A few of us from Changeworks and Community Energy Scotland at our Edinburgh offices opened a two-day, pop-up, pre-loved clothing and accessories shop. Or ‘jumble sale’, as we used to call them in the 80s. We’d been inspired by COMAS’ recent Fashion Mash event at the Serenity Café.

Each of us had a few expensive/stylish/little worn items that we felt we wanted to get something back from, and rather than sell them online, we thought we’d give our colleagues the chance to play dress-ups. Predictably, once we got started with the great wardrobe clearout it was hard to stop!

We booked out a meeting room for two days (we have three others!) and it was soon brimming with colourful random items awaiting new models. A cheery sign outside, inspired by several continents of market trading invited folk in: ‘You Like: You Buy’, ‘Looking is Free’, 'Cheap Price Very Nice’ etc and we asked folk to sticker the items they liked with their name so we could track them down later and do the deals.

So, what happened?

Well, several folk emailed to say ‘I wish I’d known – I’m having a clearout!’

One phoned to offer her daughter’s time to shop-keep. Great offer!

Over lunch time the trickle of visitors became a small stream and a few fantasy fancy dress outfits were thrown together.

We marvelled at the size we used to be (both directions!).

Colleagues who hadn’t seen each other for weeks milled and chatted.

Stickers were stuck, and a few coins changed hands. The big ticket items that had spurred us into action didn’t shift, but some everyday items changed hands for between a pound and a fiver.

The pile of clothes grew. And grew.

And grew.

A lot of folk have stuff they want to part with, and somehow bringing it to an event feels better than taking it to a shop, or to the clothing bank. But, once in ‘chucking out’ mode, folk are less inclined to acquire: we want the space more than we want the stuff. We needed there to be more Takers and fewer Bringers. We hadn’t made a Plan A (never mind B) for all the leftovers and we hadn’t bargained for people bringing and leaving their stuff with us!

What we’ve done is pack and unpack bags and bags of clothes, when it would have been far easier to pop them in the clothing bank over the road, or the local charity shop. But less fun.

A next time?

Because it was fun, and it was something different to do at lunchtime, and next time – if there is a next time – we’ll do it after hours so it’s more relaxed and social, and we’ll let folk know sooner.

And we’ll maybe try a barter option next time instead of cash, to make it more interesting. So, something along the lines of, I’d really like one of your dresses you no longer use. After a bit of chat, you agree to accept a jar of homemade rhubarb jam, a yeast free loaf and some yogurt in return. Or I wash your car or bike. Agree an exchange that both parties are happy about, something as nice and simple as that.

And maybe something like a tool swap too, so that people who are less interested in dresses can play.

Have you had a Swishing or swapping event at your workplace?  Was your management supportive?  Did it get your colleagues talking to each other?

Let us know how you’ve made it work, at work, or elsewhere!

A couple of suggestions to leave you with. If you want to swap stuff or skills, try Streetbank. I had good composting chat on there a coupe of weeks ago. And if you’re in the Edinburgh area, you could pick up or download our free Edinburgh Charity Shop and Reuse Map.

- Sitar