HOW TO START A FREE SWAP
If you love clothes (or electronics, or other stuff), and you love being with fun, thrifty, kind people – why not start a swap? See Free Swaps in action here.
What you need to start a swap:
- Venue that will allow you to use it for free. Venues currently holding swaps include senior centers, churches, community centers, a Jazzersize gym, a meeting room in a grocery store, and libraries. Sometimes people will start swaps in their own homes, and when it grows too big they’ll seek out a larger venue. For women’s clothing swaps, even though you’ll have spandex or swimsuits on for modesty, you’ll probably want a location that offers a bit of privacy while trying on clothes
- Set working rules. As an example, the idea behind free swaps is to offer and get free clothes and stuff, forever. No money changes hands ~ even if you get the items home and decide they aren’t quite ‘you’, we ask that you GIVE them away to someone. That is the mission of free swaps. We request that all items be clean and in working order because no one wants to bring good stuff and have to pick through trash. We ask that all remainders after the swaps be donated to organizations that will give them away (not sell them). Examples might include: PTA clothes closet, FISH emergency services, church clothing closets, friends and neighbors, women’s resource centers, and homeless shelters. Since all the clothing and stuff is already washed and in good condition, people at these places get to have fun looking through new-to-you items, too:) Also, these Free Swap Rules help keep things running smoothly.
- Set a day and time. Swaps usually take about an hour.
- Get the word out. Try putting notices on Craigslist, posting them at your local community center, senior center, corner store, church, daycare, book group, college, or other places thrifty kind women/people gather. Email your friends, post information on facebook, notify your meet-up group, send a notice a month in advance to your newspaper if they post public notices for free. You can design a swap to cover anything from a particular size range such as women’s and teens size small, to a particular theme such as Christmas or Holiday giftables. The point is to do all of your advertising free, since that’s one of the goals of free swapping.
- Don’t mess things up by asking for money. With free swaps, we’re all on the same level – no one knows who just lost their job or who just won the lottery- we gather because we are thrifty, fun people with too much stuff – but not the right stuff – in our closets:) A swap feels like we’re all playing dress-up or hanging out in a free store, all sharing what we don’t need/use/want anyway, and coming home with new stuff that we love – all with like minded people. We all get to be philanthropists because the goodies that remain after a swap go to organizations that will give them away. Everybody wins.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL CLOTHING SWAP LOOK LIKE?
This is how I organize my swaps, but you can do it the way that feels right to you.
Shoes, purses, accessories, and jewelry are in a separate pile so when swapping starts, no one is hit by an errant shoe, and earrings don’t snag that nice sweater.
All the clothes are kept in bags while we wait. When it’s time to start, the swap coordinator gives the go-ahead to empty bags into rows on the floor. After you empty your bags, step back until everything is out and ready. Things in the middle of the room in rows are free. Items in little piles around the room, against the walls or in bags are someones’ stash.
When everything is in rows, the swap coordinator will say, “Go!” And we’ll all start at the same time. That way everyone has the same opportunity to find new clothes.
Gather what looks good to you then try things on. Mirrors are available (I have 4 full length mirrors that were donated that I bring to the venue with me when I set up. Other swap coordinators ask women to bring mirrors. Or if you’re lucky you might get a yoga studio with mirrors already there:). If the clothes you try on aren’t quite ‘you’, throw them back into the rows for someone else to enjoy.
If you participate in free swaps, you agree to abide by these rules: No re-sellers, ebay, hoarders, etc. We ask our swappers to support our mission by enjoying the swap as a place to get free stuff, and if you part with your new-to-you swap items, we ask that YOU do it in a free way too!
OTHER SWAP TIPS
Arrive at the venue at the stated time with clean in good condition items to swap.
I know it’s exciting to see all the free stuff laying around, but No cheating! No taking, or hiding, or stuffing things into your sack before we officially start! It only makes it fair for all of us.
Wear a swim suit or spandex workout clothes under your street clothes when going to a women’s clothing swap. Many venues are in a public building. Occasionally a choir person, janitor, or male customer will wander in - so not being naked is a good thing for all concerned. (If you are swapping stuff instead of clothing – such as if it’s a plant swap outside in the spring – you’ll want to dress for the outdoor weather, etc.)
Some women clear out whole wardrobes to swap their first time, then a few items after that. You can bring a piece of jewelry and leave with a whole wardrobe or visa-versa. The point of the swap is to grab what you don’t want/use/need, clean it up, and bring it to swap for free. We all have fun and find new stuff we like. Be courteous and generous, and come prepared to play.
It’s fun to see people smile as they try on something you brought, or see the encouragement of ‘that looks great on you’ and ‘here’s some jeans in your size’. You’ll be able to try new fashions you’d never dream to try on in a store, and it’s all because GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN! (or in the case of stuff swaps, KIND MEN, WOMEN, AND TEENS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN!)
Please do NOT bring: clothes that are not of the specified swap size, clothes that are ripped/stained/dirty/smelly/not wearable. If you have unwearable clothing items you might try offering them on www.freecycle.org
HAVE YOUR FREE SWAP INCLUDED ON THIS SITE!
If you live in the Northwest* and want to have your swap listed on this site under the “Other Swaps” page, please email the following to firstname.lastname@example.org
1. your name (first and last, or just first)
2. your email (and/or phone number) so people can contact you if they have questions about your swap, and to RSVP if needed
3. What it is you are swapping (women’s size large clothing? Electronics and computer stuff? All-size clothing? Household goods and gifts? scrapbooking? etc.)
3. The name and address of your venue
4. The day and time of your venue (is it monthly? quarterly? yearly?)
5. A promise that the useable remainders will be given away, not sold.
6. If items are damaged (such as occasional items that are ripped/stained/broken) they can be offered at freecycle.org, or recycled into useable products for sale (such as donating them to artists who can turn rags into treasures, or donated to a techie place that will fix broken stuff).
*If you live in an area outside of the Pacific Northwest and would like to be listed, please send your name, city, state, country, what you are free swapping (clothes, toys, etc.) a contact email, and your promise to abide by the free swap rules. I am considering creating a drop down window under Other Swaps that would list basic information on free swaps around the world. Please let me know if your information changes so I can keep this site accurate with currently running free swaps.
P.s. See the difference between a Free Swap and a Swap Meet
(Once you experience the difference, you’ll be hooked on Free Swaps:)