A Different Kind of Gift List

There are now 12 days until Christmas (and nearing the end of Chanukah) and while the internet is full of “12 days of gifts” lists and “gift ideas for everyone on your list” or what I call the “here-are ridiculously-expensive-things-no-one-actually-buys” lists. Last year I wrote a fail-safe gift guide for the men in your life (and I support the robotic vacuum idea more than ever) but this year I’m taking a slightly different approach to these days before Christmas.

The holidays are centered around giving and receiving items to show how much we care about others. During this season we can accumulate a lots of things not only from others but also the gifts we buy ourselves while out shopping (one can only resist sparkly things for so long). A lot of us have things in excess and this time of year is a great time to look at your closet and evaluate what you have, what you want, and what you no longer want. Are you hoping for a new dress or shoes to replace the ones in your closet because you don’t love them anymore? Is your favorite scarf worn out but you’d love to make it into a headband for your niece? We can fall in and out of love with clothes or just realize we have more than we need and the holidays can help us see that more clearly. When you have clothes you don’t want (but don’t want to trash) check out the list below for 5 (not 12) ways that will help warm your heart (and possibly mitigate that credit card bill come January).

1) Donate: Any place you choose to donate your clothes is a great option (Goodwill, any local charity or church). If you are getting rid of clean, wearable professional attire there are specific programs that accept these items in order to help those less fortunate dress for job interviews. Dress for Success is a New York based program with affiliates across the country whose goal is to help disadvantaged women not only get a job but to also help them maintain employment and move forward in their careers. Other organizations include Career Wardrobe (Philadelphia), Suited for Change (DC), Poised for Success (Chicago), and DenverWorks (Denver). If your city isn’t listed here a simple web search could reveal a program in your area.

2) Sell: Ebay and Craigslist are both great options for selling items you no longer use. Selling on Ebay gives you access to a worldwide market, and a greater possibility someone is looking for the exact item you’re selling. I would tend to stick with higher priced items and well known names when selling on Ebay as they will have the greatest chance of being sold as well as offsetting the selling fees. Right before the holidays is also a good time to sell as most people are in the throws of holiday shopping.

3) Consign: There are lots of stores that take your items, sell them, and give you a percentage in cash or store credit. Nationwide chains include Buffalo Exchange and Plato’s Closet. These type of consignment stores try to carry trendy items and on average give you about half of the selling price (which is generally 1/3 of the retail price). I have not had much success with these consignment stores (both in taking and subsequently selling) but I know others who have. Also check out your local, independent consigners as there may be a store more tailored to your specific pieces (i.e. high end vintage).

4) Reinvent: Pinterest has really helped ignite the DIY bug in all or us, or has us scratching our heads and wondering what superhuman can make their own laundry detergent while decorating cake pops to the exact likeness of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. All other homemaking aside sites like Pinterest and Craftgawker are great places to get ideas on how to reinvent your old clothing. While some of it is a bit out there (old t-shirts make ugly scarves. period.) some ideas like headbands and skirts are attractive, wearable, and make me want to learn to sew. There are also a plethora of DIY blogs, my favorite being a pair and a spare.

5) Host a Clothing Swap: Cookie swaps around the holidays are commonplace but try hosting an event that keeps calories off your waistline (and room in your closet). If you have clothes that are wearable but you’ve just lost the love for them ask your friends or any organization you’re a part of if they want to hold a clothing swap. Bring in the items you no longer wear and trade them in for your friends sequin blazer that you’ve been coveting.

6) Recycle: Some major retailers accept old clothes to recycle them. In February 2013 H&M will begin to accept donated clothing which will be recycled. When you donate your old clothes at H&M you will receive a voucher towards a future purchase. Patagonia has the Common Threads Initiative and collects worn out Patagonia items, recycling them and Nike recycles old tennis shoes. Find out if your favorite retailer has a recycling program.


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