Clearing out old clothing for recycling or giving to charity is often something we are all guilty of putting off. It’s troublesome and tiring, not to mention difficult – what if I get rid of this top I’ve not worn in three years, only to regret it in the future?
However, as climate emergencies are declared across the world it is becoming increasingly important we make a sustainable choice in the disposal of unwanted clothing. In the UK, there is an estimated £30 billion worth of clothing lying in wardrobes unused with a further £140 million worth ending up in landfill every year. This is not only extremely wasteful of our planet’s finite resources, but also of our own finite finances.
So, how can we motivate ourselves to dispose of our old clothes in an eco-friendly way? And what is the most sustainable way of doing it? Reusing clothing is the best method of textile recycling, as it prevents pollution and saves energy on the production of new clothing. So it’s good to get creative with reusing our old garments.
One increasingly popular way is to organise a ‘swishing’ event. ‘Swishing’ is a word originally meaning ‘to rustle, as silk’; however, it has been adapted to mean ‘to rustle from friends’. Swishing is a clothes swap party you can organise with friends and family in order to recycle and share clothes in a fun, environmentally friendly way.
Founded by Lucy Shea, Chief Executive of the sustainability communications firm Futerra, she says her creation is a great way to “Save money, save the planet (and) have a party … Swishing parties are for all those women who want to combine glamour, environmental protection and frugality.”
So how does it work? To start, each person brings along as many unwanted pieces they are ready to part with, all of which are sorted and displayed in the ‘swishing room’. It’s probably easiest if this room is separate from the rest of the party – for example, if you’re holding the event in your house, a bedroom might be best. All the guests can then go and ‘shop’ in the swishing room.
There are a couple of ways you can organise how guests will actually shop. A common route is to give guests tokens in exchange for donations, which can then be spent on some new pieces. Or, you can make your swishing a fundraiser as well, and have guests make a monetary donation per piece of clothing they’d like to take home.
This is how my annual family swishing works. Every October, my mum’s cousin Carole-Anne hosts a swishing for all of her female family and friends as part of her fundraising efforts for Wear It Pink, in aid of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We all wear pink clothes, drink pink fizz, eat pink cakes, play games, and donate money to take something from the swishing room. It’s an important night for us because it’s a lovely way to commemorate our loved ones lost to breast cancer.
I’ve had some great finds at swishings over the years – last year picking up a black Berghaus jacket I wore throughout winter. Some of my favourite clothes I wear year after year are pieces found at a swishing – an old velvet shirt of my Nana’s and a red sundress for instance. But our swishings aren’t purely restricted to clothes – a couple of years ago I managed to get my hands on a brand new Bare Minerals makeup set, and my auntie picked up a snowboard.
I also find our annual swishing parties are brilliant at motivating us to have a proper clear out of our wardrobes. Sometimes I’ll see something I no longer wear, but have been hanging on to, and think of someone going to the party who may like it. Having someone in mind who may like the unworn dress or top encourages me to actually part with the piece.
It means clothing gets a new lease of life from a new owner – someone who will find it fresh and exciting to wear. For me, swishing is proving to be a worthwhile option for clothing rather than having it binned, or even putting into recycling. There is a pleasant satisfaction to be gained from sharing and swapping your clothes.
So, why not organise a swishing party of your own? It’s a great excuse for a get together with your friends and can be tailored to your own interests. For example, it may not be clothes you opt for as swishing can work equally as well for books. Or, homeware if you are looking to redecorate. Find a swishing theme that works for you.
Alternatively, if you don’t fancy organising your own swishing and would rather test the water before taking the leap and organising a party, you can get involved in some of the parties open to the public. This would be a great way to pick up tips on what makes for a successful swishing!