Or, "would you like this huge bag of stuff I don't have time to sort through?"
Since we began hosting regular clothes swaps I am often asked about whether we would like large donations following a major declutter. These questions always come from a good place and are filled with the best of intentions.
A little over 2 years ago I wrote a blog post on finding the right destination for your pre-loved clothes. Much of this advice has not changed. It's not glamorous but can be considered Waste Management. This very same waste was often being marketed just a few short months (sometimes weeks) ago as the most desirable new thing.
There are shocking statistics about the real outcome of the clothes that we believe are raising money for good causes. Carefully chosen pieces that you give to the right charity shops are gold, please continue to do this. Sadly not everything is and we do need to do our research first. If you would like some help with this, I can deliver workshops or speak to any groups you belong to.
Maybe you have guessed that clothes are so much more than coverings or a uniform to me. Every piece has a story. Considering what the next chapter of the story would be has now become part of my process. Picturing the benefit that a donation brings to a small charity, a truly creative upcycled piece might mean for its creator or simply the income gained by recycling garments at the end of their life has become a pleasure, not a chore.
It is this spirit of conscious styling, shopping and swapping that informs the way I live and how I work with my clients. This is why we began the R_evolving Wardrobe. The strange punctuation in the name came about shortly after we began our swaps and is quite deliberate. Changing our relationship with our clothes is a process of growth. I'm not talking about the unicorn "economic growth" that is damaging our planet, more the wisdom & compassion informed by philosophies like the Kindness Economy and Circularity.
The clothes swaps are changing as we discover more about how to help our guests. For now we are sticking with asking our guests to bring just 5 items. Mindful choices of good pieces that would look great on someone else even though they're not quite right for the way you are now are perfect for this kind of event. We do not have premises or storage so surplus is not in our plans.
Any items remaining are curated and we make careful choices about where is the best place for them. This takes time. We hang on to items that fit the anticipated needs of our very varied guests. Some damaged pieces we mend ourselves, some we pass on to upcycling projects. I do take donations to relevant charity shops, I know the local branches quite well so only take what I expect will bring them income. Anything remaining I arrange to be collected by TRAID. I am confident that this amazing charity does everything possible to keep landfill to a minimum and that they are not shipping our waste to developing countries expecting them to clear up our mess.
Our secondhand clothes do not need to be a dirty business. There are so many opportunities for us to make creative use of waste and learn how to create a different clothing economy. That is why the R_evolving Wardrobe is researching how to establish our work as a social enterprise. Do get in touch if you have any expertise that you would be happy to share.