I spent the majority of my teens and twenties wearing pyjamas. It was part of the glamorous life of a girl with ME/CFS. Recently though, I've been more than making up for it and my wardrobe is packed to prove it. I've fallen in love with tea dresses and pretty shrugs, soft woollen jumpers and classic jeans.
The problem is I still have days where I feel like I have nothing to wear, despite having to cram the hangers onto the rail. Days when I look at all my clothes and wish I could get something new. Even though I know I've got too many clothes. I don't need this many clothes; but I still like buying new things.
I love the feel of a new top or dress, the buzz of wearing something for the first time, knowing people haven't seen me in it. The thing is, it can be hard to justify a shopping trip when my sagging clothes rail and wedged wardrobe doors say otherwise.
That's why I was excited when my WI organised a Swish.
Never heard of Swishing before? Me neither; but I found out it's when you swap your clothes, shoes and accessories with other people. It's a bit like free shopping and is a lot of fun.
The WI members all had to bring items that they no longer wanted - I had a dress and some tops that just weren't my style any more. I was happy to donate them to a new home.
In exchange for each item we took, we got a button as a token. This button could then be exchanged for a new piece of clothing. I hadn't really thought of what I would get, I was more focused on making some room in my own wardrobe; but I found some things that I fell in love with.
They were all things I would have bought myself if I'd seen them out shopping and now I can't wait to wear them.
I was amazed at how polite everybody was. I'd had visions of it being a cross between a car boot and a jumble sale - elbows at the ready; but everyone was really calm and lovely. They enjoyed browsing through the rails and each chose really individual pieces, things that I wouldn't have thought to pick up; but on them looked amazing. Everyone was really happy by the end.
I talked to my friend Lauren who has her own Frugal Blog. She had done a short talk at the beginning of the evening for us and given us some top tips on saving money. She had Swishing parties with her friends in their own homes. They were more informal; but just like our Swish, they each brought items they no longer wanted.
The best tip she told me was that if more than one person wanted an item, they each had to model it, then their friends decided who it suited. This way it avoided arguments and the piece of clothing went to the right home.
Have you ever swished? Is it something you'd want to do with your friends to help save money and get a fresh wardrobe?
So the idea was to clear space and I've now got the exact same number of clothes as I started; but I've got new things to wear and they didn't cost me a penny. Even better - I've already found four more items I want to Swish. I think I'll have to organise my WI to run another one very soon.
Claire Wade is the winner of the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition and author of The Choice. She was bed bound for six years with severe ME, trapped in a body that wouldn't do what she wanted. She now writes about women who want to break free from the constraints of their lives, a subject she's deeply familiar with.