Like so many of my friends, when I moved to Pittsburgh I was dead broke. I had something like $180 dollars in my wallet, and I lost my wallet the night I moved to the city. I didn’t get a job for about a month, and that first pay check takes two weeks to be issued, sometimes three. It wasn’t much.
While struggling to survive financially something major was changing in my life. I came here weighing something around 200 pounds and that weight was coming off as I continued to find parts of myself that I had thought long gone. It was a pretty amazing transformation, but to be honest, I couldn’t afford it. I moved here in August of 2012 and by September of 2013 I weighed around 140 pounds. I now keep my weight between 132 and 140 and feel better at 29 years old that I did from 21-27. At first, though, it was a blessing and a curse.
I had no money to actually buy new clothes and for the first time in my life I genuinely needed an entirely new wardrobe.
This is when I was introduced to the idea of a swap. A bar, called Sonny’s holds (or held? I haven’t been there in quite some time now) a seasonal clothing swap. I didn’t make it the night of the swap itself, I got something just a little bit more fun my first time around. A friend who knew a couple of the bartenders made a phone call after listening to my constant lamentations about jeans that wouldn’t stay up.
Sonny’s is a bar built for drinking. You know the type, there’s a newfangled jukebox, a couple of televisions, and dartboards. None of them set up in a particularly comfortable way, but that’s okay, darts and sports are rarely the primary reasons for a visit to Sonny’s. There’s a back room with another dart board and this was my destination the night I discovered free clothes. When I walked down the steps into the colder space where the staff of Sonny’s store old decorations and live band equipment I was met with a small lake of black garbage bags. Every bag was filled with clothes that if I wanted, I could take. I left that night with one of those bags completely full.
The rules of a clothing swap seem pretty simple:
- Go through your closet and pick out clothes you were planning on selling in that yard sale you never had and most likely were going to donate to charity…eventually.
- Call some friends, have them call some of their friends, and designate people to maybe bring refreshments.
- Put clothes in a house or like above, in a bar.
- Leave the clothes you don’t want – Take the clothes you do.
- Find a charity, something like PickUpPlease.org (Vietnam Veterans Association), that will take the leftover items
- Have a blast. Seriously. This is pretty much what it takes.
Now, I recommend thinking a little more thoroughly than I did when I hosted my first swap. You might want to make sure you have lots of hangers, a few tables, something to hang clothing on, and such. Even some signs to indicate sizes or types of clothing, but we didn’t do that and people found items just fine.
After Sonny’s I was hooked. I am a true clothes horse with no budget for my appetite. It’s easy to see how a clothing swap is pretty perfect for my needs. After my second swap, this time at a friends house, I knew this was something I could do and desperately wanted to. As soon as we moved into our new apartment I made plans with my room mates to get something put together.
In the end, I should have budgeted for more snacks and refreshments, but all I had to do was mention that we couldn’t really afford much and our guests rallied. We had quite a spread. We rigged up a piece of bamboo found in our basement to the mantle in our living room using tack nails and yarn (this failed us once, but only because of my overconfidence in our engineering) and the couch and coffee table were at one point almost indistinguishable under the mass of clothing our friends brought. I was blown away. It was so easy and remarkably fun. So much so, that while I intended on writing this post and had planned to take many pictures of all our guests, I ended up with only a few blurry photos and a ton of great memories. Oh, and my entire closet got a reboot. I haven’t worn the same outfit twice since January 23rd.
I will be holding another swap in the next season, and I challenge every person who is reading this post to do the same. Seriously, how could you go wrong? The amount of money I save knowing that I don’t have to spend 25 dollars on a sweater from Target, or hell even 5 at Goodwill is insane. You’ve been coveting at least one item in your friends closet and if you knew they were willing to part with it, I bet you’ve been coveting more than one. Beyond that it’s just a good idea. Less money being spent on non necessities, community building, and charitable donation all wrapped up in one. No waiting in lines. Wine. You can have wine while you ‘shop’.
So now- Pictures!
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