What do you do with too many clothes? Donate or recycle them I say!

A good friend and I were chatting about our closets and how we had too many items. How did we know it was time to clear out our items? Our yardstick was the size of our closets. It was b-u-r-s-t-i-n-g. So yes, obviously too much! Together we dreamed of an event that would encourage the sisters in our community to declutter, recycle our clothes, and donate the rest to those who needed them more than us.

We also wanted to grab hold of the opportunity to clear out the “immodest” clothing that we had. It had been a long-standing desire of ours, but we never had the opportunity to act upon it. But we’ll talk more about this another time.

We did not expect the sheer amount of clothes – a floor load of them, especially with just the 10 of us. Some had bought clothes on a whim, and never wore them again or we bought them for a single event but shoved them to the back of the closet thereafter. Some of us lost or gained weight and could not wear our clothes any longer. Some of us brought clothes that still had tags on! Regardless, these items were still in great condition but were not being worn. This event was probably the most responsible thing that I did for myself, my home and the environment. Perhaps I had not steward my resources as carefully as I should have but now with this event, I could.

Some of the clothes that the 10 girls brought for the clothes exchange

This event was probably the most responsible thing that I did for myself, my home and the environment.

Previously, I would just bag them all up and donate them to The Salvation Army. But this experience engaged my heart a lot more, knowing who the recipients are and that they love the items more than I did. The best part about all this? I found a denim jacket and a basic top that I have been wanting to get for a while! All of us had tons of fun picking out clothes for one another, trying to “sell” some of the particularly good quality dresses.

We decided to donate the rest of the items to those affected by the earthquakes in Lombok, Indonesia. Now you might wonder – What happened to the clothes deemed “immodest” then? Well, we are in the midst of giving them new life! Rompers have been altered to tops, crop tops altered to handy pouches. Instead of simply trashing them out, we are exploring ways to convert these clothes into functional items that can be used for other purposes.

Bags of clothes were donated to Lombok, Indonesia

At the end of it, I came to a sobering conclusion that we had too much stuff. For so few of us, we had too much. I considered, “How much clothes do I actually need? Does each item in my closet serve a purpose? Why do I need 10 different dresses when perhaps just one or two would do me just fine? Is it my need for approval or a desire to impress?

The norm is to always have more, rather than less. But now with my closet stripped down, I find it easier to dress myself. Since I have decluttered and took out the items that I do not like as much, what remains is a few basic, good quality items that I love. Visually, for me at least, a closet with lesser items excites me. With lesser items to choose from, lesser time is now spent on dressing up and perhaps then, more time for conversations, reading, and other things that I enjoy doing. What it shows me, is that I can live with a lot lesser things. So the question I ask myself is: “What’s stopping me from living with even lesser than the things I own now? “

In 2017, Singaporeans generated 141, 200 tonnes of textile and leather waste, with a recycling rate of only 6%. When it comes to recycling, clothes isn’t really at the top of our “to recycle” list. Perhaps the desire to have a brand new item prevents us from purchasing second-hand clothes. Or perhaps it stems from our reluctance to wear another person’s used goods. But if we feel guilty when we waste food, why do we not feel the same way when we waste clothes? Using the same concept from food to clothes, we “waste” clothes when we don’t maximise the use by not wearing them frequently enough.

Rather than buying new clothes, we can save the resources that went into making the clothes when we buy second hand clothing. In doing so, we conserve the effort and resources that go into making a new piece of clothing, essentially reducing our carbon footprint. Get creative with the resources that you already have at home! Find ways to give it new life or donate rather than throw. Purchase from thrift stores, participate at clothes swap events to buy second hand clothing.

The girls with their new loot!

We don’t have to look very far to be a good steward, we can start at home.

The spirit of this event extends beyond clothes to other areas in our lives as well. We don’t have to look very far to be a good steward, we can start at home. This means being mindful and intentional of the things we bring into our homes, that every item has been purchased or displayed or planned for. It could be kitchen items – I know it’s so easy to amass a ton of kitchen equipment but honestly, which of these items do we use on a regular basis? Or even our food! Planning out our meals by going to the supermarket with a shopping list will decrease the amount of food waste at home. The list ensures that every ingredient bought then, has a place in the fridge or pantry, and will eventually be used for cooking.

Whether it is clothing or food or any other resources, the call to be a good steward of resources applies. Beyond recycling the items we have now, I invite us to first consider if we really need the item before we make a purchase. When we become more intentional about the items that we buy, we reduce our carbon footprint thus caring for the environment. Let us be good stewards of the environment that the Lord has so graciously blessed us with.

Eunice Eu
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