Places you should and shouldn't donate your clothes

We get it. Your closets are full and all you want to do is Marie Kondo your space so you can finally see everything you own. But before you start throwing all your unwanted items into a box and offering them to a local charity or thrift store, you may want to know where your clothes (and by extension, your hard-earned cash) are going.

Fashionista reports that thanks to fast fashion, Americans are buying and dumping clothing at historic rates (think five times more than we did in 1980), with the U.S. dumping 40 percent more textiles in 2009 than it did in the 10 years before. Given all that extra, you'd think there would be enough gently used items to be handed to those that need it most. But that's not the case.

Where not to donate your used clothing

"People think when they are giving to, say, a Salvation Army or Goodwill, that all of that is going to be resold in their stores, and it's just not, because they don't have enough room for that," says Jackie King, a director at a secondhand textile trade group told The Atlantic. In the end, national charities like Goodwill take only as much as 20 percent of clothing donations to sell in their stores. Part of your donation will likely be sold to a for-profit company which exports used clothing for resale to poor countries in Africa and South America, and part of your donation will end up in an American landfill where it will join the 12 million tons of unused textiles that end up in landfills every year.

If you're not interested in being a part of this clothing narrative, Fashionista advises you to take a hard pass at national charities like Goodwill, and pay attention when you decide to drop your clothes off at a recycling program managed by your favorite fast fashion clothing retailer, like H&M, American Eagle Outfitters, and Madewell, so you can at least make an informed decision on how your clothing can be used. Better yet, try and stay away from fast fashion altogether.

Where you should donate your used clothing

If you've got a box (or two) of clothing to spare and you think there's still plenty of wear left in them, Fashionista says you're better off heading to local churches, local women's shelters, as well as violence and domestic abuse centers, where you will find women who have often left home with only the clothes on their backs. Food banks and homeless shelters are another option, and if you or your significant other has gently used business suits to give away, organizations like Dress for Success and Career Gear will breathe new life into your clothes by distributing your items to people who are trying to find work but can't afford to look their best (via The Balance Careers). Blogger Katelyn Fagan also suggests giving used clothing to disaster relief organizations like the Red Cross also need clothing (particularly after natural calamities like hurricanes and wildfires) — but only when donations are requested (otherwise your donations end up getting tossed, too).

But before you take the time and the trouble to donate your used clothing, examine items for wear, tear, and stains, and make sure they are clean, so those that might need your old things will see the value of what you have to offer. Otherwise, save the charity some time, money, and trouble, and toss your unwanted things yourself.