Donate to declutter

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Have you ever looked at your wardrobe and felt like you had nothing to wear even though it’s packed with clothes? Do you still have the outfit you wore on your first day at college or first date or tacky shirts that have gone out of fashion? I’m certain that your answers were “yes” because many people, especially women, have trouble letting go of their old clothing. Before we realize, our wardrobes clutter but to keep up with the fast-paced fashion world, we keep buying more and more.
It is a struggle to look good nowadays because trends are shifting at the drop of a hat. Besides we feel like we need to change outfits for every occasion whether it’s a friend’s wedding, date or business meeting. It’s no wonder the fashion industry keeps growing while other industries struggle. According to experts, the global apparel market is projected to grow in value to about 1.5 trillion USD in 2020, indicating the strong demand for clothing and shoes worldwide (this projection was made before the outbreak of COVID-19).

The average young adult, aged 25 to 34, spends 161 USD per month on clothing, while those aged 35 to 44 spend slightly more, at 209 USD per month, according to Credit Donkey. The average family of four, on the other hand, is estimated to spend around 1,800 USD per year on clothes, with 388 USD of this on shoes.

In Mongolia, people spent an average of 40,228 MNT on apparel and footwear a month, as reported by the National Statistics Office. Residents living in Ulaanbaatar are found to spend around 4,000 MNT more than those living outside the capital.

Fast fashion is a major cause of environmental destruction. In fact, the clothing industry is considered by the UN Conference on Trade and Development to be the second most polluting industry in the world, after the oil industry. The production and distribution of the crops, fibers, and garments used in fashion trigger various environmental pollution, including water, air, and soil pollution. Textile dying and treatment is said to be the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the world and it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless statistics that spotlight how our fashion choices impact the environment – most of which are negative. Starting from water pollution to waste crisis, the apparel industry is wreaking havoc on the planet. This implores urgent action to cut down fashion consumption, waste, and environmental pollution.

What to do with old clothing?

Becoming more aware of its social and environmental impacts as well as responsibilities, fashion companies are moving toward sustainability. They’re now focusing on quality rather than quantity, incorporating less harmful technology, and transforming old clothes into new garments with a similar system as recycling. This is all good but what do we do with the massive pile of clothes that are stored in our wardrobes or already dumped in landfills?

The first and foremost habit we need to break in is to buy less. There are many alternatives to buying new clothing such as going to a thrift shop, upcycling or redesigning your clothes, swapping outfits with friends, and renting dresses or suits for special occasions. These are great ways to minimize textile waste.

Another important topic is how to get rid of old clothing. Decluttering not only tidies up and organize your wardrobe but can help you choose your outfits quicker and simplify some decision-making processes. Many have a hard time throwing away their clothing for all kinds of reasons. For example, the fashion item may have been expensive or from a famous brand, have sentimental value, remind them of the past, or are just pretty to look at. But what good is an outfit that doesn’t fit you anymore? Wouldn’t it be better to give it to someone who needs it more or make something trendier out of it?  

A traditional way Mongolians used to discard their old clothing is burning. They believed – and some still do – that clothes absorb the wearer’s energy and luck so to get rid of their old clothes, they would either burn it or cut the collar/ sleeves before dumping them. In other words, they made sure no one else could wear their clothes again. I don’t know whether people’s energy really “soak” into their clothing but as the Mongolian saying goes, “yos medekhgui khund yor khaldakhgui” or no harm will come to those who don’t know the rules.

I’ve worn hand-me-downs during my childhood and give out some of my old clothing, shoes and accessories to my relatives and friends, but never noticed much harm. Instead of burning clothing and polluting the environment or even setting fire at Bogd Khaan Mountain like the incident a few months ago, I prefer to give them to those who need it. Not many people are aware but zero waste movement and clothes swapping events are becoming more popular in Mongolia. You can search “kholio solio” on social media and several clothes exchange events and communities pop up. You can sell unused clothing and shoes at second hand stores as well. This way you can hustle while decluttering.

Share warmth through donation

Most recently, Khan-Uul District set up clothing and shoes donation boxes within its objective to transform into an eco-friendly neighborhood. This is a rather new method of disposing unused apparels and footwear in Mongolia. 

In May, the district placed two sets of donation boxes at River Tower Shopping Center and outside of the KFC branch in Zaisan. Local residents have been very supportive of the project as all of the donations are being distributed to poor and vulnerable households, mainly settled on the outskirts of Khan-Uul District.

“Khan-Uul District has 21 khoroos. For starters, we’re distributing donated clothing and shoes to households living on the outskirts. In general, we chose these areas based on a study on target groups. This is the first time Ulaanbaatar has adopted donation boxes,” said B.Myagmarsuren, head of Public Relations Department of the Khan-Uul District Landscaping Services Center.

She added, “We’ve been receiving very clean and wearable clothing from locals. Only a few have been too worn out for others to wear. Residents have been very supportive. They are well-aware of the benefits of donating their clothes and shoes to others as opposed to burning them and polluting streets.”

Pleased with the cooperation of residents, the district is planning to set up donation boxes in four to five more locations.

It is heart-warming to see a whole community come together to help those in need. These donations will serve a greater purpose in winter when temperatures drop to -40 degrees Celsius. However, these boxes aren’t the only ways you can share warmth with others. Many places receive donations and distribute it to poor and struggling families, orphanages and shelters for victims of domestic abuse.

Here are some suggested places where you can drop off your old and unused items.

National Center Against Violence

The center runs 14 branches to help and protect victims of all forms of violence. The center accepts all types of donations (money, clothes, shoes etc.)

Muruudliin Gerel Eco Store

Opened last year, this store sells secondhand clothing, toys and other items from people living in South Korea for cheap. It is operated by single parents and people with disabilities.

Javzandamba Khutagt Center

Since 2011, this center has been collecting winter clothes, hats, scarves and gloves every autumn and winter to help low-income families and those with many children.

Tsetsee Gun Rotary Club’s Carebox Project

Launched in 2013, Carebox Project collects donations from companies, organizations and individuals to provide clothes to cleaning and relevant service workers in Ulaanbaatar and people affected by flood in Bayan-Ulgii Province

Kholio Solio Facebook page

This community holds seasonal swapping event for clothes, shoes, handmade crafts, organic products and other goods.

Zero Waste Community

This group aims to support and share information with each other and frequently holds thrift events.

Donation will make you feel better than filling up a landfill but make sure to choose a community or organization with values that align with yours. Just do some research online or phone them directly to check where your clothing would go to and make sure it’s not dumped but used to achieve a purpose.

Sustainability is essential for our future and it requires several steps to achieve but every step in the right direction creates a brighter future. Therefore, shop smartly, donate or recycle your clothes and try to avoid creating more waste.

Dulguun Bayarsaikhan