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Spring is in the air! As the flowers bloom and the days get longer, I am more and more excited to bring out my sundresses and shorts. Fashion is always changing, and especially these days it seems like trends always shift at lightning speed. It’s time to dust off those summer items, and bring your Pinterest board to life without going to the shops – trust me the plant and your wallet will thank you. Let me share with you 4 Rs of my sustainable spring cleaning process for going through my wardrobe, curating it and letting pieces go. It is optimal to have as many versatile pieces as you can, use your imagination and don’t consume unnecessarily. 


I like to go section by section, pulling out sweaters or heavier skirts that I don’t think will be suitable for the warmer seasons. Once I have the winter pile, I go through it again and make three piles: winter storage, maybe and the hard no. Winter storage gets stored away for next fall, but I always try to be creative with my maybe and no piles. These might include some lighter-weight sweaters that I am not sure I will wear, or a dress that just isn’t cute anymore. Try on a few different stylings of each piece. You might find that the dress you swore you were going to give away makes an amazing skirt when paired with the right jacket. This helps you get more wear out of the items that you already have, and save you from having to buy more clothes.The next time you go shopping have this idea in mind – and stay away from super trendy seasonal pieces that will just end up in your no pile next season. 


For the items that stayed in your no pile that still have life in them, and you just do not want to own anymore, there are a few options. The best option is give them to someone you know will use them. I love to have clothes swaps with my friends.It’s a nice feeling to know that you probably made your friends’ day and you don’t have to keep that pink sweater in your closet anymore.Consider your family for donations – maybe a younger cousin or sister would love to go shopping in your wardrobe. If this doesn’t work for you or you have leftover items, consider calling your local women’s or homeless shelter and ask if they accept donations. Oftentimes, items donated directly to these sorts of local charities have a direct impact on people’s lives, as opposed to a national organization like Goodwill. But, churches, Salvation Army and Goodwill are all convenient options for items that still have life left in them.  


Save this step for items that really have seen their last day, I am talking BBQ stained shirts or split jeans. Look up and see if there are any textile recycling drop boxes in your town. This information can often be located on your municipal waste management websites. Try to never throw clothes in the trash, they contribute dramatically to greenhouse gases. If your town does not do any kind of recycling, don’t worry – you can use the clothes as scrap fabric. Cut up cotton t-shirts make great cleaning rags, and there are lots of cool youtube tutorials on rag rugs for those who have a bunch of different colors. You can also try and dye your stained clothing black, this won’t work for all fabric contents but many times it does cover the stain. 


So, if you still have clothes left over that can’t be regifted or recycled, taking them out with the trash (rubbish) may be the only option. This is also recommended for things like used underwear, that are not sanitary to donate. Good quality bras can be donated though! If the clothes are natural materials like cotton, silk, bamboo, hemp they can actually be composted. Just chop them into small pieces and feed them to your local worms. But, in the case that none of these other options work tossing them out may be the only option. 

When we have to toss out our clothes, or we start getting bored and watch Forever 21 hauls on Youtube, it is time to think about how we can do better and shop smarter. The next time you want to impulse buy that trendy top from H&M think about if you can wear it in six months, or in one year, or in six years. Of course, having statement pieces in your wardrobe provide a pop of color, but there is a big difference between a fad item and a personality piece. By shopping smarter, more consciously and getting better use out of our closets we can reduce the harm that fashion does to our environment -– all while looking good, and even helping our wallets in the long run. 

Marisa is a senior @ USFCA in the sustainability and global affairs sphere, thinking about emerging economies, outreach and innovation. A digital nomad & explorer with a curious mind– and an accidental empanada connoisseur!
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