Saturday marks the start of Pass it on Week, Scotland’s annual festival encouraging and celebrating all things re-use. Between 11th and 19th March, people will be encouraged to think about how to extend the life of clothes, toys and gadgets that they have finished with, but could still be of use to somebody else – and there will be events up and down the country at which they’ll be able to do just that.
Groups such as schools, universities, workplaces and community groups will find guides on the Recycle for Scotland website which will help them stage their own events for Pass it on Week: maybe a simple book swap in the office, or a clothes drive for charity. But there’s nothing to stop you from holding your own event at home: it can be a good excuse for getting everyone together, while exchanging the things that you don’t want anymore for the things that you do.
You might have seen the word swishing used before: it’s usually used where clothing or accessories are exchanged in this way, but there’s no reason it can’t be used for other things too. To show you how simple a concept it is – and maybe inspire you to plan your own event for next week? – I hosted a swish-inspired Musical Swap Shop this weekend just gone. And here’s what I learned!
1. Choose a theme
Your typical swish will usually involve clothes, shoes and accessories, but – inspired by a couple of posts I’ve seen on Facebook yesterday by friends trying to clear out their bookshelves – I decided to do something a little bit different. Asking people to bring the CDs, DVDs and books they had grown tired of felt more in keeping with what you’ve come to expect from this blog, too!
If your event is clothing themed, you might want to think carefully about what you ask people to bring – womenswear? menswear? – and take care to have a range of sizes represented. It would be rubbish to show up, ready to swap, and find that nobody has brought anything that fits! One way to get around this could be to include jewellery, bags and accessories that are less size-dependent. The beauty of a swish is that you never know quite what you’ll end up with.
2. Decide on some ground rules
The first rule of Swish Club: make sure you bring something to swish. After that, the rest is up to you as the host.
If you’ve planned quite a small event, you might want the first half-hour or hour to be for browsing only, so that everybody gets a chance to look at what’s on offer and figure out between themselves who’s getting to take the popular items home. It might be worth considering getting people to drop their items off the night before the event, to give you as the host the chance to lay everything out properly – although this might be difficult to do in practice if your guests are travelling to you.
Consider how items should be traded: will handing in one item allow you to take one or more items away, or should it be an item of equivalent value? An idea I’ve seen used before is exchanging the items that you have handed in for tokens or tickets that can be exchanged for similar items, and if you’re opening up your event to people you perhaps don’t know as well – for example, neighbours or friends of friends – it might be worth considering in order to keep things fair. Bear in mind, though, that the spirit of the swish is to find appreciative homes for under-appreciated items – it may be that that Primark pinafore fills a hole in your wardrobe that designer skirt simply didn’t!
I planned my event as a less formal, drop-in style event, inviting people to arrive at any point within a four hour window and to take items to correspond to what they were leaving behind. Sure, it meant that the inventory was constantly changing, but that way it felt a little more about the joy of accidental discovery. Besides, people were welcome to stay for as long as they liked!
3. Put on a spread
Depending on the timing of your event, and how many people you plan to invite, you might want to include some refreshments. For an evening clothing swap, cocktails and nibbles could work – or just do what I did and offer a great big bowl of sweeties!
Something that didn’t occur to me until after the event was that I could have asked guests to bring some kind of cake or biscuit as well as an item to swap – nothing like an afternoon tea theme for a Sunday afternoon! Have the kettle ready, and maybe set up a CD player so that people can have a listen to their new items before they take them home – I can’t think of a more chilled out event, really.
4. After the event
Chances are, you’ll be left with a few items after the event has finished. Of course, your guests might decide to take unwanted items away with them and perhaps donate them somewhere else – but you could always offer to collect in everything left behind and donate it to the nearest charity shop or the one closest to your heart.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have bags of stuff at home right now that you keep telling yourself you will take to a charity shop. Although a swish could be seen as adding even more to that pile, as a swish host the event might give you the motivation you need to finally get around to it!
Fancy it? Recycle for Scotland has all the resources you need to organise your own event on their website. You can also register your event, so others can find out about it.
This year, Pass it on Week is particularly focusing on small electrical items, in response to research showing that it is incredibly common for people to either bin these items when they no longer need them or to shove them in a drawer, long past their useful life span.
You might see one of The Big Electric Amnesty posters and collection bins when you’re out and about next week – most libraries in Scotland will have one, while workplaces and community centres can apply to take one too. Once Pass it on Week is over, Recycle for Scotland’s partner agencies will collect any dropped off items and ensure they go to a good home.
This post is a collaboration with Zero Waste Scotland, but all views are my own and unbiased.