Tips for Hosting a Clothing Swap

I mentioned how I’ve hosted a clothing swap with my friends for the last three years in a recent post about how I did a three-month no buying stuff challenge for myself. I had a few people ask about how I set it up. In fact, while I was visiting Elsie last week, she wanted to know too. So I thought I would share because, seriously, this type of party is really fun to throw and it gets you to clean out your closet too, so it’s like a party and a bonus.

I thought I’d would share how I usually structure the actual swap part of the party, and also some other random tips. I honestly am not the biggest rule-maker or follower, so my swaps are very laid-back, but I do usually follow a kind of structure just to make sure it’s fair and goes smoothly. But if anyone else out there has hosted a clothing swap and you do it differently feel free to share your tips with us in the comments, too! I am sure there are many successful ways to do it, this is just what I usually do.

1. Inform your friends.

Along with texting (or emailing) everyone with the date, time, and my address, I also let them know what we are swapping. Most of my friends have been before, but every year I usually invite a few new people too. I let them know that it’s best to bring at least 3-5 items: gently worn clothing, shoes, and accessories (jewelry, purses, scarves, etc.) are welcomed. This year, I actually tried throwing books in too, mainly because I love reading and was trying to get more books for myself. Ha. But it didn’t really go over that well, though I may try again next year. The majority of the items are going to be clothing and shoes, but I like to include other things that are not sized (like jewelry, purses, books, etc.) because not everyone is going to be the same size, so this makes it more fun for everyone.

2. Set things up.

I like to think of a clothing swap as an indoor garage sale that I put together in 15 minutes. This year, a friend of mine brought a freestanding clothing rack and that helped a lot, but for the most part I just clear off my dining room table and move a few coffee tables into my dining room, and try to group things as best we can while people arrive. Don’t stress too much about this part, it’s going to get messed up anyway as people "shop," so just try to keep it organized enough that people can easily go through items without feeling like they are digging through a giant pile. The dining room works best in my current home, but at my last house I used our living room for the swap because it was the only space large enough. Don’t be afraid to move a little furniture around if needed, but I also wouldn’t spend days setting things up.

Can you tell my life’s motto is ‘Care, but don’t worry, it’ll all work out.’? I think I get it from my mom.

3. The swap.

Once you are ready to go, I take note of how many people have actually shown up and brought things. If you don’t bring anything, you can’t participate in the first part of the swap. That’s my rule, but I’ve never actually had someone show up empty-handed before. My space can easily fit 5-6 people "shopping" at once, so I decide how many groups we will have based on that. So if I had 15 guests, I’d divide them into three groups. I just write numbers on little slips of paper, fold them once, and put them in a bowl or hat. Everyone draws a number and that’s what group they are in. Then one group gets to "shop" for 8-10 minutes (I actually think 8 minutes is perfect, but depending how much stuff there is you may want 10 … up to you) and choose one item. I literally set a timer on my phone and once the timer goes off the groups switch until all the groups have gone—again everyone only getting one item. Then in round two you can either re-draw the numbers OR randomly pick a different group to go first. The goal is simply to spread out the shopping time among everyone so that not one person ends up with all the good stuff and someone else only gets to pick through what is left over.

I usually do only three rounds of this and then the last round is a free-for-all, meaning everyone can shop for however long they want. You can do more rounds if you like, but at my swaps usually people are beginning to lose interest and just socialize more after a few rounds, so I just open it up.

4. Cleaning up.

You will probably end up with a lot of extra stuff, or at least I always do. Most of my friends bring about 8-10+ items and leave with only 3-4 on average, so I have a bunch of leftover items at the end. I simply pack everything up in my trunk and donate to Goodwill or another charitable thrift store nearby later that week or weekend. One year, a friend at the party mentioned she could take some of the items because she worked as a counselor at a local middle school and she knew quite a few kids who could use the items, so she took some that year. My point: Don’t let the extra stuff stress you out because it’s totally easy to make sure it goes to a good place and will get used by someone else.

I could probably do a whole post on tips for snacks and drinks, so I’ll spare you for now. Ha! But that’s basically my main tips for hosting your own clothing swap. And I hope you do because they are SO fun and perfect for this time of year as everyone is in the mood to do some spring cleaning. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photo edited with the ACS for Desktop actions.

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