By B.J. Coleman
Even in sunny San Diego, the turn of seasons exerts an undeniable pull. The cocooning and cozying that felt just right in winter breaks away as spring arrives, with the warm weather promising lighter, fresher, airier days ahead.
And whether you come from a family tradition of spring cleaning or you must reorganize your clothing storage to simplify daily routines, an excellent place to start preparing for springtime is by emptying the closets, shelves and drawers holding your wardrobe. Moreover, with Earth Day approaching, what better time to find new ways to recycle, repurpose and reuse your clothes?
I Love A Clean San Diego reports the dismaying fact that Americans throw out an average of 65 pounds of textiles a year. But there are better ways than trashing unwanted clothes and linens.
Clothes and shoes in good condition are accepted for donation by many area charitable organizations. In exchange, you can receive an income-tax deduction form stating the value of your donated goods.
The least fuss, least muss donation process is to give clothing to a group that will schedule a pickup at your home or other specified location. Vietnam Veterans of America, which is dedicated to providing services to all military veterans, will come get your clothes and haul them away for you with easy online scheduling (www.pickupplease.org). United Cerebral Palsy’s UCP Thrift Stores will set up a pickup within a few days of being contacted (www.ucpsdthrift.org), or you may drop items off at store locations in City Heights, Pacific Beach or Chula Vista. These organizations run thrift shops or align with other charitable thrifts, using the income from item sales to fund their community service programs.
The Salvation Army will come get your unwanted clothing, too. You can schedule to have your donated goods picked up by calling 800- 728-7825 or online at satruck.org. The Salvation Army eases the donation process by providing a valuation guide for adding up the amount of tax deductions reasonable to claim for your donated goods. And not only do donations in the Salvation Army’s various Family Store shops bring in money through sales, the donated items also provide work skills training for those enrolled in the group’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARCs).
Blake Swarthout is resident manager at the ARC in Downtown San Diego, located at 13th Street and Broadway. He currently has 100 men in residence at the facility. These program enrollees are housed long term, for a minimum of six months but up to one year for rehabilitation from alcohol and drug abuse problems. Many have been unemployed for several years and need job retraining. Their work therapy assignments are in the on-site warehouse, where donated clothing items are delivered. The ARC workers clean and inspect the garments, and then hang them on hangers. Swarthout considers his work in this program a ministry assignment of his own. His associate, Corps Ministry Assistant Taneya Garrett, points out as well that the Salvation Army keeps donations local.
“Everything goes back into the community,” she said. “Whatever is donated in the community raises money that is used for services to people in that community.”
Bins for clothing donation to charities are also scattered throughout San Diego County in various locations. Goodwill Industries requests “clean, gently used” clothing but will only pick up large donations of 50 or more bags. Items for donation may be dropped off at any Goodwill store.
Miramar-based Ripple Textile Recycling partners with community organizations to organize fundraising events that collect gently used clothing, shoes, accessories, belts, purses and other household textiles. Find a list of events and the organizations they support at RippleTextileRecycling.org/fundraiser-events.
If you have the time for treating special garments with special handling, specific donation sites exist. Got an unneeded formal dress? You can make a young lady’s formal-dress occasion easier by donating a prom dress or wedding dress to local charities. Get linked up with this program at www.donationtown.org.
Career suits? Dress For Success (www.dressforsuccess.org) targets clothing and career development assistance to disadvantaged women. The San Diego affiliate is located at 112 Broadway, Suite 200, in Downtown San Diego. Reach them by phone at 619-533-6014.
Nike will take donated athletic footwear. The Fashion Valley store, at 7007 Friars Road, Suite 770, will accept sports shoes of any brand in any condition, except for those containing metal or cleats or those that are wet. Through Nike’s Reuse-A-Shoe program, old sneakers go into a grinder, with the resulting shredded material used to create new sports surfaces, such as basketball courts, tracks and soccer fields. To date, 28 million pairs of shoes have gone into the shredder, producing surfaces covering 632 million square feet, almost enough to turn all of Manhattan into a sporting field.
If, however, your budget for replacement clothing is lean, another clothes recycling option is resale. Items can be resold or traded through resale or consignment shops. (Comparable websites for clothing swaps are available as well.) Some local resale stores specialize in keeping current or classic items in stock to draw shoppers looking for high fashion at low prices. In and along the Mission Valley corridor, Dress To Impress (4242 Camino del Rio North #9) and North Park’s Frock You (4121 Park Blvd.) will take specialty and high-fashion items off your hands and put something back into your pocketbook.
Wear It Again Sam was a legendary vintage and costume clothing shop in Hillcrest until closing up its storefront doors. The business now operates online (wearitagainsamvintage.com). The enterprise still deals in clothes from the late 1800s through the 1950s, purchasing, selling and staging trunk shows.
Buffalo Exchange offers a wide choice of currently fashionable clothes for resale or trade. With stores in Hillcrest and Pacific Beach, the convenience is enticing to take your discards and get something that is fresh and new for you. Buyers and store attendants described the kinds of clothes the stores are interested in purchasing. They are selecting seasonally, while also featuring a sampling of best-of-all seasons clothing. You can sell Buffalo Exchange your ugly Christmas sweater or your overused Halloween costume. Either store will take vintage or one-of-a-kind pieces for resale. Straight leg denim is on the stores’ usual purchase list. Right now, the stores are in need of spring and summer clothing in light colors and light fabrics, and especially seeking men’s clothing. Footwear in demand includes sandals and open booties.
Additionally, Buffalo Exchange has two offers highlighting the enterprise’s environmental efforts in conjunction with Earth Day. From now through April 22, any donated fur items can go into the “Coats For Cubs” program, which provides the unwanted garments as bedding for orphaned baby wildlife. And on April 18, the stores will feature an Earth Day Sale, with selected items going for $1 apiece.
A house-party clothing swap among friends is another budget-friendly possibility for restocking your cleaned-out closet – and fun too. A do-it-yourself website (such as www.ehow.com) can help get you started with ideas for planning and hosting this kind of party.
As for those pieces you have doubts about? Very worn but clean clothing may be of use to shelters for homeless persons and abuse victims. Check at local churches with homeless outreach programs, which might accept your well-loved favorites for reuse.
The H&M store at Fashion Valley, 7007 Friars Road, Suite 701, offers a recycling program that will take a bag of old clothes and household textiles in any condition, and in exchange provide a voucher that can be used on a purchase at an H&M store (maximum of two vouchers per day).
Very damaged fabric items can still be reused in creative ways. Know any quilters? Even small, torn pieces of sturdy clothing can be re-sewn into such quilted goods as potholders, coasters and purses. Feeling ambitious enough to learn a new craft? Look for patterns and suggestions for quilting your own leftover fabric swatches into something new and useful at craftsy.com.
You don’t have to let usable old clothing go to waste. Give it a new use or give it away – don’t throw it away.
— B.J. Coleman is a freelance writer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.