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Clean Your Closet and Your Conscience

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If you’re anything like me, your closet can be downright claustrophobic. Most days I open my closet and reach for one of a few items that I know I’ll wear. I ignore the dozens of other items that taunt me—that black cashmere turtleneck sweater that my high school boyfriend gave me in 1993, or the suit I bought for a summer internship in 1996, or my grandma’s purple ball gown and sheer purple wrap.


Summer is here, and I want to make room for the new white pants I’ve fixated on, the little black dress I’m dying to sport at a beach wedding next month, and the Christian Louboutin sandals I have to have yesterday.


But a closet full of unused clothes makes me feel guilty and crowded, and just throwing them out makes me feel even worse.                 


The good news is that there are many easy ways to declutter while doing good. Here are some examples of organizations that will take your castoffs and turn them into other people’s treasures.


Suited for Change is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that provides professional clothing and ongoing career development for low-income women who have completed job training programs and are looking for employment. When donating professional clothes, you must make sure they are interview-ready—clean, and in current style and season.


Dress for Success was founded ten years ago in New York City, and since then has helped 300,000 disadvantaged women win economic independence by providing suits for interviews and employment retention programs. There are approximately seventy-five local affiliates of Dress for Success where you can easily drop off a suit that could land a lady her dream job. To read more, see this DivineCaroline article, Dress for Success.


The Women’s Alliance embodies its slogan, “Someone’s Future Is Hanging in Your Closet.” The Alliance is another great place to donate your “gently” used professional clothes and accessories. The organization takes clothing donation one step further by encouraging people to organize clothing and professional accessory drives at their offices, or donating to its Dressing Fine for $29 Campaign.


So what about your college formal dress that you used to love, but can no longer squeeze into? Or that Bridesmaid dress you looked great in before you got pregnant?


There are fantastic organizations that take formal dresses and provide them to high school girls who can’t afford to buy brand new prom dresses. The costs of attending prom are astronomical these days, and by providing a dress and accessories, you can help give teenagers an experience they won’t forget.         


The Princess Project will take the dress that’s just taking up space in your closet and provide it to high school girls getting ready for Prom Night. The Princess Project has helped more than 6,800 Bay Area girls attend prom in style since 2002.


The Glass Slipper Project is an Illinois-based nonprofit organization that accepts prom dresses that are fewer than five years old and in good condition. Although the Glass Slipper Project does not have sites in other states, its Web site has a very useful list of similar programs around the country.


And if you just want to make sure your clothes don’t end up piled up in a trash dump instead of your closet, but you know those Duck Boots you splashed around in during college won’t help someone get a job, there are other places to take them.


Recycler’s World lets you buy, trade, or sell just about any item of clothing. Believe it or not, chances are good that your acid wash tight-rolled jeans from the early ‘80s might be someone else’s dream find.


And for catch-all clothing disposal—an awesome leather belt you got from the streets of Italy and never wore, those boring-but-nice work clothes you don’t need now that you work from home, black pumps that are so two winters ago—there are nonprofits in every town that would love to sell your clothes for next to nothing to people who really need them. Here are some of the most popular:


Goodwill Industries International is where I’ve been taking bags of clothes as long as I can remember. There are drop-off centers around the country, often at convenient locales like grocery store parking lots. 


The Salvation Army is a Christian organization, founded in the 1880s, which also has drop-off centers in just about every small, medium, and large-sized city in the nation.


So now that I’ve cleaned closet and made room for my favorite clothes to breathe,  I can see some empty spaces just begging for those new white pants, that little black dress, and of course, my Christian Louboutin sandals!

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