Marks and Spencer, the ultimate in English shopping experiences, has launched a new initiative this month: Schwopping. The idea is that every time you go into their store and buy something new, you take something old to donate to charity. The old clothes go to Oxfam, who sort them out in the usual way to see what can be resold and recycled.
As a long-time devotee of charity shops (AKA “thrift stores” in the USA and“Chazzas” round these parts), I am fully behind this M&S initiative. Charities are crying out for new donations at the moment – people are less likely to be clearing out their wardrobes, what with the recession ‘n’ all that.
The thing is that Schwopping is a brilliant initiative, and it’s got a lot of press to give it a good start, but I struggle to believe that people will actually think to take old clothes with them when they are going out shopping – or, indeed, on a day when they might just happen to pop into a shop. Plus, most of you reading this will not live particularly close to an M&S…!
I know I won’t ever remember to do things in the right order to do Schwopping in the right way. Inspired to do a good deed by Joanna Lumley (beloved Brit national treasure, and the face of the campaign), I’ve had a little think and promised myself that I’ll just adapt the idea a little bit.
Here are some other ways you can ‘Schwop’ without too much effort – and ways to make it really fun!
One in, one out
Even if you don’t have a Marks and Spencer in your town (as most of you won’t!), you can still just put something from your wardrobe aside for charity each time you buy something new. It means your wardrobe stays fresh and you only bother storing stuff you actually want to wear.
As a massive fan of the ‘one in, one out’ wardrobe policy, I understand that it requires some serious commitment. The thing is that it really *does* make you think twice before buying something new. Do you *really* need another pair of jeans? What makes these any better than your existing pairs? If better, which old pair will you get rid of to make space?
One out, one in
Turn the above on its head to do double the good AND keep space in your wardrobe. What I do on rainy Saturdays is go through my clothes, pull out anything I don’t wear, and donate it to the charity shop. While I’m there, I let myself buy as many new items as I just donated. The charity gets twice the benefit and you get ‘new’ stuff – you never know what gems can be found in a thrift store! Wins all round.
Clothes swap parties
I freaking LOVE clothes swap parties. It’s that opportunity to try on your friends’ clothes – often stuff you’ve been coveting them on for ages but which they are now bored with. We find it works best with about ten people, with lots of notice so everyone has a nice big bag of old clothes and accessories to bring. You all rock up at someone’s house, drink tea, or maybe a sneaky gin and tonic, and spend a lovely few hours trying on clothes with your friends.
You can turn the whole afternoon into a series of games (worst outfit from the selection, best outfit from the selection, who can put on five items most quickly, etc.)
For each thing you take away, you pop £1 into a jar for charity, and anything left over can go straight to the charity shop the same day.
Until last year, I genuinely thought that charities would not want hole-y or torn clothes, and that I had to throw these in the bin. Looks like it’s not just me – M&S say in their Schwopping info that 114,000 garments are thrown away in the UK every hour. I dread to think how much that is when multiplied for the USA and the rest of the world.
Turns out, they do still want worn clothes, for recycling to reduce landfill waste. Since then, I’ve noticed that clothes recycling bins are everywhere – in the UK, at least. I just hadn’t noticed before. Now, I make sure none of my clothes go in the bin, as many as possible are donated, but the rest is recycled.
Whatever you do with your old clothes, make sure they do something good. I know people who still throw things in the bin because they can’t be bothered to take it to the charity shop. But, believe me, it’s not that much of an effort and the good it can do is immense. Plus, “Schwopping” is a fun word to say. Try it.