Enough Acquiring Too Many Clothes Just Because They’re Free

Enough Acquiring Too Many Clothes Just Because They’re Free

I hate shopping. And I know enough about sweatshops to feel guilty buying clothes I know nothing about. So currently, the vast majority of my wardrobe comes from clothes swaps. I went to my first clothes swap ten years ago and was instantly sold. A woman giving up marathon running gave me all her running clothes as I started training for my first. Women finished being pregnant gave maternity clothes to new mothers. A woman who wore the exact same jean size (and length!) as me simply swapped with me to get a fresh look. I got rid of clothes I wasn’t wearing and took home clothes I would. New wardrobe for free. Amazing.

Since then, I have thrown several successful clothes swaps. It’s fun to watch women support each other in trying new looks without breaking the bank. It’s fun to hold onto your clothes loosely. I always bring items I actually really like, trusting others will do the same. What’s new to me is new! And I love seeing something that doesn’t quite work on me become a perfect 10 on another woman. If you have never done clothes swaps, I would highly recommend them. Invite a slew of women to go through their closets for clothes, shoes, jewelry and accessories they don’t wear much. Make piles according to size and go to town. Donate what doesn’t get swapped, and repeat annually.

A decade into clothes swapping I have a new problem. Because the clothes are free, I tend to take too many. I’ve been hoarding used clothes slowly but surely without noticing. I have the reputation as a swapper, so people offer me free clothes all the time outside the swapping arena. If I’m not discerning enough at the swap, I bring home a bunch of clothes that are good, but not quite perfect. Then I get overwhelmed looking in my overflowing closet.

To recommit to clothing simplicity, I need to move toward defining simplicity by quality over quantity. For example, the other day I bought a dress from a local designer at a local store for a fair price. It fits me perfectly (size, color and style) and I wear it all the time. Every time a wear it, I get multiple compliments, which reinforces me wearing it more. There’s nothing wrong with supplementing my swapped wardrobe with clothes bought fairly. I want to support artisans. But meanwhile, several swapped dresses that only kind of work sit in my closet with others that more than kind of work that I have forgotten about in the mounds of free clothes. Reusing doesn’t support simplicity if it’s not really being reused.

So. I’m in the process of updating my swap mentality in a way that embraces simplicity again. To celebrate the swap, I need an overhaul. My plan is to downsize and then maintain my wardrobe with less quantity and more quality so I use what I have. I have a swap coming up. In preparation, I’m going to try on every single piece of clothing I have and keep only a strategic combination of items that I will wear all the time. I will hate this process, but it must be done. I have too many clothes.

I started clothes swapping in hopes of having my clothes reflect my commitment to simplicity. My wardrobe isn’t simple anymore just because it’s made up of reused items. Reused items are only smart if I use them. In this case, less is less. I’m seeking simplicity through a smaller, smarter closet.