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Getting Thrifty with It: The Best Ways to Upcycle, Resell, and Donate Clothing

By Nicole Bustamante

Everyone hits a point where they look into their bursting closet and think, “I have nothing to wear.” If your old duds just aren’t doing it for you, take the opportunity to clean out your closet and make way for new looks that you’ll love.


We’re here to help you do just that, all while keeping it green (we’re talking Mother Nature and cash in your pocket). These are our best tips for sustainably cleaning out your closet—from upcycling tired trends into fresh looks you’re excited to wear, to the best places to resell and donate your items.


Upcycle: Turn your old favs into your new favs


Give your tried-and-true items a second life with these DIY options.


(image via @shopmilaandme)


Tie-Dye: If quarantine has taught us anything, it’s the power of making do with what we’ve got. Spend an afternoon adding some color to your old t-shirts with a good old-fashioned tie-dye treatment. 



(image via @everpresshq with @silai.estatira)


Screen Print: If you’re feeling crafty, you can also screen print graphics on old clothing. Although this task is a little more involved, it’s perfect if you’re looking to take up a new hobby and give your old clothing a makeover.



(image via @fashioncanadians with @safinaaaslam)


Cutoffs: Reinvent any old pair of jeans or sweats by giving them a trendy trim. Bermuda length denim shorts (also kindly known as ‘jorts’) and sweat shorts are all the rage!



(image via @sofiamcoelho)


Cropped Sweatshirts: Deciding if you should keep or toss that old sweatshirt you normally reserve for sick days? Try cutting it to a cropped length and pairing with sweat shorts for a cool, fresh loungewear look. Or if you’re particularly handy with a sewing machine, crop any oversized sweatshirt and use the remaining material to make a matching mini skirt.



(image via @needlethis)


Embroidery: Pull out some colorful thread and add some flare to an old shirt, sweatshirt, or pair of paints by embroidering a fun print or saying.



(image via @sustainabilitysaturday)


Make Rags: From rags to, well, rags. Instead of trying to reinvigorate the lost-cause items that are too tired to be cute, turn them into washrags. Just cut the fabric into squares and you’re set to use them around the house. You’ll think fondly of all the fun times you had in them every time you clean!



Resell: The one where you get paid


If DIY crafting isn’t necessarily your bag, maybe making money is. Here are a few of the best platforms to resell high-quality, lightly worn clothing and get a little cash back for your items.


Poshmark: Poshmark is a social resale app for everything from clothing to home decor. You can price and list items from any brand, and once they’re sold you can access your funds quickly via direct deposit 3-5 days after the customer has received their purchase. For sales under $15, there is a flat commission of $2.95, while sales over $15 come with a 20% commission fee. 


Mercari: Similar to Poshmark, Mercari is a platform where you can resell everything from furniture to shoes. They have a flat selling fee of 10%, and you can receive free direct deposits of your funds for amounts over $10.


Tradesy: Tradesy is a very user-friendly app where you can list clothing from any brand, although they focus mainly on designer items with a $10 minimum selling price. For sales under $50, there is a flat commission of $7.50 while sales over $50 come with a 19.8% commission. The funds may take a bit longer to access than with other platforms, and there is a 2.9% transfer fee.


ThredUP: If you’re looking to get rid of a lot of clothing at once, ThredUp is an online consignment platform that will send you a ‘clean out kit’ that includes a bag you can fill with old clothing. Once they evaluate your haul, eligible items are listed for consignment and you’ll get 5%-80% of the selling price if/when they sell. You can then choose to receive your payout in cash or as thredUP credit.


The RealReal: The RealReal is an online designer consignment platform. You can get a quote on any designer item that you would like to sell, and then ship it to them free of charge to be listed on the platform. When it sells, you get a portion of the funds (the percentage is higher for more expensive items) in cash or site credit.


Fashionphile: Much like the RealReal, Fashionphile is also a second-hand designer consignment platform. You can choose to receive direct deposit or site credit for your items, with a commission fee of 30% on items listed up to $3,000 and 15% on items $3,000 and over.  


Donate: Feel good about keeping your clothing out of the landfill


If your items are not in resale or DIY condition, you can take them to a donation center or to certain retailers — some even offer store credit in return!

GoodWill: Check online to find a GoodWill store near you that accepts donations. It’s super easy to drop off old clothing and items that you can’t reuse or resell. 


Terracycle Zero Waste Box: You can also order a zero waste box from Terracycle! They accept a large list of items and textiles that donation centers would end up taking to landfills because they could not be resold. 


Madewell: This high-quality denim brand will take any old pair of jeans to recycle into insulation, and give you $20 per item towards a new pair from the store.


Patagonia/Worn Wear: Worn Wear is Patagonia’s second-hand merchandise platform. When you trade in any item of Patagonia clothing, you can get up to $100 in Worn Wear credit to purchase used and Vintage Patagonia items.


Nike Reuse-A-Shoe: Time to retire your old running shoes? If you bring any brand of athletic shoes to a participating Nike location, the Reuse-A-Shoe program will recycle them and give them a new life through Nike Grind.


The North Face Clothes the Loop: Drop off any unwanted clothing and footwear at a North Face retail store or outlet, and receive a $10 reward toward your next purchase of $100 or more.


These are just a few options for clearing out your closet while doing your part to help take care of the planet. When you’ve made enough space for some new finds, download the Zip app to check out the better way to pay and start splitting your payments in 4 anywhere you shop.

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Zip’s editorial content is not written by a financial advisor. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

About the author
Nicole Bustamante

Nicole Bustamante is a writer and journalist passionate about storytelling and the art of fashion. She has written for The Zoe Report, Angeleno Magazine, Modern Luxury Interiors California, and more in addition to writing for her personal blog.