The 7th Swap I’ve organized – marking two years since the first one – came and passed, leaving many people with new-to-them garments and me thinking. Hold on, because this won’t be an uplifting one.
A) I got less joy out of this Swap than ever before. Is it because it’s not new? Is it because I didn’t find anything that I was looking for? Or is it that I was just too tired? I do think that I’ve got too hung up on how the event should run, so spending Friday shopping and cooking seems normal. Yes, that’s correct: prior to a Swap I – the person supposedly employed full time to write her PhD thesis – take a day off to prepare the food. It started with ‘let’s give people snacks’ turning into ‘vegan tortilla would be great’ and now suddenly the norm is tortilla, brownies, fruit, and more things… I should really rethink this, as I’m clearly shoulding all over myself and making another time squeeze out of ‘apart from organizing the Swap, I should also feed people, and it should be wholesome, homemade and vegan, of course’. In case you were coming just for the brownie, stay tuned, because it might not be there in December…
The other reason for tiredness was that exactly the night before I gave a Skype lecture to Liliana’s students at Mexicali CETYS. It was a great experience, but meant intense preparation and some anxiety, especially about the technical side of the event. Here you can see my YouTube back-up of that lecture (in Spanish). So I wasn’t at my netal and physical best, but…
It is still the case that even under ‘normal’ conditions it takes a lot of work, carried out overwhelmingly by myself and by enlisting C’s unwilling support when I truly cannot manage it on my own. The basic to-do list includes: 0) spamming like crazy about the event through blog and FB weeks in advance, trying to think of new things to say and more people to reach, (1) bringing the leftovers to Ateneu on Thursday or Friday (because it it physically impossible to take that suitcase and all other stuff that needs bringing in one one-person haul), (2) shopping which might involve several different places (Casa Perris for chickpea flour, Mercadona for pistachios, Casa Ametller for chard, etc.), (3) sometimes bringing the clothes rack from Patricia’s home to Ateneu if she can’t make it early Saturday morning, (4) making the tortilla, (5) making the brownie, (6) washing fruit and tomatoes, putting snacks in containers, (7) running through the check-list to make sure that there is tape, scissors, tea towels, sharpies, curtains, water filter, etc., (8) packing it all and bringing to Ateneu… (9) taking the photos during the event while (10) making sure that the music is on, that everybody is happy and knows how this works, where the bar, ice, bathroom is… and after the event (11) making sure that everything is tip-top at Ateneu and that they have earned some money out of the event and that nobody will have to clean up or repair anything after us, (12) dragging back home all my stuff and the leftovers, (13) washing up, laundering the curtains and putting things back at my place, (14) picking up the leftovers not selected for the next Swap and bringing them to Banc Expropriat. And (15) making a cheerful recap post and starting to promote the next event. December 1, btw!
Already typing the list makes me nauseous. And dreadful of the next event.
This is just the basic checklist for point 7 above!
I have got some help for almost every event, and I am truly grateful to those people – C, Liisa, Mara, Coco, Margarita, Patricia, Chus, Aina, Roraima – but they are typically there only on the day of Swap and also often require additional coordination… Nope, delegating is not what I am good at. Controlling is, ugh. Also, I have trust issues, the stupid ‘if you want to make sure that it is done well, do it yourself’. And it turns out to be much harder to mobilize somebody for half an hour on Monday evening to bring the leftovers to Banc Expropriat than to have them hang around after the event.
Another character flaw of mine in relation to this is dismissing people’s gratefulness during the event exactly due to this twisted thinking of ‘dude, you have no idea about the amount of work that went into this’. The pure gratitude, no matter how heartfelt, does not registrate with me. No, share the event on your FB wall repeatedly, consume from Ateneu’s bar, leave me a tip, volunteer to cook for the event, to set it up, to wrap it up, to bring the leftovers to Banc Expropriat, to keep the ‘seed’ leftovers at your place… Now we are talking!
B) I had a fantasy of creating a whole natural fiber corner, which is impossible unless you have somebody curating in it real time… and then, when dragging heavy bags of leftovers from the previous Swap, sweared I would take no leftovers ever again.
Both of these somehow merged into a new leftovers policy: keep only 100% natural or regenerated fabrics in good condition with intact fabric composition tags. No synthetic mixes, no pure plastic garments, no cut off tags. That was an interesting experience, that turned into a 3-in-1! A unified criterion for selection was nice, as previously there had been some clashes of ‘who the hell thought that this was worth keeping?’ And there were many exclamations from the wrapping-up volunteers along the lines of ‘yes, something, finally!’ and ‘not even 97% cotton?’ turning the into into an education event of developing the hand for natural fibers and raising awareness of how little there is going around in our events. And there was less for me to carry home. Win-win-win.
My ‘girl who moves house with a bird in her hair’ Saturday morning pre-Swap selfies from February and September.
C) Which brings us to the quality of the garments swapped… I’m only half-joking when I speak of swaps as immediate karma, because – statistically speaking – you are bound to get back exactly what you brought, as there is no other place where the garments will come from. And if somebody had any doubts about fast fashion and our life being an abundance of poorly made mixed-fiber garments, swing by on December 1 and you’ll see! there are several reasons: (1) That is what our wardrobes are made of! My key audience is young and more or less precarious women. This is what we have. Even more, (2) these are the discarded garments! Supposedly the better ones stayed in the wardrobe. People consistently overestimate the state of their clothing, so the discards tend toward truly worn-out, truly ugly, and truly irreparable. Also, (4) the magical line between ‘this is swappable’ and ‘this is textile waste’ still eludes people. So by the end of the vent we have piles elbow-deep of garments that nobody wants. I’d prefer less but better.
(The disclaimer here is that I truly see only the leftovers, as during the event I’m too busy with parts of the to-do list mentioned above to calmly browse through things. So unless something really jumps at me or an attentive friend picks out things for me because they’ve memorized my wishlist – I owe my best-slippers-ever and winter gloves to Margareta, btw – I go through garments only during the wrapping-up or at home after the event. I truly hope)
D) The quality of discards brings us to me passing the buck then to Banc Expropriat. First, every time there are rumours of them being evicted again from the public property they are squatting. So I get extra anxiety of ‘will I go there and find it closed forever?’ with all the leftover bags that Ateneu couldn’t be more eager to get rid of as they occupy valuable space. Second, the Sphinx-like faces of the ladies that run the Botiga Gratis still leave it unclear if bringing stuff is a good or a bad thing for them. I’ve teased out thus far that they hate Roba Amiga because ‘they resell donations’, although unfortunately that’s true only for a fraction of what they get due to poor quality and people not really buying that much. At the same time the backroom of Botiga Gratis is full of bags of clothing, indicating that also they are inundated by the same abundance as second-hand shops. I really want to research that place and its dynamics in depth once I hand in the thesis…
Bags, bags, bags of garments nobody wanted.
E) I had nothing to swap away. This is new and weird. In principle the expected result after 4 years of curating, but weird still… What left our household were C’s windbreaker and jeans, Marina’s backpack and leggings my mom passed on to me but I ended up not really liking them:
At the end I did calm down, rested, went through the leftovers and picked for myself a little bright summer loungewear garment… but the doubt (and wish to improve the experience for myself) stays. What would your advice be? What would you change if you were me? What would you drop? Or what additional help would you ask for?