTube tutorial for a guide to making a sleeveless dress, or this video, which showcases a puff sleeve dress. Women’s puff sleeve tops can also be made, shown in this tutorial. While these upcycles require sewing, the end result is amazing!

There are tons of other ways to get rid of and reuse your clothes. Whether the best choice for you is donating to a charity with a good cause, selling your valued items online or taking the time to upcycle, the important thing is that you’re freeing up closet space without producing any textile waste. Happy cleaning!

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