Swap Party

First off, I'd like to state that I'm very behind in my blogging and I apologize for those of you who have helped me and are ...

First off, I'd like to state that I'm very behind in my blogging and I apologize for those of you who have helped me and are wondering when they'll see things posted. Life has been crazy! 

I've been throwing a party or shin-dig of some kind each month this year and recently I hosted a swap party for charity. What is a swap party, you ask? Well, before you think it has something to do with putting your keys in a bowl and going home with someone new let me clarify! You are going home with something new, just not a person (or so I hope). A swap party is like a recycling party where you get to update your wardrobe or home goods without buying a thing. You ask your guests to bring items they no longer want but could become someone else’s treasure. 

Hosting a Swap Party: 

1. Why? 
It's green, fun, free, and a great excuse to go all Konmari on your home. If you choose to donate to charity, like I did, this is a great way to benefit the community and make sure someone else in need can have these items. 

2. When Should You Host? 
I find it's best to host a swap either in the spring or fall. People tend to go through their homes and wardrobes for a spring cleaning as it is. It's also easier for people to see what they don't need/want at the turn of seasons. 

3. Whom Do You Invite? 
If you have a big group of girlfriends with similar tastes or sizes, great! All the easier. If you have friends with varying tastes and sizes DON'T WORRY! I do too and my guests were able to find things to take home just fine. 

4. Invites
Explain what a swap party is, give guidance, and clearly set expectations (see my two part invitation above). I gave my guests a month's notice to ensure they had time to go through their homes and find things to bring or donate. 

5. Setting Expectations
Rarely have I hosted or gone to a swap where I got 100% privacy when trying things on. Advise your girlfriends to wear undergarments they're comfortable being seen in-or even to wear something that is easy to get in and out of when trying things on. As for time allotment, I'd suggest 2.5-3 hours. That gives you time to set out belongings, mingle, nibble, try things on, and swap. If you have those friends that tend to always show up "fashionably late" text them separately and ask them to please come on time as having everyone there at the same time is imperative. 

6. Items
Ask your guests to bring clean, gently used items (suggest anywhere from 5-10 items). Give suggestions of what is okay to swap. If you all have children you could also include a children's category of clothes or toys. Here are some ideas:  

  • Clothes 
  • Accessories (jewelry, shoes, scarves, purses, hats, bags, belts, sunglasses, gloves, etc)
  • Make Up (if it's in really nice condition or new) 
  • Board Games
  • Books/Cookbooks 
  • Decor/Home Goods 
  • Plants/Gardening Tools/Pots
  • Holiday Decor
  • Craft Supplies
  • Art
  • Kitchen Supplies (Dishes, flatware, glasses, pitchers, teapots, blenders, etc) 
  • Bedding/Linens

7. Prep
Go through your closet and home the week or two before your party and sort through your swap items. Gather your supplies of extra hangers, boxes, things to make signs with, etc (decorations optional). Clean house thoroughly the week of. Scope out ways to turn your home into a store with designated areas to display things by category. 

8. Food
If you want to make it easier on yourself (these are not low maintenance parties to throw) then ask if your guests would be willing to each bring a finger food. This allows for guests to mingle and look at the "merchandise" while snacking

9. Setting Up Shop
Turning your home into a temporary store takes some planning. I suggest turning different rooms or areas into spaces for certain categories. For instance, I turned my living room into an "accessories store" covering side tables and sideboards with purses, jewelry, etc while my bathroom was designated for dresses, shoes along the hall, and the bedroom housed the rest of the clothes and home goods. 
Put dresses and coats on hangers on a rack or an empty coat closet or shower curtain rod to hang. Neatly fold shirts and pants and lay them out on the bed so everything can be seen and easily accessed. Try to avoid organizing clothes in a way that hides them from view like boxes. Those are more appropriate for books. Think like a boutique shop-you want things to be easy to see, touch, and try on.  
Use signs to label where to find or put things (tops, bottoms, coats, shoes, accessories, home goods, etc). I set out my goods ahead of time to help lead the guests to do the same. 
When your girlfriends arrive give them a quick tour and explain to them where to put what. 
Appoint an area for guests to put their belongings they aren't intending to trade (their shoes, coats, purses, etc) to prevent any awkward encounters of guests trying to take things not meant to swap. 

10. All About the Details
I decorated my place for the party and hung a "swap backdrop" for people to take pictures in front of with their new duds on. This is purely optional and if you don't have time, don't stress. I think it's just a nice touch. 
I've created goodie bags in the past for my swaps. My favorite one I ever put together was a tote bag with the book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way to Banish Clutter Forever," by Marie Kondo and little to-go boxes for them to take home leftovers. Everything in the goodie bag was designed for them to help them stay organized, declutter, and help take their new items home. 

11. Establish Your Rules
Have guests mingle while looking at the goods. I told mine they were welcome to try things on and figure out what they'd like to have on their "shopping lists" when the swapping begins. I strongly encourage my friends to take a chance with the goods there. This is the opportunity to try a style you always wanted to but didn't have the guts to purchase. As for setting up your rules, you can research the multiple swapping systems but I find a number and taking turns system is quickest and most efficient (see here): 
  1. Put numbers in a hat and have each guest pick one to determine the order
  2. Guests can pick three items per turn to keep the swap moving 
  3. After a certain max number of items you'd like to set for the swap (we chose 6-9) all the leftovers can be bagged for donation.*

12. Donating the Leftovers
I selected Salvation Army and Dress for Success as my recipients for donations. I suggest doing research on whom you'd like to use for your charitable donations. Some are more generous with the donations they receive and make sure it really benefits those in need-rather than merely providing jobs as a service. 
*NOTE: I asked for help for those that could stay to sort the professional looking clothing from casual so it was easier to donate to Dress for Success verses Salvation Army. 

In short, hosting a swap isn't for everyone. There is a lot of planning and work involved. Turning your house upside down can be a challenge that not everyone is meant to face. I think this last swap might be the last I will do for a couple years-considering the time required for pre and post party. 
However, I will say that it was very satisfying to be able to do something fun for a wonderful cause. AND I lucked out by getting a pretty great curling wand that I had been wanting for ages but just couldn't justify buying.  

Have you ever been to a swap party? Was it fun for you and worth going through your closet? If you ever hosted a swap I'd love to hear your tips or commiserate with you about the challenges. Above all, just remember to SWAP TILL YOU DROP!

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  1. UGH! Everyone can just go through my closet and HAVE AT IT - I am sick of everything in there.

    1. Haha! I feel you! I had so much to swap and donate it was crazy. After the swap I had an entire SUV of stuff to give to charity. It felt amazing!

  2. What a fun idea! I have never heard of a Swap Party, but this is definitely making me want to host my own!

    - Cait | http://www.prettyandfun.com

    1. So glad I could introduce you to it. It's a lot of fun to get to shop for free while cleaning out your own closet. I'd love to see how you'd do it! :)

  3. I do love this idea! For my group of friends, we'd have to stick to decor or crafting stuff, since none of us are anywhere near the same size!

    1. Whatever works for you! Accessories are also a great alternative. Scarves and jewelry and such can fit anyone. We had a group of girls ranging from sizes 00 to 14/16 and everyone was able to find things with home goods or accessories at the very least.