Tag Archives: clothes

Don’t give me tat!

Having spent numerous afternoons sorting through donations in a charity shop as a child, I was always amazed by the things people would give ranging from high quality goods to pure junk.

Last summer I was sifting through items to be sent to refugees in Calais, France along with some other volunteers. Many useful things such as clothing, camping kit, practical shoes and non-perishable food were generously donated by the public but on the odd occasion I’d stumble across what can only be described as  ludicrously impractical.

The collection had taken place in a relatively affluent part of London so good quality donations were to be expected. But designer Hugo Boss suits? Dinner dresses and stiletto heels? For refugees who have fled terror and war currently living in squalid conditions? Utterly unbelievable.

Perhaps if the clothing had been donated as part of a resettlement project, providing refugees with smart suits for job interviews for example, then this would make sense. But these items were stupidly inappropriate.

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The donors were clearly having a spring clean and wanted to contribute their unwanted wares to a ‘worthy’ cause, but their ‘charitable’ deeds were completely misguided. And herein lies the problem; Rather than acting primarily out of a genuine desire to help those in need, they were spurred on by a range of questionable motives; namely to appease their conscience, ‘legitimise’ their affluence and ultimately, make themselves feel better.

This also extends the other way, to those individuals who donate absolute tat which belong in one place- the bin. Soiled trousers, torn tops and weather beaten, worn- out shoes; surely if it is not good enough for you, why should it be for someone else?

I truly believe this is what happens when we operate from wrong motives – a sort of disembodied faux compassion. When we fail to fully see people as they should be, as fellow human beings, to be afforded the same dignity we would expect in turn.

There are other circumstances where this could apply such as donating unwanted food to a local food bank. Let’s be honest, how many times have you been tempted to give those unwanted tins, lurking in the kitchen cupboard since time immemorial, to your local food bank? Surely somebody would want that unidentified tinned fruit / vegetables, random pulse or such like, which even you haven’t gotten round to eating despite those bare cupboard / broke days. In all honesty, we would sooner find something else to eat, so why do we insist on giving food that we ourselves would not want? (This piece sums it up perfectly – excuse the naughty language.)

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Another related bug bear of mine, is the assumption homeless people will want things – food specifically- without considering their preferences. Its the equivalent of giving a homeless person who is vegetarian – due to deeply held personal beliefs – a ham sandwich and insisting they eat and be grateful. Just because they are homeless, we assume beggars shouldn’t be choosers. And although there is a modicum of truth entailed in this statement, (if you are desperately in need, you will pretty much take what you are given), irrespective of a person’s status – homeless, refugee, food bank user or someone whose simply fallen on hard times (which most of us have or will at some point) our response should be the same; We see the person, respond to their needs, respecting their being, preferences and desires, and where possible accommodate these accordingly.

May I hasten to add that I am not saying acquiesce to ridiculous requests; a Byron burger when perhaps you can only afford Burger King or a posh sandwich from Selfridges food hall when a similar sandwich from M&S or Tesco will suffice. (Disclaimer: If you can afford to and want to then absolutely respond with radical generosity. But I suspect most people who are in need would be content with a fairly standard version of the said item.)

Nor do I want discourage genuine acts of kindness – even if the outcome is slightly questionable! We may not always be in a position to give people what they want – whether it is due to time, finances or other constraints, but hopefully operating from a place of true compassion and common sense will minimise potential faux pas aka stilettos and Hugo Boss suits.

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Sally’s Saturday Swap Shop

A few weeks ago I went to a clothes swap hosted by a lovely old friend from secondary school. Sally is just about to make a long term move to Japan with her husband and so organised a clothes swap as a way of catching up with friends whilst also getting rid of excess clothing.

Lots of wonderful clothes on offer!

Lots of wonderful clothes on offer!

It was a lovely afternoon- although it ended too shortly (my bad) as I not only got to spend quality time catching up on 10 years worth of shenanigans in an hour’s conversation but it was nice to meet new people and explore some of the wonderful clothes on offer.

I didn’t come well prepared at all but that didn’t matter as my friend and her friends brought plenty of clothes.  In the end, I didn’t come away with anything but this was not for want of quality, stylish clothing- quite the contrary. Just check out this marvellous tartan cape modelled by my friend’s friend (she didn’t mind!) for example.

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And this beautiful navy and purple patterned scarf below:

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My friend is a great artist and has been for as long as I can remember. Her home was full of sumptuous creative, hand crafted things. One of my favourite things was a web of mini tree-shaped cushions hanging in the corridor. The trees were all the same size but each was unique- with no two bearing the same pattern.  Intrigued by this I asked Sally the story behind this and it turns out this was something that my friend and her husband put together for their wedding. Each tree comes from a family or friend, representing their unique identity but is stitched together leaving heart-shaped gaps–which to me symbolised the wider love, unity and support network they have. However they chose trees simply because they love nature and got married outdoors in beautiful mountainous surroundings!

