If you still have shoes in your closet from middle school, chances are, you've never been really clear about when it's time to get rid of old shoes. After too much time has passed, shoes that might have gone to the donation bin are suddenly laced with nostalgia and the chances of parting with them becomes much more difficult.
Upon a recent deep closet clean, I came across my first platform Sketchers, and found that they were impossible to part with. Despite the fact that I couldn't fit my foot into the shoe if my life depended on it — and the fact that I don't have a tween daughter or family member to pass them on to — I felt attached to them. They had become a time capsule. Too much time had passed and now I had a nonsensical bond with a pair of shoes that I'd never wear.
All of this is to say that there is definitely a sweet spot when it comes to parting with old shoes. If you get rid of them too soon, you're being wasteful, and if you ignore them in your closet for too long, you're cutting the lifespan of the shoe short. Here's how to evaluate a pair of shoes, and what to do with them if they no longer serve you. Hint: throwing them away is never an option, there's always a more sustainable choice.
Do They Still Fit?
First thing's first, before you even put any thought into the pair of shoes, check to see if they still fit. If they don't fit, put them in the recycle pile or the donation pile and remove them from your closet immediately. Your feet will never get smaller, so unless this pair of shoes is so meaningful to you that you're going to put them in a display box and keep them forever, you need to say goodbye.
Do They Match Your Wardrobe?
Just because the shoe fits, isn't a reason to keep it. Really sit with the pair of shoes and think about how often you wear them, how versatile they are, and how much of your wardrobe they match. If there's a pair of shoes that are similar, and that you wear more, you should think about letting go of the pair you wear less. A used shoe in good condition will find a great home at thrift store, so think about that before holding on to too many pairs of rarely used shoes.
Are They Functional?
If you're on the fence about a pair of shoes, give them a thorough exam to evaluate just how functional they are. Are the soles without cracks? Are the heels securely attached? Is the fabric unscathed? Are there holes? If the shoes are not functional, you're probably tempted to toss them in the trash. But no matter what shape the shoes are in, there's a better option than sending them to a landfill. Organizations like Nike's Reuse-A-Shoe accepts old sneakers that they grind up and repurpose. If your shoes aren't in terrible condition, you can donate them to a charitable organization like Soles4Souls.
Can They Be Fixed?
Even the shoes that have been chewed on by dogs, run over by cars, or dropped in the mud, can make a full come back. There are tons of companies and cobblers that can fix even the most effed of shoes. Before you toss out a pair that you're fond of, check with a professional to see if it's cost efficient to get them fixed. Aka, if you broke the heel of a great pair of shoes, don't be lazy, just take repair the heel and get more life out of them!
Can Someone Else Give The Shoe A Better Life?
I realize this is an abstract question. But if you're trying to clear out your closet and life, you should tap into a little bit of Marie Kondo energy and think about whether or not the shoes belong with you. If you rarely wear them, and have more than enough shoes without them, perhaps someone else might get more use out of them at a second-hand store.