i highly recommend throwing a swap party with your friends. the basis of the party is: you bring your junk and swap it with someone else's. i attended a friend's swap party while i lived in idaho and have been holding on to good-for-someone items ever since. it's a great reason to get a random bunch of people together (for a good cause - leftovers go to charity!), a fantastic excuse to clean out your own closets and a perfect way to break the ice with new friends! nothing like complimenting your friends on their fabulous taste and going home with their old wardrobes.
i am a bit sad i didn't get any photos during the actual swap party. these shots were snapped before the swap meet began. just imagine the backyard filled with a mix of gorgeous friends laughing and having fun, trying things on and getting excited when another swapper thought their old stuff was cute. the patio twinkle lights were perfect (thank you dan!), the citronella candles were burning and gals talked into the wee hours under the stars, brownies in hand. and, no rain! hooray. everyone left with baskets jammed full of treasures. i had a very helpful (and motivated) husband arrive in time to help clean up what was left. in fact, a few die-hards came back the following day to peruse the boxes ready for donation.
here are a few swap party hostess tips...
#1. HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST. let me put this out there, hosting a swap party is more work than your typical book club meeting. it's like hosting a party and setting up a garage sale. (but it's way more fun than a garage sale, sans the making-money-facet.) to make it more manageable, choose one theme of items you'd like to swap; accessories, shoes, books, home goods, craft supplies, clothes or kid stuff. i went with anything and everything in good condition which provided a nice huge assortment and yet, still plenty of leftovers to donate. since we are all different sizes and shapes, it's fun to swap more than just clothes. p.s. hosting a swap meet is perfect for someone who is knee deep in nesting mode and also in need of a girls night out!
#2. PREP AHEAD OF TIME. invite a number of friends and have them r.s.v.p. it is nice to have a vague idea of guest total and party size. the key to a swap party is to tell guests early on so they have lots of time to mull over their old stuff. i sent out a swap save the date (and save your stuff!) email (see sample below). when party week rolls around it's essential to have guests bring over their swap goods a day or two ahead of time! this way you can set up their items into neat categories (and take dibs on the best of the best). you may wonder what did i get myself into!? when your living room is bursting with boxes of junk, but forge onward. sorting their goods takes more effort but is well worth it for guests to feel like they're enjoying a shopping experience rather than hunting through rubbermaid bins in someone's garage. also a few guests may wonder if their stuff is swap worthy and feel sheepish about what they're donating.. if you receive it ahead of time, all the items are anonymous. no one knows who brought the hideous floor length taffeta plaid skirt, the sound of music drapes dress or the unopened bottle of contact lens solution. (awesome.) the randomness all adds up to good fun. more often than not guests were oohing and ahhhing over the wide selection. be sure to tell them to bring along a laundry basket to tote their new wares home!
#3. ENLIST HELPERS. (i couldn't have done it without them.) plan to set the party up like a shop, with clearly defined sections. being completely me, i made to-do lists and mapped out a layout of how the swap party would be organized a few days ahead of time. people without kids won't want to wade through onesies to get to hot high heels and handbags. dan helped me set up tables outside (according to my maps / oh he is a patient one) and made sure the yard looked super nice. i made simple signs, got out tablecloths, baked snacks (including these pb cookies) and cleaned the house (and sent reminder emails). my sister-in-law babysat while friends and i set up the items beforehand. elizabeth dropped by and folded up all the shirts and pants in a rainbow color-coordinated fashion. genius! she scored a few items early for coming to my rescue. don't forget to set out a full-length mirror! we leaned ours in the crook of our apricot tree. it was so nice to host it in the backyard; the clean-up went a lot quicker. also-being outdoors–no one was confused of what items were actually mine and which were up for grabs. guests were welcome to use another room inside as a dressing room if they needed privacy. most gals were just throwing the clothes on over their outfits. this is what i refer to as H&M try-ons. i have many happy memories of trying clothes on like a crazy person in the aisles of the 5th avenue location in NYC.
#4. CHOOSE A METHOD TO THE MADNESS. tell the guests what to expect ahead of time, as in what your rules for the party will be. there are lots of different ways for a swap to run smoothly. i read up on a few varied parties and decided to give out carnival-type tickets in exchange for each guest's swapping wares, 12 tickets for 12 items, etc. (however i didn't even end up doing this.) also, i figured anyone who did not bring anything could still come and browse the leftovers. it ended up that all of my guests brought approximately the same number of items to swap, so i let go of the whole ticket idea. we're not in sixth grade anymore. however, i did make them wear name tags. it was a swap meet and mingle afterall. to help the party run smoothly, i gave every guest a number and told them to remember it; first guest who arrived was number one, second was number two and so forth. as soon as everyone showed up, they had a chance to circle around and browse the tables for favorite items. i let them know that round one was beginning; the first three guests got to pick one item. then the second group chose an item and so on. no one was squabbling, everyone was excited and quite civil! a couple girls both wanted the same thing and kept offering it to each other. after three rounds of having guests choose a favorite item, i could see that i didn't really need to police the party any longer. i announced that the swap meet was officially a free-for-all. people tried clothes on, discussed home decor, tried out scarves and bangles and their stacks stacked up! i reminded them that anything left at my house at the end of the night would be donated.
#5. PREPARE FOR CLEAN-UP. like any party, the dreaded clean-up may seem looming. be prepared, there will be stuff leftover! since your guests just purged their closets, most of them do not want to clutter their home with as many items as they brought in the first place. they are delighted with the handful of awesome treasures they just landed for free (and may be even happier they have excess room in their closets)! enlist a motivated helper to move that stuff right on out the moment the guests leave. i almost wanted to leave it all out and let my sisters come peruse the next day... but dan was motivated. i tend to hoard, so it was good to have dan's help load up empty boxes and dissemble the tables like a man on a mission. i started on the dishes so i wasn't tempted to grab anything extra that i don't actually need in my life. however i did score plenty of cute stuff; mounds of baby boy clothes (hooray), a new purse, some post-baby clothes, a miniature table for benji's room and a few pieces of wild (larger than my typical stud earrings) jewelry. plus a boatload of new friends. before midnight, the dishwasher was humming and there were five giant boxes ready for donation sitting on the back porch. the night was a big success. thanks to everyone who came!