Clothes Swaps Sarah's story
Sarah McDonald shares her story on the Exeter Clothes Swaps:
What inspired you to start the Exeter Clothes Swap events?
I attended a clothes swap at the Exeter Phoenix which was run to raise money for SAFE. I thought it was a brilliant idea. I had so many clothes that didn’t fit and were just cluttering up my wardrobe but still felt like I hadn't anything to wear! Donate some money to charity and get free clothes - it’s a win-win really isn’t it? I attended with a couple of friends and we had a great time browsing and trying on clothes. I came away with less than I’d taken along but I was so happy. I had several new items of clothing which I could wear and more space in my wardrobe. It inspired me to go home and have a really good sort out of my clothes and be brutal about what I actually wore. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a good de-cluttering session. As the Phoenix event was a one-off and I had more clothes to swap, I thought I might organise one myself. I have some experience in running events and spoke to a few friends who were very keen, so went for it.
The first swap I ran was on 8th August. It was a great success, everybody went away with some newly found outfits. So many people asked me if I was organising another, so I decided I would carry on running them and try to run one every few months.
It inspired me to go home and have a really good sort out of my clothes and be brutal about what I actually wore. There’s nothing more therapeutic than a good de-cluttering session. As the Phoenix event was a one-off and I had more clothes to swap, I thought I might organise one myself. I have some experience in running events and spoke to a few friends who were very keen, so went for it.
How do you promote the Exeter Clothes Swap events?
Mostly using social media and word of mouth. The event is run to raise money for charity so there really isn’t much of a budget for promotion. I have set up a Facebook group (which currently has 224 members) and a Twitter account.
I’ve designed and printed several hundred flyers which have been handed out to friends and co-workers (who have then passed them on to their friends and put them up in their place of work). I’ve also put flyers in cafes, and had a few local businesses who have also agreed to help spread the word by handing out flyers and putting up posters.
What makes a really successful clothes swap?
This is a difficult one to answer as I have only organised one so far! However, I think organisation and display of items is important. Clothing rails to display dresses, enough tables to lay out clothes in an organised way. Full length mirrors are obviously a bonus and somewhere for people to try on clothes is essential.
It’s also important to ensure all items are clean and undamaged – you’d be surprised how many items are donated and not put out. They go straight into a clothes bank because they are soiled or damaged in some way.
Do you have any advice for someone who wishes to do something similar in their community?
Just do it! If all of the organisation involved is what’s putting you off, rope a few friends in to help you. Or organise a small-scale swap in your front room inviting friends and family along.
What is your number one waste reduction, reuse or recycling tip?
Never throw anything away that can be reused. I came across this pyramid online the other day and think it sums up the reuse/recycle message pretty well. I’m passionate about re-purposing and up-cycling. And I’ve always been into crafting, making things and painting. I’m happy to have found ways to combine my interests and make art and useful objects from waste. I buy old vinyl records (from the Recycling Centre) and paint them and turn them into clocks. I also use scraps of fabric to make compact mirrors.
I’d like to encourage other people to look at waste in a different way and think about how things can be used for a new purpose. Can you reuse that item you are about to throw away? When you re-purpose an object into something usable, you save money and also end up with something unique. Add to that the boost you get from knowing you are re-using something that would otherwise have ended up in landfill and you can begin to understand why so many people are getting passionate about reusing and re-purposing.