Recycle Week has been and gone, what to do now..? Have a clear out!

Last week was Recycle Week here in the UK, posing a great opportunity to have conversations about what recycling means, why it’s important – and how we can each make small changes in our own lives, going forward...  

Now it doesn't have to be anything extreme – like moving into a tent, and only eating plants from a shared allotment! And I know it’s the kind of conversation that can make us switch off a little, as there are no visible, instant benefits to ‘being good’. BUT! There is no denying the feel-good factor that comes with doing positive things for our planet. And there are SO many ways in which we can help to slow down the massive rubbish tip that is slowly taking over Earth. It’s an overwhelming subject that is hard to whittle down to one blog post – even if we just focus on the fashion industry, where to start? Designers creating an endless ‘need’ for the newest trend? Cheap, throwaway fashion, that isn’t meant to last – and needs replacing after being worn once? Instagram/celebrity culture making every item of clothing a one-time affair...? Did you know, in the UK alone, we throw away over 350,000 tonnes of clothes into landfill for incineration every year, and much of it is reusable or recyclable?!

So how about we focus on clothes for now? Ignoring our buying trends for the moment, what do you normally do at the 'other end' of the cycle, when you want to get rid of things from your wardrobe? Is there someone you always go to, who loves getting first dibs at your hand-me-downs..? Are you already good at bagging things up, and making that trip to the local charity shop? Is that even something that comes up, or do you hold onto nearly everything (like I do) knowing it ‘might come back into fashion one day’, or it will fit ‘once I’ve lost a few pounds’..? ‘Having a clear out’ has always been difficult for me; think about it for a minute, I’m the person who loves making something new, out of something old – EVERYTHING has potential!

That’s a very tricky mindset to have when it comes to chucking stuff out, because it often means I’ll look at a dress and think “Well, I’ve not worn it in years – but I can see how it would make a fantastic skirt... or cushion…”. I also know, as a seamstress, that fellow crafters can be hoarders – they call it their ‘stash’, and it can get rather out of hand. Hey, I’m not judging! I’m a recovering stash-aholic myself – moving house recently has made me look at everything anew, and getting rid of things has been a tricky but important part of the process. If you’re already having regular clear-out sessions, saying 'Goodbye' to your bits and bobs, followed by a trip to the charity shop, then you can give yourself a pat on the back (or a piece of cake, that feels a bit more celebratory) – BUT there’s something that can now make your life a little easier!

I recently was contacted by the West LondonWaste Authority (who organise Swishes, and I do talks for, as I’ve mentioned before), in partnership with Traid, to create some content around their new homecollection service. They’ve taken the pain out of going to the charity shop to drop off bags, by creating a service where they come to you! No paying for parking, or having to find a convenient time to pop out to drop off your bits – Traid now comes to your house, so you can get on with all the other important stuff you need to be doing! I think that just leads us to the burning question, (if you’re like me, wondering how to choose what stays, and what goes to charity…) how do you do it?!

I have a friend, Andrea, who once told me that she wears ALL of her clothes; and she does it by wearing it ‘in rotation’ – if it’s at the front of the rail, it’s time to be worn. If she ever gets to something she doesn’t like, or won’t wear (for the next couple of days, to allow for changes in the weather, etc) – then out it goes! I love the idea of that – but I couldn’t get my head around how to get it to work, when my moods change – or my tops are in another place, like the drawers. But I definitely admire her approach, and it works for her (hope you don’t mind me sharing your secrets Andrea!!). And, I think we all know someone who uses the ‘capsule wardrobe’ concept, and although I think that can be rather chic on other people – I know it would bore me; I get joy from trying new styles, colours, and combinations! It’s one of the main reasons I got into sewing, to make and find my own style. BUT – over time, I have noticed there are things I can’t wear, that don’t suit me, that I may have bought before, but would avoid now like the plague (anything with a dropped waist, NOT for me – or mustard-coloured anything, makes me look like death!).

 SO – given those personal parameters, I decided to have a clear out, and Traid were there to help! I had a fab time filming a short video with the West London Waste Authority – and although I had fun playing dress up, it did get me thinking about how, and why, I buy clothes in the first place. I’m now also being a bit more strict with the items I’m keeping, going forward. Instead of feeling bad about getting shot of stuff that I bought on a whim, I know I’m helping to give back; as not only do Traid resell clothes in their charity shops, they also fund international development projects benefiting the people and places making our clothes.

I’d love to know what your thoughts are on the video, keep your eyes peeled, it's coming any day soon!
In the meantime, I thought I’d write a check list – a few questions you can ask yourself when you’re having a clear out in your wardrobe, do leave a comment if you have more suggestions, and other ingenious ways of giving your clothes a second life!!
-          When was the last time I wore this item of clothing, did it make me feel happy – was I comfortable? If not, can I change anything about this (length/fit/colour) so that I might wear it again one day? If not – CHUCK IT IN A BAG!
-          If I love this item of clothing, can I say why? Is it my wedding dress, or special occasion outfit – can I make something else out of it? Should it be stored in a special way? Is there someone I want to give it to, eventually? Does it give me pleasure to look at it? If not – CHUCK IT IN A BAG!
-          Did I buy this ultra-violet mohair jumper in a sale four years ago, driven by the massive drop in price, and I’m determined to wear it at some point in the distant future – even though the colour doesn’t suit me, and it makes me itch? CHUCK IT IN A BAG!
-          Being honest with myself, do I only really wear *6 items on rotation, and everything else is just hanging there to make me feel like I’ve got choice?! CHUCK IT IN A BAG!
-          Did I inherit this wardrobe full of clothes, from someone I loved very much, and it’s too much to let go of, ever? This is definitely something that I can relate to – but keeping one piece, as opposed to five, is just as meaningful. And I always think we have reminders of loved ones everywhere, in photos, in places we go to, in conversations… clothes are just one part of that. This is not a time for me to say CHUCK IT IN A BAG!

Thanks so much to West London Waste Authority, for asking me to get involved – and to Traid for supplying facts, figures, and feelgood factor!
Let’s finish with the fun ways you can get involved, other than CHUCKING IT IN A BAG! If you’re based around West London, you can keep up to date with West London Waste Authority events here (I’ll be at the Ealing Swish in November) – or take on their *Six Items Challenge! If you live in the South of the England, check out where Traid’s new Home Collection Service extends to here, and wherever you live, take their #Secondhandfirst pledge and let them know what percentage of your wardrobe you commit to sourcing second-hand, rather than buying new. On that note, head into one of their shops – and see what someone else has decided to clear out. You may well find a brand-new designer ultra-violet mohair jumper hanging on the rails, waiting to go to a good home…

Happy Recycling!
Gema x

*with special thanks to West London Waste Authority, and Traid, for sponsoring this post*


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