Tip 11: Host a clothes swap

Remember back in Tip 8 when we had our ‘no’ pile of clothes? Those items that no longer have a place in one’s wardrobe and can’t easily be repurposed as sleepwear, activewear or comfortable-at-home clothes.

Well, my personal philosophy is that clothes should be worn until they are worn out (mainly for environmental reasons, because of the effort that goes into producing a garment I personally feel that wearing an item until it wears out is the best way to do justice to the item). However, I know sometimes I end up with a mistake or my tastes change and I simply no longer see a need for a few particular items. That’s where a clothes swap can be really handy. 

I have hosted a clothes swap and attended several others. It’s a pretty straightforward event to host. Personally I like to use it as an excuse to engage in one of my other favourite activities, baking, so ahead of the swap I’ll make a cake and ensure I have some nice teas on hand. The other swaps I’ve been to have also had some light snacks for guests. 

On the day itself everyone is encouraged to bring some items to the swap (though they certainly are not required to). Typically these items are clothes and accessories still in good condition which the owner no longer needs or wants. During the swap each person holds up and describes the items they have brought (eg the cowl neck on this sits well I’m just bored of wearing this top to work; the jeans are near new but too big at the waist; etc) and guests are encouraged to take items of interest. Usually this is carried out in the lounge and then guests head off to bedrooms or bathrooms with a mirror to try on the items and assess the fit. 

I have found this is especially helpful for picking up good quality items for free. I’ve acquired several pairs of jeans, jackets and many tops from such swaps. I have noticed that it is particularly helpful for individuals with a lifestyle change; say they’ve started a new job with a uniform so no longer wear nice office clothes and that type of thing. 

It is handy if most guests are a similar size but it is helpful to have a bit of a range in the sizes because sometimes the reason a guest has bought an item is because it is too small or large for them, making it perfect for others. And anyone can benefit from a new-to-them scarf or handbag.

While it’s not the main reason I attend and host clothes swaps, my friends and I have saved money because of the swaps. For myself, I’ve not needed to buy jeans in years because on three occasions the jeans bought by other guests fit me perfectly or simply needed hemming. How good is that? 

A few of us enjoy clothes swaps and so every six months, ahead of the change in season, one of us hosts a swap inviting others from our circle of friends which exposes us to new styles. In my personal experience, five to eight guests works best. It’s a lot of fun and I sincerely recommend it to everyone.

Tip 10: Staying fit-ish

My first post was about the things I love to do, and I’ll keep returning to that through out this series because I consider it a guide for all I do, including staying fit. 

So which items in the list make me fitter? Defiantly the walking, rollerblading and biking and also the trips to the beach. My original list didn’t have gym classes or personal training sessions on it, so why would I aim to do these things? I don’t, never have. 

But, I do think it’s important to maintain a basic level of fitness for the good of ones health. 

My staple is walking. I enjoying walking home the evening, it’s a nice break between work and home life. I used to live close enough to work to work all the way, but now I don’t. However, I’ve made it a habit to get changed into sneakers before I leave work and get off the bus at least 2km from home and walk the rest of the way, this way I get some steps in while commuting. 

While wandering the streets is nice, and to be fair I live in a nice area with plenty to look at as I wander, I love bushwalking. While I don’t make it to national parks as much as I would like I really enjoy it when I do. Typically I’ll pick walks which are 5-15km, long enough to justify the journey out and take in the view, but short enough to stop and photograph the scenes as I go along. In the past I used to do overnight walks, which I really loved. I’d like to get back into that type of walk. 

On the weekends if I can’t head to bushland I head to the beach. In winter I enjoy walking along the beach and taking in the view or watching the waves roll in. In summer I prefer to pack swimmers and have a little swim and splash around. Given my pale skin I prefer to go early in the morning rather than apply a lot of sunscreen.

From time-to-time I mix things up, going for a bike ride or rollerblading. There’s lots of nice cafes about 4-5km from home, so I like to bike to someplace new and check it out and then bike home. It’s not the 50kms other do on the weekend but it’s active and fun, and I appreciate that. Other times I’ll head with younger ones to a local park and join in the games, slide on the slide and shot a few hoops. I’m not good at these things, I just do them because it’s fun. 

In my world fitness and fun to go hand in hand.

Tip 9: Winter Capsule Lessons

So since it was cold enough to wear woollen tops I’ve been wearing my winter capsule wardrobe. With spring here I thought I’d write a little about what was in my capsule, what I liked and didn’t like this season and what I plan to do differently next winter.

So first up, the items:

  • Work pants (Black wide-legged / Black slim fitting / Charcoal / Textured black / Brown / Light grey)
  • Non-work pants (Jean x2 / Black hemp / Black showerproof)
  • Work tops (Black x2 / Bright blue x2 / Raspberry / White with a black check / Light blue - all merino)
  • Non-work tops (Navy / Coral print / Grey striped - all merino)
  • Outerwear (Black leather jacket / Red leather jacket / White trench coat / Grey trench coat / Black merino jacket x2)

All up I had 26 items. Over and above this I had some active wear, mainly old merino jerseys with small holes and two jackets (one waterproof and one shower proof). I also had a few old jackets and hoodies for around the house on evenings and weekends. 

So, what didn’t work? 

Well initially I had my three pencil skirts for work in the capsule and I told myself I would wear them each a couple of times to ‘mix things up a bit’, I never did so I’m not counting them in the total. The reality is that winter is sufficiently cold enough to make me choose to hide in pants all winter long, so next year, no skirts. 

The lack of tops. I got really bored about nine weeks in, as my tops were all on regular rotation meaning that by then I’d got a bit over rotating through the options. 

As for specific items I didn’t like these were: the coral merino (I’m going off the style), brown work pants (wrong colour, seriously I have nothing else brown in my whole wardrobe, what was I thinking?) and my red leather jacket (wrong style). 

