Reading an Op-Ed at the Business of Fashion website, “The Trouble with Second-Hand Clothes,” and NPR’s “The Global Afterlife of Your Donated Clothes” confirms a few recent thoughts I was having about donations and second-hand clothing. If you haven’t read those articles yet, I highly recommend that you do so if you’re in any way curious about what happens with second-hand or donated clothing.
Many of us have probably donated at least one large hefty-sized bag of clothing, shoes, and accessories at one point in our lives or another. It may feel like you’re doing a great thing at the time, and it certainly is a lot better than simply throwing away your perfectly good, usable things into the dumpster, but there’s a reality many of us choose to ignore or are not even aware of. I feel that people often think that they can purchase whatever they want without thinking too much about it due to the wide availability of cheaply produced goods in stores and on-line. However, one must remember that you ought to still strongly consider the next items you’re going to buy, especially clothing-wise.
Do you “need” it? Sometimes, the need for possession is often disguised simply as desire. You want it, but you don’t need it. You may think you “need” something because some commercial, article, magazine, blogger, or Youtube “guru” told you that this was a “must-have” for any closet or individual, but obviously, you can live without it. This is something I personally struggle with, as I’m sure most people do. It would do you well to at least “sleep on” the idea, or wait a few days, before actually purchasing something; this will give you time to mull it over and to see if that initial lust fades.
Are you buying it as a replacement? If you are, I sincerely hope that the item you’re replacing was not something that you purchased last season or within an otherwise recent time frame and that instead, you were replacing something you bought that was such high quality that it lasted you quite a while before you even had to think of replacing it. I urge that if you’re buying something to replace something, such as a basic or “essential” in your wardrobe, please opt for high quality, well-made pieces that are versatile and practical for your lifestyle. Even if the price of the piece is high, you are justified in that you won’t have to continually purchase replacements over and over again, thus wasting more money, consuming more, and creating more waste. There’s a wise saying, “Poor people can’t afford to buy cheap things.” It’s absolutely true.
Do you even have room in your allocated wardrobe space for this? If you’re big on consuming, you most likely have already accumulated quite the collection of clothing, shoes, or accessories. This implies that you already have something in your wardrobe that is similar and that you may not “need” what you’re wanting to add.
The last question circles back to the ideas of overconsumption, minimalism, and donations. I feel that most people feel justified in continuing their habits of overconsumption – purchasing several pieces of fast fashion or other low-quality goods – simply because they know charity shops, thrift stores, or consignment shops will most likely accept their rejected goods. Even though people who donate clothing are not throwing their items away into the trash, they are still effectively using charity or thrift shops as their personal dumpster – something that they think will absorb the excess of their consuming habits. As stated in the two aforementioned articles, charity organizations often have trouble dealing with the mountains of donations they receive on a regular basis, and these unwanted pieces are often sent overseas or recycled as rags or other things. It’s an expensive problem on its own, and it’s a cycle that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight – at least, not until the world realizes they need to buy a lot, lot less.