Swap party: shopping with no money and a big smile

When I first saw my Etro stilettos sinuously floating in midair, in the busy hall, my heart skipped a beat.
Then my eyes ran from the slim fingers that were holding them, to the delicate shoulder and upwards, to the lovely smile lingering on the girl’s round face: she liked them. Actually, she adored them. My Etro shoes were in good hands, perfectly manicured, careful hands. And that was the right thing to do. After 8 years spent in the darkness of my shoe cupboard, catching a glimpse of daylight every now and then, their new owner wanted to take a closer, admiring look at them. My Etros were starting a brand new life under the Milan sky, finally walking free.
I’m not sure it’s the same for every girl who takes part in a Swap Party, but I feel I’m doing the right thing:

  1. Offering Etros and some instant happiness to the girl who took them.
  2. Seeing that they’ll get the chance to do what they were made for
  3. Giving myself more space: both in terms of shoe cupboard space and mental space, by performing “random act of kindness” , or, as they say, by simply confirming my long-held belief that what’s not used is wasted.

Veronica Longhini, one of the brilliant minds (and bodies) behind some of the funniest Swappy Hours in Milan, told me that not all the Swap Party girls share my philosophy about the act of giving something away.
Yet what all the women who meet at these parties do share is the same sense of freedom for setting free a jumper forgotten at the bottom of a wardrobe or a “petite robe noir” just too petite to be worn again. And they all love having the chance to window-shop or shop without feeling guilty about spending money.
A Swap party is based on the old practice of bartering: I give something to you, you give something to me. And in the meanwhile we meet and network as well. We might both be eyeing up the same pashmina, or maybe I’m lovingly stroking my GAP dress for the last time, remembering the many happy moments we spent together. Then perhaps we start talking about the dress, or the other things that are there to be bartered and from that we move on to talking about everyday life, partners, books and work and …from there, new projects, ideas and friendships can form.
Veronica, just to mention, met her “partners incrime”the other ladies of Unconventional happenings at one of these events.

Bookcrossing: your virtual bookshelf

“No, seriously you MUST read it, it is absolutely amazing and it will change your life… well, alright, your day. I’ll lend it to you once I’m done, ok?” Does that ring a bell? You’ve said and heard these words many times.
Old habits die hard, like exchanging books, even in the face of new technology, and especially good books that you want your friends to read, and enjoy just as much as you did.
Bookcrossing was launched in 2001 by a Kansas consultant and it became a web phenomenon in just a few weeks.
So what is it? As the name suggests, bookcrossing is the free exchange of books.
Over the years the bookcrossing phenomenon has grown from the original format
to now include bookrays, bookrings, bookforum and even bookexcerpt.
The idea is simple: you read a book, you like it, and you decide that it deserves to reach a much wider audience.
So why not set it free to reach new readers, inspire new emotions, create positive energy and make other people’s day?
Easily done: register the book on bookcrossing, generate a code, write the code on the book and then say goodbye and good luck.
Many books are placed in train stations, on bus seats, in café corners and in even more bizarre places, ready for new readers to find them.
Books can travel through the same city and sometimes even outside national boundaries, and you can follow its journey on the website.
If backcrossing is your passion, you can go even further and practice:
and more

And again, the value gained from the initiative is purely social : it’s the possibility for people to meet, to get to know each other and discover shared hobbies and passions, all through a system of exchange where money is noticeably absent.

A million miles away from the traditional capitalist economy, the sharing economy is gaining ground thanks to new technology, the ongoing credit crunch affecting people’s pockets and the search for more meaningful relationships.
As Rachel Botsman, founder of THE Collaborative Lab said, “the new currency is trust”.

Cover image: ph. by sheila, via flickr

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Author: Cristiana Pedrali

"Loving your job is the closest you can get to happiness on earth” (Rita Levi Montalcini) and “when real people fall down in real life they get back on their feet and carry on walking” (Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City): these are my two mantras. I’m a bit like this: I go through being serious to playful to help me manage a thousand different interests and commitments, keeping a smile through it all. I work in the tourism industry and on the web and every so often I look for some breathing space through reading and travel!
More posts by Cristiana Pedrali →

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