Responsible ways to donate used clothing

Bypass greedy middlemen and get your clothing in the hands of those who need it most

Person browsing colorful clothing on a clothing rack
PHOTO: Becca McHaffie / Unsplash

By: Petra Chase, Arts & Culture Editor

Thrifting has long been co-opted by large commercial entities like Value Village and become increasingly unaffordable for low-income people. Instead of donating to large corporations, here are a few ways to donate or trade used clothing.

Especially as temperatures dip and winter clothing is urgently needed for houseless and low-income folks, one of the best ways to help is by donating to organizations that are built to provide resources to those in need.

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre is a trans-inclusive organization which is always accepting toiletries, bedding, and clothing donations for at-risk women and non-binary adults. Check their wishlist page for an updated list of desired donations and drop-in hours. Items include sanitary pads, underwear, winter items, and bedding.

WISH is another organization accepting clothing and hygiene items, with a specified list on their website. This is a trans-inclusive drop-in centre for Vancouver’s street-based sex workers, and they request that their items are clean, in good condition, and preferably donated in plastic bags. Masks are encouraged and staff wear masks when receiving donations.

Miscellany Finds is a second-hand store and Black-owned social enterprise, which means they invest their profits back into their community for social and environmental change. They also lead programs that empower women and youth to transition into the workforce. Located on Commercial Drive, they welcome clothing and household donations. They require donations to be made in cardboard and plastic bins, and quarantine items for three days before handling. Find more information on their website.

Join your local Buy Nothing group
A Buy Nothing is a social movement and online gift-economy community where people give away and receive items free-of-cost within a neighborhood proximity. It’s usually hosted on Facebook, where you can look up “Buy Nothing” followed by the name of your neighbourhood. Give away almost anything by posting your item(s) in the group and arranging a pick-up or drop-off through private messages. Most of the time, these exchanges will be contactless porch pick-ups or drop-offs, but you can also arrange a meet-up in a public place if that feels safer. What I love about Buy Nothing is the community; if someone is in-need of something specific, they can make a request in the group and get personalized offers from neighbours. As a member, I’ve also received generous gifts, such as a flourishing monstera plant and a puzzle. If your neighborhood doesn’t have a Buy Nothing group, consider starting one!

Participate in a clothing exchange
A clothing swap is a great way to give away and receive clothing, all for free. Most clothing swaps that I have participated in have been hosted by community members in their backyards, and arranged in Facebook community groups. Ignited Mothers Coalition is hosting two clothing exchanges on November 18 and December 16 in North Vancouver. They are an organization built to support mothers and caregivers, with events that aim to build a safe support network. All leftover clothing from the events will be donated to MSUC Thrift Shop.