DIY: Host a clothing swap

On September 11, the National Day of Service and also a National Day of Remembrance, I wanted to do both without gratuitously doing either. So, what better than hosting a fun event and celebration of girlfriends with a charity component? In the end, 15 girls each went home with some fun new finds and also donated more than 120 items to Housing Works. Here’s how it went down:

Beforehand: Clothing swaps need more notice than your average party, because people like time to clean out their closets. In this case, I gave 5 week’s notice via a facebook event, and it paid off; people brought suitcases full of stuff! Also use this as a chance to give guidelines of what’s ok – dresses, jackets, pants, belts, shirts, shoes, jewelry, scarves, skirts, hats – and what’s not ok – underwear, baby clothes, canned food. Also ask them to bring either a snack or mimosa makings to share. You should buy a few to get people started with, but people definitely will bring if you ask.

As people arrive: Use as much surface space as possible to lay out and sort all items into ‘like’ buckets. It’s not an exact science, but it helps give order to an otherwise overly chaotic event. Also, distribute mimosas and snacks, and introduce people who don’t know each other.

Let the swap begin: Set ground rules: 1) Everyone who wants to try something on can, 2) Anything brought is up for grabs, 3) Everyone leaves with something, and 4) Anything jokey said about clothing is not an insult to anyone; have a sense of humor about it all. Then, someone (doesn’t have to be you as host, but can be) starts holding up items, giving a brief description (incl. size and brand) and throwing to a person who’s interested. Note that this is also a great time to attempt comedy. If nobody wants an item, it goes in the donate pile, which grows rapidly. When enough items have been distributed, take a break and start trying on! When someone has a clear winner, everyone knows it, and you should probably all cheer, because it’s pretty exciting. Continue trying on and distributing more items.

After: Get friends to help fold and itemize the throwaways. Put in durable bags (we even had a suitcase that was being donated!) and make sure you have a plan for getting all of those items to the agreed upon donation center.

The whole thing will probably last a little more than 3 hours, and I guarantee a good time! Easy as that!

[editor’s note: this is not a women’s only affair, though I don’t think men enjoy this quite as much. however, for a unisex option, try a tshirt swap! same thing with all your old tshirts!]

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