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February Linkables

Babes, it's the end of winter. Okay, it might not feel like the end of winter temperature wise but the sun is beginning to shine through, and it's now sort of light when I leave work. We're getting there.

I hope you've had an incredible start to the year and everything is shaping up well. Goal-wise, I'm keeping on top on my housework, I'm swimming once (sometimes twice) a week, I've attempted a few trickier recipes (with varying results), and empowering some great books on social justice!

Ready for the first Linkables of the year? Let's go!

You might roll your eyes at the idea of a long-term singleton dishing out relationship advice. But I've witnessed multiple couples fuck up over the same things - so I am fully behind 8 relationship habits that will make everything easier, smoother, and more fun.

Related: 14 questions to ask your partner to make sure you're on the same page.

And, of course, I have a link associated with Valentine's Day: what is it like for asexuals and aromantics? 

I love self-improvement, but I don't love that it has become an industry that feeds off of people's insecurities and sells us products that do fuck all (juice cleanses, anyone?). Are We Improving Yourselves to Death? is an important article.

Related: Don't fall prey to the cult of wellness.

What everyone needs: Classic Album Covers with Cats.

The women killed by Jack the Ripper are finally having their stories told.

Hopefully, you'll never need this but if you do: How to survive gaslighting.

How to work with micro-influencers.

Yes! Can we stop recording ourselves doing good deeds, please?

A vegan's guide to reading food labels.

If you only read one thing, make it this: Why she doesn't just leave

Something local: a history of Glasgow's LGBT+ nightclubs and bars.

An analysis on British racism with a side slice of self-deprecating humour from Romesh Ranganathan.

What have you been reading this month? Send me your links! 
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I went to another clothes swap and now I need a mind dump on clothes waste, Marie Kondo, and providing women in crisis with free clothes

The dilemma goes something along the lines of:

"I have a wardrobe full of clothes but nothing to wear"

I'm not sure who said this or where I originally read it, but I know the feeling well. If you know me in real life you wouldn't consider me to be a clothes horse. But if you had a look through my wardrobe and chest of drawers you would probably think I was.

Until last August my bedroom was bursting at the seams. I still owned activewear from when I was a dancer during my time at university. Or from when I still tried to convince myself I was into running, which was a dark time. I still owned dresses that I haven't been able to fit into since I started a desk job. I owned shirts that I know longer like, or maybe never really did. I owned waist length t-shirts, even though I don't suit high necks or anything that draws attention to my mid-section. All the money I spent buying a new dress every time I went on a night out (yes, I was once one of those girls) was still hanging in my closet. Heels I was never able to walk in. Clothes I hadn't worn in years.

I owned more clothes than I owned coathangers, and I own plenty of coathangers (I bought beige for my work clothes and purple for everything else so I could easily separate my looks). I have a massive chest with four big drawers, and four small ones, brimming with underwear, accessories, sportswear, more general clothing, and my weirdly large pyjama collection. Even better, I never put my laundry away because I needed my drying rack as extra storage space.

This, my friends, is when you know you need to have a clear out.

Last August I was approaching the year mark of an anniversary where I ruffled some feathers and decided to stop caring what people thought of me (also known as ridding my life of toxic people and coming out of the closet). With this anniversary looming, I had the sudden urge to rid myself of physical belongings that represented the version of myself that I thought I was supposed to be, or the person other people wanted me to be.

I started by admitting that a few things needed to go to landfill. Which always sucks. But there's not exactly a second-hand market for broken GHDs, shoes with holes in them, and water bottles with corporate logos. Then I packed up the athletic and outdoorsy stuff that was mostly on lend from my genuinely outdoorsy parents and gave it back to my mum the next time she visited. The only sport I enjoy is swimming and it was time to own that.

Then in November I attended my first ever clothes swap, hosted by ethical fashion blogger Ruth Macgilp. I blogged about the day here, so there's no need to go into detail. I only took one small suitcase full of clothes that I really wanted rid of. But when I returned home with new clothes that I was genuinely excited to start wearing, I could now see even more clutter in my bedroom (and I still had more clothes than I did coathangers).

So last week when I attended Ruth's second clothes swap, I was ruthless. I was attending the International Improv Festival later that day and didn't want to lug a suitcase around so I filled my rucksack and two large shopping bags with clothes that served no purpose in my life. And it felt cathartic, especially since I was finally accepting my body would never be slim enough for some of those clothes again.

This time the clothes swap was taking place at the ALICAS offices. ALICAS is a charity that builds capsule wardrobes for women in need, whether that is due to homelessness or fleeing domestic abuse. They work on a referral system from charities who agree that these women would benefit from a new wardrobe. They only collect clothes that still have the label on them so the women in need don't feel as though they are receiving hand me downs. Luckily I had a dress in my wardrobe that still had tags on it and it's a great way to get rid of clothes you were meant to return, but never got round to.

The work ALICAS do might seem frivolous at first glance, but many victims of homelessness and domestic abuse (especially emotional abuse) lose their sense of self, and clothes play a large part in shaping someone's self-identity. On the day of the clothes swap, we filled boxes for two of the charity's current referrals - which included information on the women's age, clothing sizes, and style preferences. These women were going to receive clothing that would fit their personalities and lifestyles, and that's fantastic.

On the day of the clothes swap, the conversation naturally gravitated towards Marie Kondo and how much she has inspired people to clean out their lives. I've not read her book or watched her Netflix documentary, but from what I've heard second-hand I agree with the principles. I have been in the mindset for years that the organisation or cleanliness of someone's house reflects their mental health and emotional wellbeing. I used to be terrible at not keeping on top of my housework, but that was because I was busy with too many random things that I couldn't make time for basic self-care. My room reflected how disorganised my life was.

