What to Do With Old T Shirts

Once upon a time, I didn’t know what to do with old t shirts.

T-shirt quilt, repurposed items, pillows, rugs, Pinterest boards with project ideas… nope!

I had hundreds of ideas and none of them were being executed, the tee shirts just sat in a bin, in the back of my closet, or taking up valuable space in my drawers.

FINALLY!! What to do with old tee shirts. I have tons of pins, but this post has the answer!

Here’s what to do:

Set them free.

Set yourself free.

Use these questions for decluttering your closet and be strict with yourself. Maybe join in the 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge.

Only keep the ones you love and wear.


Here’s my story…

I started my t-shirt collecting habit in high school. For years I saved hundreds of shirts from camps, sporting events, soccer uniforms, cool “vintage” finds, track meets, concerts, college football events, parties, etc.

I wore them! I loved them!

They were cozy and cool and I felt at home, which is how clothing should make you feel.


Fast forward to when I got older.

They didn’t hold the memories that they used to. I didn’t wear my shirts as often because, gasp, I wanted to look professional. I wasn’t as tiny as I used to be and some of my shirts didn’t fit me anymore. The ones that did fit made me look frumpy-ish. I saved them to make a tee shirt quilt or repurpose them somehow.

Then I realized while that a tee shirt quilt is nice for a high school or college kid, my children wouldn’t care much about a old blanket made from rags representing various events of MY life. They’d want something of their own.

What was more important?

A bin full of old rags or an empty bin? A drawer stuffed to the gills or room for clothes that made me feel good?

So I donated most of my tee shirts.


If you think that someone else will love your shirts, let them go.  This list on what to do with your stuff has many options outside of just donating. If it has the potential to make someone else happy, then YAY! That’s awesome.

Not ready? Hold onto some shirts and put them in a bin or bag. Leave them there until you think of them and want to wear them again. If you wear them, keep them. If you don’t, let them go.

Do you want to repurpose them? Then do it NOW. Don’t put it off, make it. And if you’d rather spend your time making something else, then your decision is pretty clear! If you can’t sew and would really like a quilt or other items, contact someone to make for you and get it finished.

If you CAN sew, have the time, and use the t-shirts as fabric, then you are the exception. Kudos to you for being so talented. :)


FINALLY!! What to do with old tee shirts. I have tons of pins, but this post has the answer!

As for my tee shirts,

I kept one Dave Matthews Band 2002 concert tee shirt and use it for painting. I kept a few other smaller shirts that the kids can wear:

  • a Jem one I bought in college (pictured above)
  • an old grade school gym shirt
  • a girl scout shirt I wore as a kid (it was vintage then)
  • a Chicago Bears 1985 Super Bowl shirt my parents bought for me
  • a glow in the dark White Sox shirt

Those shirts make me smile when I see them.

But the 2002 IHSA Track Regionals shirt from when I got a 4th place ribbon for some kind of relay medley? Ehhh, I think I can let that one go. :)


What about you, what do you do with old tee shirts?



  1. Teresa says

    I’m collecting all my girls favorite tees to make them a quilt with. They cut a square of each shirt and use them for panels in a quilt. I saw this somewhere and thought it was a great idea. Of course, I won’t be making the quilts myself but I think it would be such a neat gift to give them!

  2. Jen (Twiddlerhouse) says

    OH. MY. YES. I have been struggling with this same dilemma for YEARS now – almost as long as I’ve been married (17 years). My hubs and I just keep saving them in the vain hopes that I – who really doesn’t enjoy sewing all that much – will make about 4 t-shirt quilts out of them SOMEDAY. I have been asking myself lately – what’s the WORST than can really happen if I just let these go and forget about it? Your post is like a lightning-strike, smack-in-the-head, neon-sign, DIRECT answer to my question. I’ve been decrapifying a lot around here, but there are still some things I just have a hard time getting rid of. I think it’s time to, in the ever-popular words of Elsa the snow queen…LET IT GO! ;) Thanks so much for the encouragement!

    • Jen (Twiddlerhouse) says

      PS – that said, I actually DID make a kid-size blanket from some of my favorite baby clothes – and I’m glad I did. I saved about 9 shirts for each of my boys that had real sentimental value for me (ie the shirts they wore on their 1st birthday), and got RID of the rest! Woo-hoo! ;)

    • says

      CRASH! BOOM! STRIKE! (that was my poor attempt at imitating lightning)

      Decrapifying is definitely a process! I didn’t get rid of my shirts until the 2nd or 3rd time doing 40 bags in 40 days, I wasn’t ready.

      Thank YOU. Your comment just made the time spent writing this post worth it. :)

  3. says

    I’ve enjoyed following your 40 bags challenge this spring. I have to admit, I gasped when I read this post! I make t-shirt quilts for my business. So, anybody reading this who wants to de-clutter but can’t stand the thought of getting rid of the shirts for good, check out my website. :)

    PS, so glad you didn’t get rid of the Jem shirt. She is truly truly truly outrageous.

