Happy Holidays!! I'm Jasiel, and I do marketing and content creation for Housing Works. I'm not the hardest person to shop for, but I'm definitely picky when it comes to getting new clothes that fit my style. No matter how much I try to warn against it, there’s always one well-meaning cousin who sends me a sweater or a skirt that I immediately know will never see the light of day.

Instead of letting these unworn gifts collect dust in my closet until enough years have passed for me to get rid of them without guilt, this year, I’m going to upcycle.

Upcycling is when you take something that would otherwise be discarded and give it new life. While recycling is about breaking down materials to create a new object, upcycling is about repurposing an existing object to make it more useful and valuable.

If you’re wondering how to upcycle clothes, join the club. I used to think upcycling was only for the chosen among us who know how to use a sewing machine, but I’ve been surprised to find so many different strategies for transforming fashion. You can tie-dye, cut and crop, iron-on patches, embroider, add a pocket, turn a shirt into a skirt, fix a button...the possibilities are endless! Even changing the way you style or layer a piece can give it a whole new feel. I’m no fashion designer, but it has been so fun to flex my creative muscles and create new looks that are totally me.

Plus, a major bonus of upcycling is that it is good for the environment. The United States produces around 17 million tons of textile waste annually, so by keeping my ugly (I mean, thoughtful!) Christmas gifts out of landfills, I’m doing my part to prevent unnecessary waste. Upcycling is a win-win because I get to create something new for me and help protect the planet all at once.

I don’t want to spend another year being haunted by the Clothes of Christmas Past. By upcycling, I can turn something that I’d never wear into something that I can’t wait to show off.