the swap begins.

back in the end of April, i went to a fantastic swap. if you aren’t familiar with community clothes swaps, it’s a time when a group of folks gets together, brings clothes they no longer want (and accessories, books, whatever), and makes trades/donations/etc. i didn’t know many of the people at this particular swap, but that doesn’t usually matter as you all just sort of jump in to a pile of clothes and see what comes out. this was a beautiful mix of people across age, gender identity, and skin color. there were a handful of babies, too, content to be in a room full of joyful people, happy to see them and happy to be present. our host, Emma W. (the kind of person who makes you feel like you’ve been friends for years), welcomed us with instructions on where to put different types of items for swapping, a special locale for our own things (so as not to accidentally swap them!), and a warm kitchen full of freshly made food.

i have never been to (and hope to never experience!) a swap where people did not also potluck a whole mess of their own specialty foods, ranging from classic chips and dip and day-old muffins, to fresh baked homemade bread and organic and locally-sourced vegan casseroles. i might suggest bringing a few small, individually-wrapped packages of the food goods you’re sharing for those of us who might also want to swap FOOD (think holiday cookie swap, but even more awesome because it can be any thing, any time!).

we love swapping all of the things!
swappers love good cooks, books, and lovely swapped looks!  (photo cred: Emma W.)

one of the first notable “swappers” i learned about was Amy Lynn Chase, of Haberdash Vintage and Crompton Collective fame, who co-founded The Swapaholics in 2009. i somehow stumbled across Amy on social media and started seeing her pop up all around me. Amy is one of the most creative and collectivist entrepreneurs in the region, and she has played a huge role (in my opinion) in reinvigorating a thriving community-based movement in Worcester. i was lucky enough to meet her at the SoWa market in Boston a few years ago, and i have to say, she lived up to the hype. if you haven’t checked her out, you can find her here. plus she has the cutest dogs and chickens. if you want to go straight to those of the four-legged and fiendishly cute persuasion, click here. (here’s a direct link to one of my favorites, featuring Emma (not the swap host!) and Penny: super pups)

 frantic swapping!   swap crew left photo: i was so swap-excited that i couldn’t get my finger out of the way in time!
right photo: searching through, examining, and trying on. (cred – Emma W.)

since learning about swapping, i’ve been to a handful of them. i actually managed to go a full two years without purchasing any new clothing because of my swap finds. a feat that, if applied to even a few dozen people, would reduce supply and demand quite naturally. sustainability is actually a huge part of all of this. not just in terms of reducing the supply and demand of an industry that can sometimes have a pretty wide and dark underbelly. but in terms of connecting people to one another. of sustaining our access to financially accessible clothing, shared emotional and physical sustenance (because we can also fill our friend groups and our bellies full of goodness), and a network of like-minded supporters. true sustainability is that of the environment, our finances, and equitable communities. (to learn more about this concept, visit ACPA’s Sustainability Committee page and the ACPA monograph Toward A Sustainable Future)

swap3sometimes it’s nice to try something completely unique (photo cred: Emma W.)

people have asked if it’s weird to see others trying on your clothes and hearing their comments on them. personally, i enjoy the friendly jibes. or the excited squeals. and i love it when someone else tries on a piece of clothing that i loved that fits them perfectly and makes them feel like a new person. it’s different from dress up. we’re actually helping to create each other, in context and community.

after the swap, whatever is left is usually donated. Emma’s swap donation plan was to bring any items remaining un-swapped to Boomerang’s, a greater-Boston-based thrift shop dedicated to helping end the fight against AIDS. their efforts directly benefit our community’s health, education, and future.

you can do swap whatever way you like. host a public event with a low fee cover to raise money for charity. have a get-together with friends to refresh your wardrobes. swap with family at the holidays to donate extra items to agencies in your area. the beauty of swapping is that it’s whatever you want it to be: fun, feast, or fundraiser.

every time i’ve attended a swap, i’ve successfully left with a lot more than clothing. swapping is about community, connecting with others in a way that reduces waste and increases connection. you swap clothes and swap stories; try on outfits and new ideas; trade belts and shoes for affirmation and kindness. a true swap is one where you can be honest about what looks good and doesn’t because it doesn’t cost you anything. you can leave with more or less than you came with and it doesn’t matter because it’s different than what you brought in. and the best part of a good swap is, that you’ll be different, too. 

super swap outfits swap walktesting out some swap outfits! (photos courtesy of Emma W., swap host extraordinaire, pictured on the far left and the far right in purple-y excellence)

many thanks to Emma for hosting this swap. big love to Libby who invited me to come. and giant swap hugs to all those who were present for sharing your clothes, your food, and yourselves. here’s to many more swaptastic events to come!


waking into everything

i’m back after a little hiatus. i’m not going to apologize because i needed the break. and part of this project is about listening to myself, allowing myself to find the balance between achieving goals by staying committed because i want to and not because i feel guilty about it or because i think i should. “shoulds” are really everywhere (you can read more about that in my first blog post here) and are much better for future planning (“i should really check that out!”) than cementing ourselves in the regrets of our own history (“i really should’ve told them how i felt”) or the story of others (“i do it this way, so you should, too”). so i’m back. and i appreciate the space, support, and lack of “shoulds”: you’re rad! 

now, on to the actual piece for today. this idea came to me just as i was falling asleep and jolted me up because i couldn’t let it slip into the ether, along with my consciousness, to fall out of my mind like the day. while it is short, it gets at a small moment that i’ve tried to cling to each time i’ve experienced it. i’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback. thanks for reading.

you wake at 4am on a saturday, nowhere to be and no time set to wake, hearing the wind in the trees. the sound, bursting through the stark silence of the darkest part of dark, is everything you could never put into words. and you shake in the warmth of your bed, feeling the energy of the world; the beautiful, noisy quiet, telling you the state of the day. it is a moment between you and no one else and all things. it is the place you had forgotten and always remember, tucked neatly behind your ear. 

you, aching with joy that you woke, let this moment wrap around and through you like a spell-bound midnight vine, saturating your senses, soaking you to the soul; warm, swift air embracing you, lulling you down, back toward sleep and your own interior, velvet darkness. and you know, know with every part of you and see it already set into motion, that this moment quiets you so she may depart. walking down the sidewalk on your street but a wisp and a soft, milky petal, floating on the air. but you’ve seen her. felt her there. and knew her whole life in that moment. and you close your eyes, glad for this, letting it pass with reverence; everything being right and good and as you knew the world has always been, through every moment in the history of moments.

and everything being different when you wake, again, hours and darkness passed, smiling.