  4. Lindsey says

    I have hung on to so many drawers full of old t-shirts and I’ve drug them with me every time I’ve moved. As I’ve been decluttering this past month I finally decided that I didn’t need them anymore. I did as you did… Kept a few that had sentimental value and the rest went into a donate box. Not I have room to put a few more things that I actually wear in drawers where they belong. I feels really good!

  5. Sam says

    Thank you! I just donated all my kids shirts that I was going to make something with. There wasn’t really any sentimental value. Time and space is more valuable. And now I am working in my closet, I’m almost ready to get rid of all the things I might wear someday! But won’t!

  6. Patricia Schatzmann says

    I bought 2 groupons for t-shirt quilts for my daughters “old shirts” and jerseys. My one daughter refused to cut up her old memorable tshirts(she is a pack rat). So I used her groupon for myself. I had some high school shirts tucked away in a drawer. I ended up having a beautiful quilt made that scanned 35years of life events. I love it. The repat people did a great job and the groupon saved me approx $25 a quilt. My 18yr old daughter LOVES her quilt made from all of her volleyball jerseys and tournament shirts. I have a really hard time throwing anything away with sentiment. So for me…the quilt was a great option.

  7. says

    I thought for years that I would make a quilt and then I thought – where would I use it. I did take a picture of every significant t-shirt before I donated them all! The digital images take up a lot less space then the t-shirts!

  8. says

    I agree with this 100%. I did make a tshirt throw for my son (and now my daughter’s is in the works) but it was only because he really loved a couple shirts he outgrew and I figured if I made it now while he was still into characters, it would work. Plus I only used 10 shirts each which limited my sewing.


    Because really, if we kept everything because it MAY work as a craft, we would keep EVERYTHING! ha! :)

  9. says

    This is so true and totally hits home for me. I have so many shirts from high school events, softball leagues I’ve been in, concerts, sports teams, etc. Sure, I might wear them to bed, but I probably don’t even wear them all once in a year. I need to get rid of some of them to de-clutter. I know I would feel so much better if I just got rid of some of them and had more space in the closet. Definitely putting this on my to-do list for this weekend!

  10. Diana says

    I have saved several of my son’s shirts for the whole “quilt” intention. This post made me realize that even IF I ever get around to making them into a quilt, he’ll only appreciate it for a very short time. I think I will take pix of each logo and make a scrapbook collage. A page in the scrapbook takes up much less space! Thanks!

  11. says

    First let me say that I have never bought t-shirts. But – 20 years as a Wellness Program or Health Education Director garnered me a LOT of t-shirts. I wear them to work out in. When they get gross I cut the tops off and use the bottoms for cleaning, crafting, waxing furniture, etc. Then they get rewashed until they are too gross and they get thrown away. I feel very good about my t-shirt recycling program! Do I feel that good about some other things I have? Not exactly!

  12. Mary Campbell says

    I’m a quilter, and I say–move them on. You’ve got an item that’s variably attractive and potentially useful. Tee-shirt quilts are huge, ugly and difficult to store. Maybe a wall-hanging collage of the panels from the most significant.

    • Patricia Schatzmann says

      Several people have been negative about tshirt quilts. I will say that my daughter and I LOVE our quilts. We don’t find them ugly or hard to store. I think it is all about perspective and how easily some people can part w/ things. I know that I am a “pack rat” and have a hard time throwing anything away, yet my best friend keeps nothing. I think there are options for everyone. For my family the quilt was a great option and will be with us for as long as we desire. A picture of our shirts would not be as meaningful to us as the quilt. As said, tons of options, pick the one that best suits you or your loved one.

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  14. says

    This may have been said in a previous comment and I just missed it, but I’ve really enjoyed what I did with my “sentimental” t-shirts: After holding on to them FOREVER, with thoughts of making a quilt, like most, I had a similar thought that that just wouldn’t be as cool as I once thought. SO, I took good pictures of the fronts and backs of the t-shirts, then made a photobook of all the shirts, with little explanatory snipits of information about the shirt. Then I set the shirts free. I love the book and it’s a great conversation piece when people are looking at my photobooks and such. And it only takes up about 10 flat inches, which I think is a good trade-off. :)

  15. Em says

    I don’t buy bibs (food/painting) for my kids — I use old favorite shirts (usually with a fun picture on it) and cut it open up the side seams all the way to the armholes and voila! bibs for older kids! Of course, if I’m not ready to part with it yet, or see it destroyed and stained, I may take a picture of it first…

  16. Lyn says

    I started taking close-up photos of the shirts I was keeping just for the memories. Digital photos don’t take up much space at all, and I found it was easier to let the old shirts go if I had a photo.

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