What did work?

My favourite pants for work were the black and charcoal pairs, but the light grey offered the chance to ‘mix things up a bit’ that I was looking for. And I love wearing jeans, they are such a staple for casual Fridays and weekends. 

I love merino wool, it’s soft and machine washable and I used to wear it all year round before I moved to a warmer climate. I’m definitely planning to stick with merino wool for future winters. My favourite top was the same as last year, the Raspberry top with lace trim though and my second favourite was my classic black merino.

I love my black leather jacket and both trench coats, so these are all keepers and absolute favourites. 

My final lesson was about accessorising. I thought I would wear gloves some of the time, but rarely did. What I did wear a lot was scarfs, they added colour and variation especially when I hit the nine week mark described above. I also spent a lot of time in my black ankle boots.

What about next year?

Even though I’m minimising the number of new purchases I make I’m definitely going to get a couple more winter tops for next season as I know I’ll use them (and another black one because one of mine developed holes in the sleeves and black I wear a lot on weekdays and weekends). 

As for the items I didn't like much, I’m giving the red leather jacket away but I’ll keep the other two items based on the knowledge that I will wear them from time-to-time next winter.

This season I think I’ve really narrowed down my winter style with my usual outfit being pants + merino top + jacket + scarf + boots. Comfortable with lots of easy mix and match options.

Tip 8: Compost Organic Waste

Waste. Things you don’t need or can’t use and discard. 

In this post I’m talking more about household waste, in particular organic waste. So (back to my childhood memories) when I was young, one of my chores was to take out the compost. We had a big wooden outdoor compost which would get slowly filled up, then closed and eventually the decomposed waste was moved onto the garden. 

Now, I’ve started something similar. We have a black bin for our household organics which operates on the bokashi system. So you simply add the kitchen scraps and liquid bokashi into the bucket and the scraps begin to decompose (more so if the bucket is full so I usually prefer to squish material down and add more than empty the bucket, also things decompose faster in the summer compared to the winter). The bucket has a tap so you can mix the liquid with water to maker a fertiliser and put it straight onto herbs and veggies. 

The second part of our system is a large black bin out the back of the garden, this is where we empty the full buckets and I’ll add in some leaves or grass clippings to keep it balanced. Next to the black bin is a big round open container and our leaves, grass clipping and weeds go into that. Both the black bin and the open container get turned regularly and in the summer I add in water to aid the breakdown of the waste. I’ve found that worms are naturally gravitating towards these areas assisting with the decomposing progress. Once the time comes to set up our third veggie patch, it is good to know that rather than buy in potting mix we will be able to fill it with our own compost. 

One thing we have noticed since starting to compost is the dramatic reduction in the amount of material going into the bin, it probably halved our non-recyclable waste. I’m working on the rest, but a start is a start.

Tip 7: Own clothes you love

One of my earlier tips focussed on having a plan for your wardrobe. However, it assumed that once you laid out all your clothes that were seasonally appropriate then it would be a relatively straightforward process to pick a selection of clothes for work and play. This article focusses more on some of the ideas behind purchasing clothes to enable the planning to go smoothly.

Which items in your wardrobe do you love? One tip I’ve applied to my own wardrobe is to take all of my clothes out (say onto the bed) and make three piles, the ‘love it’ pile, the ‘maybes’ and the ‘nos’. Personally I do this each time I’m preparing to move house. It is obvious that I should keep the items I love but what about the rest? 

For me if the item is a no and I’ve never really worn (or when I have worn it the item hasn’t been comfortable or given me confidence) then I know it is time for the item to find a new home outside my four walls. Before they depart I try to note what it is about item that I don’t like (say the style, colour, fabric etc) in an effort not to repeat the same mistakes in future. 

If the item is a maybe, then I have a couple of approaches depending on the item. These are:

  • If I used to love the item and it is now a bit worn but perfectly wearable then I keep the item and mainly wear it at home in the evenings and weekends
  • If the item is a top with a couple of small holes then I either retire the top to become one of my pjs tops (for that reason I only ever buy pjs bottoms) or part of my exercise wardrobe
  • If the items doesn't fit that well I consider if it can be taken to the tailor and given a new life, if not then it goes into the ‘no’ pile
  • If I’ve gone off the item I pop it into the drawers under my bed as I may grow to love it again in a few seasons time
  • The trickiest items are the ones I’m not sure how to wear or can’t put my finger on why I don’t wear them. If I’m moving house then I think about whether I want to take the item with me and go with my gut instinct  

So, what to buy (or acquire). The four key things I consider are colour, style, fit, and fabric. 

Thanks to the Colour Me Beautiful book, I’ve always believed in having a colour palette. That being said I misdiagnosed my colour palette and didn’t sort out my ‘good colours’ until my mid-20’s. But now I have my work colours (black, grey, white, blue, red) and my casual colours (denim blues, navy, coral, blues, red). I find this limited palette makes laundry easier too, one load of darks with blues or reds and another of lights. 

For style and fit I like to stick to a handful of tried and true silhouettes. For work this means dresses with a pencil skirt, pencil skirts, wide legged pants, fitted pants, and fitted tops usually in solid colours or a geometric print. Casually I opt for jeans, denim shorts, summer dresses, t-shirts, hoodies, leather jackets, trench coats and flat shoes. Most of my items are made from cotton, merino or bamboo. 

How many clothes do you need? One thing I’ve thought about is how many clothes I actually need. I am guessing it is for me it is around 100, but I own more than 130 at the moment. Instead of opting to declutter I have opted for a temporary holt on buying new items except as replacements for essential items which have worn out. Next year I’m likely to impose a cap on the number of new items I buy with the aim of being very deliberate about the items I add into my wardrobe.