Coloured web of trees

Coloured web of trees

My friend and her husband at their wedding

My friend and her husband at their wedding

Visiting my friend just reminded me that organising a clothes swap doesn’t have to be complicated. You could easily organise a small scale one in your home and invite over a few friends and get them to invite a few of their friends to. It’s a great way to spice up your wardrobe at no extra cost, spend time with friends and potentially make new ones. So what are you waiting for?

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5 ways to get rid of unwanted quality clothing and ‘do good’ in the process

As summer draws to a close and autumn makes it annual appearance many of will be changing our wardrobes to follow suit. In fact you might even go that one step further and use it as an opportunity to have that much needed clear out.  If you are looking to get rid of some of your clothes which are still in good condition, here are five ways you could do so and help others in the process:

  1. Consider hosting a clothes swapping event with a group of friends or attend one of the numerous clothes swap events popping up across the shop. Check out websites like swishing.com, http://www.mrsbears.co.uk  or your local community events noticeboard.
  2. Donate them to your local  charity shop- They are EVERYWHERE from your more well know charities such as Cancer Research and Trinity Hospice to your smaller, locally based charities.
  3. Donate your clothes to  a charity of your choice– this is great if there is a specific cause you are passionate about but there is no high street presence. Check out   clothesforcharity.org.uk  
  4. Bag them up and take them to a local H & M store- For every bag you donate of unwanted clothes you get £5 off purchases over £30. Clothes are sold on as secondhand goods in other parts of the world or recycled.
  5. Send them ‘back home’ – I use this term loosely but as an Afropolitan with roots in West Africa there are a few places I could send them to. (Disclaimer: not everyone in Africa is living in abject poverty and is ‘in need’ contrary to media representation!) Good quality items could go to relatives, to other people locally or could be sold on as secondhand goods.  Lots of my friends with roots across the world (Latin America, West Indies and Asia) do similar things. Its such a great way to bless someone and be resourceful at the same time.
Find me a new home! says my boots

“Find me a new home!” says my boots

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‘I’m coming out’: confessions of a charity shop lover

I decided to write this blog because I am on a journey to live simply and resourcefully. The mantra I aim to live by is to ‘live simply so others can simply live’. My love of charity shops and reduced foods is a constant source of shame, embarrassment and laughter to my nearest and dearest which is just fine by me! In particular I wanted to talk about these things from the perspective of being a British born woman of Black (specifically West African) descent.

A few weeks ago I was talking with my mum and Grandma about my most recent purchase from a local charity shop. Both agreed that they loved the dress I bought and how fortunate I was to have come across such good quality for little cost. However in almost the same breath both immediately said ‘Don’t tell everyone where you go it from even if they ask you. You will be judged by it believe me. People will look at you through that lens and will look down on you for it.’

Now I have no intention of going round with a megaphone advertising where my dress came from, however their views challenged me and dare I say, are not uncommon within some parts of the ‘Black’ community (Disclaimer: this is not to say my relatives constitute the ‘Black’ community or whether there is such a thing as the ‘Black community’ is another discussion altogether).

I have had numerous conversations with close family and friends who have expressed similar opinions mainly of African and Caribbean heritage; shopping at charity shops equates to poverty, hardship and deprivation. Further still I am inclined to think this might be a generational issue with those from an older generation less likely to favour second-hand goods, out of choice, because of the stigma associated with itWhereas for relatively younger generations (not talking teens) the stigma is not so great; depending on what social circles you find yourself in- ‘vintage’ is quite the thing!

I remember as a child hearing one of my ‘aunties’ (aka one of my mum’s friend of Caribbean descent) that you must be careful about purchasing second-hand clothes because they might belong to dead people and their spirits might somehow be ‘attached’ to them. This put me off going to charity shops for YEARS because I was afraid of some sort of spiritual transference.

The truth is you don’t know where the clothes come from. You just have to hope for the best and trust that it comes from the ‘right source’ whatever that is. Things from charity shops might have once belonged to people who have passed on, but equally it might be from ordinary living folk like you and I who no longer need these items. How often have you bought something brand new and decided a few months later you don’t like or need it (and its too late to take back)? Or how often have you gone through phases and decided certain clothes no longer suit the look your going for? On occasion you may even find that items in charity shops are actually brand new surplus stock from major retailers; basically you just never know!

5 reasons why I love charity shops…

I love the idea of:

  • Making ‘ethical’ purchases i.e. knowing a good proportion of the money will go directly to a worthy cause
  • Being environmentally friendly– buying quality items second-hand means that I am less likely to buy easily disposable cheap clothing
  • Buying quality items for a fraction of the original price
  • Exploring and delving through these treasures to find a ‘hidden’ gem
  • Buying ‘unique’ items- charity shops is a great antidote to the latest high street trends

Stigma and superstition finally overcome, I am happy to ‘come out of the closet’ and confess I really like charity shops and am not ashamed of it!

Do you love charity shops if so why? If not why not? What has been your best buy from a charity shop? Why do think there is a stigma with charity shopping with some particular groups? Would love to hear from you!

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