How to Organize a Clothing Swap at Home

Added by on March 1st, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

Dear readers,

While city-wide clothing swaps are lots of fun (we are definitely huge fans!), it can also be fun to invite a few friends over to your house or apartment and have your own low-key swap. As Julia (check our her fantastic blog, Jeeze, Julia!) points out in today’s blog, hosting a swap is a great, low-budget way to get new clothes, have a party and donate to Goodwill – what a trifecta! Have you hosted a swap? How did you organize it? Julia shares some great tips on how to organize your own swap – if you do, let us know and pass along any pictures!

I’m a huge fan of clothing swaps like SWAPmaine (Let’s be honest, who isn’t?)

City-wide swaps are big fun and offer much more than just the chance to redo part of your wardrobe. But, in between these large swapping events you may feel the need to purge some of your current wears in favor of a fresh look. When your budget doesn’t allow for a shopping trip, but you’re feeling as though it is necessary, then, my friend, it is time for you to host an at-home swap.

I was a little intimidated when I was first chosen by and to host a small-scale swap in my home, but when all was said and done, I was beaming with happiness at my new finds and at the excitement I felt for the treasures my guests took home. I cleaned out my closet, got to fill in the blank spaces with fun new pieces, and the swap also gave me an excuse to spend time with some lovely ladies that I otherwise might not have! Plus, as a group we were able to donate four huge bags full of extra clothing and shoes to our very favourite nonprofit: Goodwill Industries of Northern New England.

So now I’ve convinced you, right? Are you wondering if you can pull off an at-home swap? You can. And to make it easier on you, here are some things that really helped me:

  • Pick a theme and decorate for it. This step certainly isn’t necessary, but for me it was the most fun part. Plus, it’ll give your guests something to chat about if they haven’t met before while you’re busy sorting the clothes.
  • Ask some friends for help. Anytime I’m hosting a big event I like to have one or two people that I can count on for various tasks throughout the night. You never know if a guest will be lost trying to find your house and you’ll have to step outside to find them, or if the hosting space becomes too crowded and some furniture needs to be moved. Lots of things could go wrong when groups get together, but if you have some people you can count on to help while you’re busy, it will be smooth sailing.
  • Plan something for your guests to do while you sort. Snacks and drinks should be enough in most cases, but this is where the theme can sometimes help out. You could also make sure you invite one or two very social people to break the ice while you’re busy setting up the sorting area.
  • Have the swap area planned and set up before the guests arrive. Try to predict how many articles will be brought (this can be very difficult!). You’ll want to make sure that you have enough space for all of the pieces to be sifted through during the swap, and have a system going that makes sense as far as traffic patterns and the group size go. You don’t want everyone to feel too cramped to be able to check out all of the pre-sorted sections! Don’t forget to prepare an area for accessories and shoes, too!
  • Send an email or a Facebook message to all of your attendees about a week before the swap letting them know what to expect. Some people have never even heard of a clothing swap and might be a little nervous about the outcome. Be sure to let them know if there will be time or space to try their clothes on, or if they should wear something that they can layer over. Give them the basic schedule for the party, tell them what they need to bring, and be sure to let them know that any questions they may have are welcome.


  • Greet each guest at the door as they enter. Chances are they might not know the other people invited, so take a moment to make introductions before slipping off with their bag of items to-be-swapped.
  • Sort items as they come through the door. Since you set up the sorting area ahead of time, all you have to do now is to add the clothes! You can fold them neatly, but remember that people will be digging through them in excitement, so you don’t have to make it look perfect. At this point everyone’s probably getting really excited, so don’t take too long setting it all up!
  • Keep at least one of your helpers with the guests while you sort. If they have questions about where the bathroom is, or a musical request, you’ll have someone there to help them out.
  • Explain the basic rules before the swapping begins!
  • Start with a browsing period. Let everyone take all the time they need to look through the items and pick some favourites before stuffing anything into their bags. It can get pretty stressful when people are reaching over each other, grabbing, and removing items from the swap before others have even gotten the chance to see them, but if they all get the chance to see everything that is available and decide what they want the most then everyone will go home happier at the end of the night.
  • Make sure everyone has a swap bag! You may choose to have new tote bags made just for the event, or you can simply give them back the bag they brought their items in. But, once swapping begins, they’ll need a place to stash all of their amazing finds.
  • Give each guest three (or four, or five!) tags, numbered, and with their names on it. Tell them to pin it onto their three favourite items — No. 1 goes on their favourite, 2 on their second favourite, etc. This way everyone will hopefully go home with the things they like the best. If two people pin the same item, it goes to the person who rated it the highest. If both people pin it as their favourite, have a trivia question ready or have them do rock-paper-scissors to determine the winner. The other person should then have a chance to choose another item.
  • Once favourites have been chosen, the rest can be a free for all! No items are off limits, give as many articles a new home as you can!
  • Have some free swag for guests to go home with as well. Maybe they didn’t get their favourite item, but if they got some really neat free stuff, that might make up for it!

  • Ask a friend ahead of time stay late to help you clean up. Reward them with the leftover goodies and make sure to thank them for all of their help.
  • Donate your extras to Goodwill! If there are unclaimed items (and I’m sure there will be), you’ll all feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing that you helped to support a local charity. A big smile spreads across my face whenever I drop off a donation at Goodwill, and your guests should have the opportunity to feel that they have helped as well!

I hope this advice inspires you to host your first (or next!) at-home clothing swap. I had so much fun with mine that I am suddenly tempted to go through my closet in search of more pieces that I’m ready to part with! However, it is about time to start saving for SWAPmaine!

 See you there?


Ken Christian
Senior Director, Communications
Goodwill Administrative Office

Updated 3 months ago by Kimberly Curry

Swap & Goodwill NNE

Why buy something new when you can SWAP! We believe in SWAP wholeheartedly here at Goodwill NNE.

DIY & Goodwill NNE

Giving new life to Goodwill finds extends the life of the item and makes for a sustainable choice. Not only will you be saving money, but you will be saving our planet by diverting products from landfills.

Sustainability & Goodwill NNE

Sustainability starts with a shirt. Goodwill calls it shirt economics. Shirt donations create jobs, and shirt sales sustain the working community.


Julia Berry is a contributing writer for the Goodwill Industries International blog. She still tries to find time for her very patient boyfriend and their two cats while also running an Etsy shop and keeping a personal blog (Jeeze, Julia!) on top of her day job.