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Clothing swaps are a rad way to scratch your shopping itch without spending valuable income. When we were paying off $78K of student loan debt there would be days I’d hate my wardrobe but I knew a new one wasn’t in my foreseeable future.
And while Travis is a super thrift shopper I’m not that great. I don’t have the patience to wade through a ton of crap to find one or two gems. So I love Plato’s Closet and ThredUp but they can add just as fast as a bender at Target.
But I love clothing swaps. Have you ever been to one? I went to my first in college and it was a pretty big deal. Rows and rows of clothes from people I knew who’s style I like for the cost of donating some clothes I wanted to get rid of anyway.
If you’re throwing one it’s probably not going to be as big as that one but you can have a clothing swap party in just about any space. These parties can be fun or stressful as all get out, the key is organization and planning. Here are my top tips for putting on a bomb dot com clothing swap.
But first, if you like this topic I cover this and much more in my book The No-Spend Challenge Guide. Check it out to help you save more, spend less, and make the most of your time paying off debt.
1. Find a Space
A church, library or rec center with free rental works best but don’t give up if you can’t find one. A living room, spare bedroom, or dining room work well too. The best one I went to was in a small church. They moved the chairs out and put card tables in.
2. Decide Your Clothing Swap Party Rules
There should be a few guidelines for your swap. You don’t want someone showing up with a bunch of kitchen rags going home with all the sweet stuff. If you can decide on a general list of items to bring and not bring you’ll make sure no one feels shafted when they leave.
There are also some guidelines to keep everyone safe. I know you know your friends and they’re clean respectable folks but accidents happen. Nobody wants to be the one responsible for bringing a box of dusty clothes that makes everyone with allergies sneeze their brains out. And worse case scenario, no one wants bedbugs brought into their house.
Here are some reasonable rules for your swap:
All clothes must be freshly washed. Not only is it healthier, a bunch of old clothes can make a small space smell musty. And washing can make wrinkled clothes look better so this is a win for you and the clothes.
A min or max number of items. If Jessica brings two pleated skirts and Hilary brings twelve boxes of donated clothing, you have a problem. You want a variety so you don’t want people to bring too little but you’re the one responsible for donating everything and you probably don’t drive a UHaul.
One trash bag full per person is very reasonable. If someone doesn’t have that much then make sure they don’t take more than they brought on their first go round. If they want more after everyone’s shopped then its fair game. If someone has more than a trash bag worth of clothing it really depends on the size of your space. If you have a large space to fill that could be a blessing but if it’s in your living room it could be a curse.
What to nix. I live in Florida it’s hot here. If I throw a clothing swap party I’m going to explicitly say no winter clothes unless it’s a January swap. There’s also a time and place for children’s clothing, it’s probably not at your adult clothing swap. So decide what you don’t want at your swap. Some popular items people will try to sneak in:
- Maternity clothes
- Their husband’s clothes
- Athletic wear
Bring your own shopping bag. Everyone has a reusable shopping bag at home and this is the perfect setting to use them. This cuts down on the hassle of stocking up on grocery bags or buying extra trash bags for people. And its like, good for the environment guys.
Bring a snack. Depending on the size of the space not everyone will be able to shop at the same time. So in those times of standing around, make sure everyone has something to stuff their face with.
Shop in rounds. So if you are in a small space a great way to cut down on crowding is to draw numbers for rounds of shopping. If you don’t plan on setting up your swap days in advance (because if it’s in my house that sounds horrible) then there’s a way to do it easily right before the shop.
First, agree that shopping starts 45-minutes to an hour after the party starts. When people get to the party they set up all their stuff and get a number indicating what round they shop in. This makes sure more people are on time, gets everything set up quickly and makes for a nice flow of the evening.
Rounds can be scheduled or at your discretion depending on how large the swap is. I’d say plan for 15-minute rounds and see how it goes. You won’t need to kick people out that are already shopping, the flow just seems to happen naturally.
3. Invite People
Now that you have the logistics figured out it’s time to send out your invites to the people. Oh, and invite friends of all shapes and sizes! You don’t have to leave out your plus size or super skinny friend if you include accessories, books, and DVDs into your swap.
I’m partial to the Facebook event invite. It’s the easiest way to remind and update guests. Give everyone a few weeks notice so they have ample time to clean out their closets.
4. Gather Supplies
You don’t need much to set this party off right but you will need a few things.
- Card tables- or anything to get clothes off the floor, no one wants to leave your swap with a backache.
- Paper & Markers- to make sorting and size signs
- Tape- to hang said signs
Here’s the fun part. Make a sign for each type of garment, accessory, etc. Post the signs in separate sections or tables then further separate by size signs. This way when people come in they lay their garments down where they go and you’re done. You can even let attendees know you’re going to do this so they can have their stuff separated before they get there.
Now’s the fun part! All the clothes are laid out, everyone has their round ticket (times work better than numbers to avoid the “cattle-call” feeling) and it’s off to the races. All you have to do now is monitor for catfights and wait for Betty to polish off the spinach dip (and by Betty I mean me.)
7. Donate the Leftovers
After a few hours of noshing and shopping there will be sad leftovers. Hopefully you can get everyone to help you fill those trash bags they brought their clothes in and load them into your car.
Once everything is said and done it’s easy to drop those clothes off at the nearest Goodwill or Salvation Army and enjoy your new-to-you clothes. And the feeling of decluttering is just as sweet.
Have you ever thrown or been to a clothing swap? Any tips or cool ideas I left out? Let me know in the comments!
I’m planning on trying one of these next year with baby clothes. We have a ton of mom friends and I know everyone would love to swap out their kid’s small sizes for more they can grow into!