Host a Clothing Swap!

A little while ago I was working with a client on organizing her wardrobe. Instead of the usual keep, donate, toss piles, she mentioned she’d like a fourth pile for clothing swap items.  A clothing swap lets participants exchange clothing that’s in great shape but is no longer used, for clothing they will use. They’re a great way to declutter and refill one's wardrobe, and, as an added bonus, are environmentally friendly. They're becoming more popular in Newfoundland with regular events popping up - see herehere, and here. My client hosted her clothing swap a short while later, and agreed to share some tips for clothing swap success! So for my first blog post of 2016, here is Carly Ainley, a recent organizational enthusiast and Newfoundlander by choice, with her tips for hosting an awesome clothing swap!

The new year is a time of renewal and the colder temperatures are a great excuse to tackle household projects, cozy up with friends, and refresh in a budget friendly way. Clothing swaps are a great opportunity let go of the past and embrace the future.

Here are my top tips for successful swaps:

1.     Save the date with time to spare: A closet clean out can be a time consuming task, so I give 4-6 weeks notice of an upcoming swap. Many friends have told me that the swap was the perfect chance for them to get around to the task they were ‘meaning to get to’. A deadline can provide focus and motivate us to let go of items we used to love if we know another will enjoy them!

2.     Encourage a diverse group of guests: Swaps work best when there are lots of options as well as different sizes, so I encourage folks to bring friends. Do you have friends who are starting new careers who could benefit from the professional wardrobe your colleagues are ready to be rid of? Are there new moms whose bodies have changed or who are looking for breastfeeding friendly options? The more the merrier!

3.     Set up the Space: My top tip is to designate 3 areas of your home for different sizes (S, M, L) and encourage your guests to distribute their items. Many women have clothing of various sizes and it’s most efficient to ‘shop’ in the area that fits your body now. Items like jewellery, shoes, scarves and bags that aren’t size specific can be in a central location open to all.

Depending on the volume of items and size of your space, consider providing multiple private change areas or mirrors in different rooms to help ease traffic.

4.     Share the love: Even the most successful swaps will have items leftover. Consider local community organizations that would benefit from items that might not work for your guests but still have lots of life in ’em! Confirm with your local women’s organizations which items would be most helpful for them. Smaller sizes and accessories like backpacks and messenger bags can work for youth organizations. Professional clothing could be especially helpful for employment programs.  Toiletries and warm outerwear can work well for housing programs.

5.     Let the structure set you free: In general, I recommend a free flow rather than a 1:1 structure. Some folks might bring more than they take, some might take more than they bring, but the right balance will emerge.

I’ve had swaps expand to include books, toiletries, men’s and children’s clothing. You’ll know best what will be most helpful for your friends and stages of life.