10 Ideas for Reusing Your Kids' Outgrown Clothes

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Stuck with loads of outgrown clothes? These 10 ideas — featuring 5 from Recyclebank members — will help!


As my youngest (and last) daughter starts outgrowing her clothes, I can’t help but feeling nostalgic. After all, much of her wardrobe she inherited from her big sister, and in some cases, the clothing was hand-me-downs at least thrice over, as they were things I’d bought for my eldest at consignment sales, or that friends with older kids passed along. Certain dresses or T-shirts give me fond associations of a favorite outing, a photo I love, or a milestone accomplishment.

But now as Gillian outgrows her clothes each season, there’s no one left in the house to save them for, which in a way is a relief, as it frees up much-needed closet space. It’s a situation that plenty of parents face: What to do with a surfeit of outgrown clothes as your child ages?

Recyclebank recently posed a question on Facebook, asking members for ideas on how to repurpose a toddler’s outgrown pants, and was rewarded with dozens of suggestions. The creative ideas from the Recyclebank community inspired this list of 10 ways to repurpose, recycle and otherwise divert used kids’ clothing from the trash.

1. Donate to charity. Clothing that’s in decent condition can always be found a new wearer at shelters, Goodwill or other charitable organizations.

2. Send it to school. Recyclebanker Lizette A. pointed out that preschools and elementary schools are often in need of “backup clothes” for kids who spill on their clothes or have an accident. The art teacher might be able to use larger T-shirts or button-down shirts as smocks for students to use while painting.

3. Sew a quilt. For t-shirts with cute sayings, shirts or dresses with neat patterns, or particularly memorable and special outfits, cut out squares of fabric and turn them into a quilt that you can use in your child’s room as a throw blanket or a wall hanging.

4. Make a mini scarecrow. For a cute Fall yard decoration, baste together a pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt and stuff them with straw. Top with a pumpkin or a stuffed burlap sack for a head. Thanks to Recyclebanker Sharon H. for this unique idea!

5. Turn pants into a tote. Cut the legs off a pair of kids’ jeans or cords, sewing the bottom closed and affixing a long strap to the top opening to make a tote bag that can be worn slung over your child’s shoulder, perfect for gathering seashells at the beach or rocks while on a hike. The bag is also the perfect size for small garden tools, as Recyclebanker Shannon C. pointed out, and the strap can be slung over a wheelbarrow handle or a fence post, too.

6. Restock your cleaning rags. Fleece pajamas and cotton t-shirts are the perfect fabrics for rags and dustcloths. Cut them into squares and keep them with your cleaning supplies.

7. Refashion into new clothes. Many Recyclebankers suggested turning old clothes into totally new clothes. Try turning jeans into a cute denim skirt, or turning a sweatshirt into a cardigan, or cut pants into shorts if they still fit at the waist.

8. Earn a few bucks. Consider selling good-quality outgrown clothes at a consignment shop or sale, or at a resale shop like Kid to Kid. Keep in mind that many consignment-type places will only accept clothes that are in like-new condition.

9. Make a planter. Turn a pair of jeans into a whimsical hanging planter with these instructions .

10. Salvage for parts. Recyclebanker Jodi J. suggested removing zippers and buttons to reuse for a sewing project, and Recyclebanker Kristi H. suggested making arm or leg warmers — knitted fabrics are especially good for that. You can also cut out pieces of fabric to use as patches, and make braided jewelry from strips of fabric cut from the clothing.

What are your favorite ways to upcycle your kids’ clothing? Share your ideas in the comments below!

Jessica Harlan

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Every Monday, I'll be here to share one, two, three… sometimes even ten! eco-friendly ideas at a time, so we can all do a little bit to save the Earth.

When I'm not making lists, I'm taking care of my two daughters, volunteering in my community, and writing articles about food and cooking — I'm the author of three cookbooks: Ramen to the Rescue, Tortillas to the Rescue, and Quinoa Cuisine (co-written with Kelley Sparwasser), and my fourth, Homemade Condiments, will be available in Fall 2013.


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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Bradley B. 11 months ago
    - Facebook & other online social media have local member groups where people can resale their clothing to other members of the group. You may even start a group of your own. My wife is an administrator of a group of over 700.

    - Foster Parent resources maybe provided locally for child clothing donations. States have different monetary allotments for clothing to foster children & it's usually not enough for a child's actual needs.
  • Vikki L. 11 months ago
    I am glad that I did all of it.
  • caroline m. 11 months ago
    Good ideas
  • Bernadette E. 11 months ago
    I pass my children old clothes to relatives or friends that have younger children.
  • Lorelei O. 11 months ago
    Use old bed linens for dog beds. Stuff with old towels
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