And my hoarding tendencies (in case you missed it: I mentioned that I held on to a pair of broken GHDs) were reflective of my general attitude to filling my life with things that didn't bring happiness or had long outgrown. Whether it was having frenemies, people I liked but didn't get the !!!! feeling for, staying in romantic/sexual relationships for longer than I should, having hobbies that I wasn't super-passionate about, or even staying in the closet until my mid-twenties - I was never able to throw away even non-physical things.

But there has been understandable criticism that Marie Kondo is encouraging people to send half their belongings to landfill. Which is true. But the real problem is consumerism and people buying things they don't need. This also includes gifts you feel you need to buy someone, and they end up at the back of the closet for ten years. Until people learn to live with less in the beginning, we're going to have people throwing away stuff. The trick isn't to hoard (like I did) it's to think more sensibly about your purchases in the first place.

When I got home that evening, it was without my two large shopping bags and my rucksack was now full of new clothes that reflect my current outwards appearance:
  • A polka dot blazer from M&S
  • A tartan hooded dress from Collection Vintage London
  • A stripy long-sleeved jumper from Oasis 
  • A long t-shirt with eyes on it from Neon Ninja®
  • Burgandy and white skater dress from People Tree
And the best part of my second clothes swap?

I can now fit all my clothes in my wardrobe.

Move over Marie Kondo.
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Mini-reviews from the first Edinburgh Improv Fest (which ended a week ago...but future reference?)

Remember last August when I was super organised and published mini-reviews of Fringe shows with only five days left of the Fringe?

Well, I haven't learned my lesson.

Last weekend I attended the very first Edinburgh International Festival, and this weekend I'm publishing my mini-reviews on the performers. It's over. It's in the past. So you can't pop along and catch the end of it. But there were local improv groups there who perform regularly in Edinburgh and me writing these reviews has some purpose. If it becomes a yearly thing you'll know to go next year! Or maybe I just need a blog calendar that I stick to.

(If you're wondering "wtf is improv?" it's comedy that's made up on the spot....which is not as disorganised as it sounds. My friend is doing classes right now and there are techniques and psychology. The audience members are asked for suggested words, celebrities, locations etc, and the performers create something out of it. You've probably spotted stand-up comedians repeating material from time-to-time. That doesn't happen with improv.)

And uh, I was only there on Saturday. Sorry performers on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

The Cutting Room (Edinburgh)

I've been familiar with The Cutting Room for a while, having heard incredible things about their performances at The Fringe (I've not been able to attend any of them. How do people narrow down their Fringe choices? I usually pull performances out of a hat or let my friends decide for me). I discovered on Saturday that they are worth the hype. They performed a typical Harold that managed to float between a hot dog eating competition, a 40-year-old woman having sex with goulash and posh Milton Keynes types getting a bit too rowdy over Crufts. 10/10, would see again.

Murder of Crows (Copenhagen)

When Murder of Crows took to the stage, they had a serious vibe to them. They were decked out in dapper suit trousers and white shirts (including the girls), the lights were dimmed red, and we were told they would be performing an improvised Art Noir piece. Art Noir isn't a film genre I tend to gravitate towards, so I was a mixture of intrigued and unsure. It worked so well in the end, with passive and sarcastic humour (my favourite) with plenty of gangster drama added in for good measure.

Tinderellas (Edinburgh)

The Tinderellas was the team that I was most excited to see. Their schtick is creating improv on audience dating stories and as someone who writes openly about their dating life online, you know this is up my street! They're also an all-female team so the feminist in me can get giddy. For their performance, they chose a format called The Living Room where the girls initiate a discussion between themselves (about dating) and then occasionally break into a storytelling scene. Their performance was personal and relatable, the girls came across as genuinely lovely, and their stories gave me a chuckle.

The A-Team (Los Angeles)

This was hands-down my favourite performance of the day. The A-Team, get this, create improvised musicals. Yes, they come up with a musical, based on audience suggestions, on the spot. I'm not going to pretend I wasn't cynical about this, but they really pulled it off. The talent on these guys is outstanding as not only did they have to create dialogue but they burst out into song (and some rap!) and there was even a guy playing the keyboard!

Carter & Murray (New York City)

This is the one I feel awkward reviewing just wasn't for me. I know creatively and intellectually it was a good performance that other people might enjoy. I've been to enough improv shows to know it was good improv. It just felt a little bit...low key in comparison to the other performances? After watching an improvised musical, art noir film, and some goulash sex...two guys doing a Harold just got a bit lost within everything else. Carter & Murray are a super big deal in NYC and were the headline act, so maybe don't listen to me.

The Improverts (Edinburgh)

The Improverts are the University of Edinburgh's improv team. After getting over how much their baby faces reminded me that I'm edging closer to 30 than I would like, I was excited to see their half-hour performance of short form improv. Short form, if you're unfamiliar, is like improv games where the performers have a clear structure to work from - and is my favourite to watch. I liked their performance. Wasn't blown away by it but I wouldn't be put off the Improv Fest again if they performed next year.

The Inheritance (Bristol/Glasgow)

One-half of this improv team is also two-thirds of the Glasgow team Couch. Couch was the very first improv team I ever saw live, and I've seen them multiple times since. This team was different enough that it didn't feel like the same thing I see almost monthly at Blackfriars. They started their performance by asking an audience member to come up on stage who they then proceeded to ask questions to, which would then form the basis of their performance. And then it moved into a traditional long-form performance. Similar to the Improverts, enjoyed it but not blown away by it.

Did you manage to swing by the Edinburgh International Improv Festival? Let me know your thoughts on it! 
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