Turning Trash to Cash: 4 Ways to Make a Little Extra by Using or Selling Old Clothes



Whether it’s pre-holiday cleaning or rooting around in the attic for the Christmas ornaments, everyone happens upon piles of old clothes every once in a while. The rule of thumb: If you haven’t worn a piece of clothing in a year or more, chances are you never will. The question is, what do you do with your old clothes? While you probably won’t get rich auctioning them, throwing them away — or worse, letting them gather dust for years to go — isn’t your smartest solution either.

Here are four ways to clean out your closet — and earn or save some much-needed cash in the process. Those savings are bound to come in handy as you tackle your holiday gift list this year.


If you’re the crafty type, think of your old clothes as a bounty of free supplies. With a little bit of sewing surgery, old T-shirts could get new life as dresses, halters or even more fashionably cut T-shirts. Old, unfashionable sweaters might not be something you’d want to wear anymore, but they could provide yarn for your next knitting project. Old jeans can be made into a purse or a jean quilt without a great deal of effort. Other creative uses for old clothes include:

  • Patching material
  • Stuffed animals
  • Covers for household items like lampshades and teapots
  • Curtains
  • Wrapping for smaller gifts
  • Pet bedding

Sell your clothes online

If you have clothes in decent condition, think about selling them. These days, thanks to eBay, Craigslist and Etsy, you don’t even need to leave your house until it’s time to ship them (if that’s necessary).

The main advantage of eBay is the auction format, where bidders can drive up the price of your items, especially if they’re brand-name and designer.

Etsy is a relative newcomer, focused on vintage clothing and handmade goods. (Note that “vintage” is a relative term — stuff from the 1990s is considered “vintage” now in many circles.) Etsy is primarily a fixed-price sale site.

If you want to save on shipping costs and skip the trip to the post office, Craigslist is the place for you — as long as your buyers are willing to pick up the items from your home or work. You can also sell your clothes as a bulk lot on Craigslist more easily than on eBay or Etsy.

Some pointers for selling online:

  • With eBay, Mondays and Sundays are, for whatever reason, the best days for listing items in terms of final sale price.
  • Keywords are your friends. Take a little time poking around and see what common keywords trigger hits for items you are selling.
  • Leverage your social network. Chances are good some of your friends have similar taste in clothes.
  • Take lots of good, quality pictures. Iron the clothes beforehand so they look extra sharp and crisp.

Swap them for new clothes, accessories or other items

Rather than selling your clothes and taking the cash to buy new clothes, why not just trade for what you want directly? This strategy works best for sought-after vintage and designer clothing. Some online clothing swaps include:

  • Beacon’s Closet, with an emphasis on vintage and designer clothes;
  • ReFashioner, which boasts the distinction of vetting all clothes added to the site, selecting for better merchandise;
  • Rehash Clothes, which lets you trade for things other than clothes, like accessories, books and movies;
  • ThredUp, which specializes in children’s clothing, making it a great way for parents to save money. The site also has used toys;
  • SwapStyle, for women’s clothing and accessories only, including maternity clothes.


The IRS keeps fair value rates for all clothes, many of which are significantly below what you would get for selling the clothes. Still, once you’ve explored other avenues, it may be the only thing you can do besides throwing your clothes in the trash — and those clothes will be sold or given to those in need. While your tax savings will likely be minimal — in the order of $2 or $3 per item, even if it’s a pair of designer jeans — it’s better than nothing. You also get the good feeling that comes with helping out your community — and you can’t put a price tag on that.

Cleaning House and Saving Cash

Whether it’s cutting your tax bill, a little extra mad money or new clothes you’re after, it’s lurking in your attic or closet. Often times we hold on to clothing for no other reason than that it’s there. While you probably won’t accept a $3 tax rebate for your beloved vintage Diesel jeans, you might opt to trade them for a cool vintage suit or an out-of-print CD boxed set you’ve been wanting all along.

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Published December 13, 2011 Updated: December 28, 2012
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