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How to Have a Great Swap Party

Swap Parties are Thrifty, Eco-Friendly and Fun


A swap party offers friends the chance to clean out their closets and cabinets and bring their unwanted stuff to swap with one another. Swap parties are fun, thrifty and a great way to find new things we want in exchange for things we no longer need - for free.

Swap Party Basics

Why Have a Swap Party?

It's a fun way to get something we need in exchange for something we no longer use. It's economical, eco-friendly and a great excuse to throw a party.

Who Should be Invited?

It is a good idea to try to stick with a small group (four to 12) friends who share similar taste, especially for your first swap party. After you have worked out the kinks of throwing a swap party you can increase the number to as high as 36 and still keep things manageable.

What About Invitations?

Send invitations through email or snail mail two to three weeks before the event.

  • List the time, place and party instructions.

  • Include swap party tips and specifics about the type and condition of the items to bring along. The items should be gently used, stain-free, and in good working condition.

  • Suggest that guests bring something to carry their new treasures home in, such as an expandable tote-bag or box.

  • Include a note that whatever does not get swapped goes back home.
Remember to keep a cheery tone when listing instructions. This is all about having fun!

Ready, Set, Start Swapping!

There will always be a few exceptionally wonderful items which everyone wants. To keep things under control you will need a system in place which you can explain to everyone at the beginning of the party or on the invitations.

Popular Systems

1) Swap party money. Hand out a penny or ticket for each item a guest brings to the swap. If someone brings 12 items, they will have 12 pennies to use for 12 new items.

2) In advance, place folded papers numbered 1 through however many guest you will have into a grab basket.

3) Let each guest choose their number to determine who will go first, second, etc. and limit the number of items which can be claimed to no more than three on the first round. This will keep things fair.

Getting Ready

  • Refreshments

    Keep refreshments simple. Light finger-foods, a cheese spread, chips and dip and cookies are all good ideas. Place the foods away from the merchandise. This will help avoid getting food or drink spills on all the swap goodies.

  • Setting Up the Swap Area

    Set up signs designating areas for the items your guests bring. After you exchange the pennies/tickets for the items, ask guests to place the items in the appropriate areas.

    Before beginning the actual swap, go through the items and quickly finesse the presentation, while your friends visit, snack and catch up on the latest news.

    Try not to spend more than 30 minutes preparing the areas. You want to make sure everyone has plenty of time to shop.


It is important to keep things moving during a swap party. The more organized and grouped the swap area is, the faster people will be able to browse it all.
  • Clothing and Accessories

    Clothing and accessories are always top of the list at swap partys. To prepare, have two tables - one for folded items and one for accessories.

    You will also want an area for hanging clothes. A rolling bar works great, but stringing up a heavy rope or clothes line will also work out just as well.

    It's also a good idea to size the items, such as small, medium and large.

  • Kid's Zone

    Set up an area just for kid's items. Organize the items by group - clothes, toys, gear, infants.

  • Household Items

    Group by type. Kitchen related items go in one area, linens and pillows in another and so on.

  • Books, Movies, Music

    If you have a small bookcase handy, this works out great for housing books sideways so that the titles can be easily read. If not, separating them by the types of books works out nicely - cookbooks in one group, gardening in one, non-fiction in another, etc.

    Music and movies can be alphabetized for quick scanning. Child related items can be moved to the Kid's Zone.

  • Yard and Garden

    You will want to avoid having oil and dirt inside your house. Set up an area for plants, containers and yard equipment on a patio area on in your yard.

The Personal Touch

Encourage guests to write something about some of the items they bring. Notes like, "Made me LOL" on a book, "Used one time" on a kitchen item.

Clean Up

Let people know in the invitation that leftover items go back home with their owners. This encourages people to pick out the best of their best unwanted items.

You can also have a sheet of directions to the local charity stores ready for those guests interested in dropping off their leftovers.

If you have a local charity which picks up unwanted items, you can arrange a pickup for the following day and offer this as an option to your friends.

Have fun at your next swap party!

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