Anna Newell Jones saved, and so can you, at the And Then She Saved Clothing Swap

Denver photographer Anna Newell Jones began to realize a couple of years ago that she was much too obsessed with things. For her, the need to consume manifested itself into a big pile of debt. That's when Newell Jones put her well-shod foot down, foregoing her need to feed on all the best things in life -- at least on the physical plane -- for something more precious: friends, peace of mind and just enough to live on. And it worked. On the strict program she crafted for herself , she whittled her debt into solvency, and by the same token simplified her life.

She also documented the whole thing in a blog, And Then She Saved, which serves as a guideline for others interested in making similar personal transformations.

Now, she's sharing again in real-time, by hosting the first And Then She Saved Clothing Swap, this Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m. At Super Ordinary Gallery in RiNo. The idea is to bring ten nicer items from your own closet and trade for items brought by others.

We asked Newell Jones a few questions about the art of saving and the swap itself; her answers follow.

Westword: What inspired you to dream up your And Then She Saved plan?

Anna Newell Jones: I was so obsessed with things. I really wanted my priorities to shift, rather than the things. I tried budgeting, I tried cutting back, but it didn't seem to work for me. You make a little progress doing those things, but it's so slow. I wanted to do something extreme to stop spending, cold turkey, and actually see some results. In the end, I did see results faster, and I ended up getting out of debt.

How did you do it?

I officially started it with a spending fast in January 2010. I was able to go on a spending diet in 2011, then I restarted the spending fast.

What's the difference?

A spending fast means absolutely no discretionary spending of any kind. On a spending diet, I allow myself $100 a month for non-essentials.

Does your plan have a set of rules?

No, I try not to be preachy. I just tell people what worked for me. First, I made a wants and needs list, identifying my goals in life and my motivators, in terms of balancing what went on the list.

How did you come up with the idea for a clothing swap?

It started because I really wanted to go shopping, so I thought, "How do I get new items and not spend any money?" I knew that swaps were getting popular on East Coast, but I hadn't heard of any in Denver. Then, Tran [Wills] offered her space, and it grew; it morphed into something big. It turned out that so many people were excited about it, especially with the holidays coming up. I think that right now, we have fifty women coming. That's 500 items to choose from. But I think we'll keep it simple this time and make it more efficient for the next time.

What's it going to be like?

It'll be on the honor system: You bring ten items and you leave with ten items. Everyone arrives at 7; at 7:30 on the dot, the swap begins. At 9, if you still have something left that you came with, we'll donate it to SafeHouse Denver for you. And I think it'll be a lot of fun -- we'll have cupcakes donated by Pastel and a photo booth.

Do you think the clothing swap will become a trend?

People are realizing that they can live better with less, and they're not having to spend so much time on things. I think the idea will migrate from the east, and eventually, there'll be swaps for men's clothes, for children's clothes...it's just a great way to get new items without spending a dime.

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