Land of the Free, Home of the … Used Clothes?

Clothes. Here in America, we have a lot of  ’em. Shopping has become a hobby for many — recently at the 4-H dress review, I was amused to hear the announcer tell us that several of the girls’ hobbies including “shopping.” When I was growing up, hobbies involved crafts or reading or biking or doing something, not just acquiring more things. But that’s life today.

Even though I’m not a big shopper, I still have far more clothes in my closet than I regularly wear. And my kids’ clothes? Don’t even get me started. Each time I sort through one season to put out the next, I make a vow to not buy ANY new clothes. They just have so much, quite a lot never worn. Sure, much of it includes hand-me-downs and garage sale finds, but still: how much clothes does a person need?

Such a purge inevitably leads to bags of clothing carted off to Goodwill or some other charity, where I hope it will clothe some less-fortunate person. Unfortunately, that’s pretty unlikely. Apparently, most of us Americans’ cast-offs end up in huge bales, millions of pounds of it, classified as “textile waste.” Most of that ends up in Africa, where the natives sort through it eagerly, looking for fashion finds. The article referenced above suggests that the advent of the internet has made even the Africans more selective in what they want. No Walmart-brand shorts need make an appearance in Tanzania, I suppose.

Our family makes several Operation Christmas Child boxes each year to send overseas. We always get a glossy booklet in the mail, showing lovely photos of all the eager kids with their boxes of loot from the Americans. I am amused, noticing so many of the kids wearing clothes that clearly appear have lived a first life in our great land — Justin Bieber shirts. Shirts with faded Angry Birds. You get the idea.

Operation Christmas Child kids with boxes

Did African Walmarts begin selling Garanimals, or is that Jimmy’s back-to-school shirt from 2006?

What can you do to reduce all this … consumin’? One thing I do is assess the clothing I’m ready to part with. If it’s an old shirt that’s in sad shape — maybe with a stain — instead of donating it, cut it up into rags. This is a great idea if you’re dealing with T-shirts and other knits, particularly. For clothing with buttons, cut off the buttons and save them. They can be reused with no problem.

For another approach to our “too much” problem, I was inspired by blogger Money Saving Mom’s “minimalist wardrobe.” Could you make it through life with 5 shirts, 2 pair of shorts, 2 pair of pants, and 2 skirts? Or something similar? Apparently, she can.

Any ideas for reducing the amount of clothing waste we create in this country? I know, it’s not on the level of nuclear disarmament. But it’s the little things …

2 thoughts on “Land of the Free, Home of the … Used Clothes?

  1. Take your old t shirts and/or old sweatshirts and make a comforter. They are not terribly challenging for the average sewer.

  2. When I find something I like, I pretty much wear it until it falls apart. I have outfits that are 20 and even 30 years old, that I still love and wear regularly. I’m not much of a shopper. I really prefer to just stick with what I have most of the time.

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