Sustainable hacks for your wardrobe clean out

As the season changes and we find ourselves with more time at home than usual, why not tackle that classic conundrum – a wardrobe bursting at the seams and nothing to wear.

'I really need to do a clean out and Marie Kondo this space,' you think, but then comes the pang of shame, remembering that 6000 kilograms of clothing is being sent to landfill every 10 minutes in Australia.

Local sustainable fashion advocate and founder of Britt’s List, Brittanie Dreghorn, is here to help us shake our fast-fashion habits and sustainably clear out our wardrobes and reduce our fashion footprints.

Your sustainable clean out starts at the shops

Have you ever thrown away something you've only worn once? If so, you're not alone – about a quarter of Australians have done this. On the upside, that means about a quarter of us have some serious power to make a big difference, by bringing a bit of order into our wardrobes and reducing textile waste in landfill.

Best of all, you don't need to sacrifice your style to be sustainable! Britt also believes this and reminds us the first thing you need to think about before a wardrobe clean out (and before you even purchase a new piece of clothing) is the item's end of life.

“In Australia, we buy 27 kilograms of clothing per person every year,” says Britt, “we also throw away 23 kilograms of clothing.”

This is just the textiles that go straight to landfill – it doesn’t account for the thousands of kilos of clothing also donated to charity shops.

“There is no such thing as ‘away’; your clothes will have to go somewhere,” Britt says. 

“Ask yourself why you are removing the item from your wardrobe and why you bought the piece in the first place, so this doesn't happen again.”

Be mindful about your clean out

Having a sustainable wardrobe doesn't mean we have to hoard every piece of clothing we don't like, wear or fit into. It's about making sustainable fashion choices when shopping and being mindful when we need to do a clean out.

Britt's top tips for an eco-friendly wardrobe clean out - social distance style

  • Try your luck at selling your clothes on eBay or Facebook Marketplace to give them a new life, while making some extra cash. The trick here is not to overprice your items and to photograph them well. Alternatively, save your clean-out spoils and try to sell them all in one go by setting up a rack at a second-hand clothing market at a later date.
  • Gift your preloved clothes to friends and family or organise a clothing swap at your home.
  • Donate, donate, donate! Sending your clothing to landfill should always be the very last resort. You should really try and avoid this entirely. Save your items to take to a charity op shop when they reopen, where they can be saved from landfill and raise some money for a good cause. Charity shops will even accept your clothes that are a bit damaged because they often have relationships with textile recycling companies that can repurpose most fabrics for other uses.
  • Consider new uses for your fabrics. Can it be repurposed into cleaning rags for your home? Could they be cut up and turned into beeswax wraps (perfect for anything 100% cotton). Can it be mended or restyled into something you would wear again?

Resist the fast fashion trap

Now that your wardrobe is looking lean and tidy, resist the temptation to fill it back up again. Break up with fast fashion and find new ways to revive and restyle what you already have. From shopping your wardrobe to colour blocking and pattern clashing, there’s always a new way to restyle a much-loved look.

If you do get the urge to shop, hit up a local online second-hand seller, hunt for a thrifted bargain online or borrow something from a friend.

“The most sustainable piece of clothing is one already in your wardrobe, a close second is second-hand,” says Britt.

When things are ready to reopen, check out Council’s tip shops.

Revived clothing tips

By prolonging the life of existing clothing, you can avoid sending textiles to landfill and feel good about what you wear, while doing your bit for the environment.

When buying pre-loved fashion, remember:

  • go in with an open mind and embrace the unexpected
  • classic clothing never dates, so invest in timeless pieces made from quality fabrics
  • imagine how these new treasures will fit in with pieces in your existing wardrobe
  • have fun with it.

Share your revived style and help inspire others to shop second-hand by sharing your finds on social media using the hashtag #ReviveBNE.


This blog was originally published in March 2020 and was updated in April 2020.

Date posted:
Last updated: 18 August 2020
Topics: green