clothing swap graphic women

Want to minimize your possessions but it just seems so hard to let go of all your beloved treasures? Josie Ortega reports on a sure-fire way to jumpstart your decluttering and gives useful tips for hosting a clothing swap.

Clothing Swap And Decluttering

In a recent conversation about decluttering, my mom proposed a great idea for The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. She’d like to see Marie Kondo visit a southern home, or a beach house, and come face to face with an enormous koozie collection.

As a maximalist by nature, I do love that Marie Kondo’s method offers the freedom to keep those cherished, worn items as long as you still really do love them.

If those genius drink holders spark joy, keep them by all means! But Mom and I guess that taken all together, you’d end up keeping only the best of the best koozies. (“Those people divorced years ago!” quipped my mom.)

That’s really the only de-cluttering and organizing tip I feel confident to tell you: If you’re still holding on to koozies that commemorate a failed marriage, please release them into the universe.

Decluttering Triumphs and Failures

If there are five stages of grief, I’m confident that I’ve been through—and survived!—the 92 stages of decluttering.  I’ve:

  • laid out piles, like with like.
  • gone room by room, or shelf by shelf.
  • stockpiled things over weeks and months for the neighborhood yard sale.
  • snuck obnoxious children’s items out to the car under the cover of night.
  • sold a thing or two on Craigslist in my day.

My best-case scenario is to get into cycles of clearing out, to be confident in having what I need and enjoy, and to prevent extraneous items from piling up and overwhelming me.

As the organizational junkies will tell you, a key step in successful decluttering is deciding ahead of time what to do with the items you’re ready to part with. That way, your car doesn’t become a permanent donation pile. You’re also less likely to go back on your decisions. (Not that I would know.)

Whether you’re doing the full KonMari method on your home, or more informally simplifying one area at a time, it helps enormously to “close the cycle.” In other words, finish a job completely. You’ll feel satisfied and energized to continue that habit.

clothing pile

Get Motivated With A Clothing Swap

I attended a clothing swap last week, which provided a quick, fun, satisfying way to close the cycle.

Relative to my history, I’m not currently in a place where I need to sort through excessive possessions. We’re doing alright in keeping things on the simple side around here—again, relatively speaking. Plus I don’t have much extra time or energy to spend on a big project.

When my friends Johanna and Jessica invited me to their clothing swap, I thought I probably wouldn’t attend, since I didn’t have much to bring.

Reader, I was wrong.

What To Choose For A Clothing Swap

On the day of the gathering, I thought of a couple items that I could contribute to the clothing swap. New slippers that didn’t really fit well, and a vest that’d been hanging in the front closet for a long time. I like it. I just haven’t been wearing it.

If a friend of mine—or friend of a friend—could use either of those, that seemed worth an outing and an excuse to have a glass of wine. So I popped those two items into a paper grocery bag and put it ready to go by the front door.

By the end of the day, I was ready to go with not one, but three full bags.

Whatever that says about me­, I don’t know. Having a specific event and specific people in mind who might be able to use my no-longer-fulfilling-their-potential clothes jolted my motivation into high gear.

swap party

How To Host a Clothing Swap

Here’s the email my friends sent:

Cleaning out your (or your kids’) closet(s) one of your New Years’ Resolutions? Let us give you a little extra motivation! Join us at the home of [name] on [date] at [time]. We’ll hold a little swap and then donate the rest! There will be wine, snacks and friends … and Salvation Army will pick up everything the next morning—basically a super easy and fun way to clean out!

Here are Johanna’s and Jessica’s other methods and tips for a clothing swap:

  • Invite friends. You’ll want enough people to provide a good variety of available items.
  • If you have any category parameters, set them. Should it be limited to women’s clothing? You might want to include kids’ clothing, housewares, books, toys. Or set up another swap for those categories.
  • Schedule the clothing swap after dinner and after young kids’ bedtimes. Ours was at 8 pm on weeknight. Better attendance, low expectations for food. Keeps the focus on the friends and the “free shopping.”
  • We enjoyed drinks and snacks as friends showed up. All of us laid out the items we brought with what was already there.
  • Set it up so that like goes with like: tops on the sofa, pants on this chair, dresses here, outerwear over here, and so on.
  • Johanna gave the lay of the land. First-come, first-served, and her only other rule was, “If you like something and someone else likes it too . . . be nice to each other.”
  • Johanna provided grocery bags for each person to use as we shopped, ate, drank, and caught up with one another.
  • Bag up what’s left over. We had a dozen bags.
  • Ahead of time, schedule the donation pick up for the following morning. Done and done.

The Satisfaction Of A Decluttering Job Well Done

At the end of the clothing swap party, most people took away a few items, far fewer than they brought.

Jessica scored my vest AND my slippers (I was thrilled!), and I took home a few items, too. I arrived with three bags and departed with one. Chalk it up as a WIN!

All in all, a totally productive Moms’ Night Out. If you’re stuck in a decluttering rut, or if you’ve gotten some momentum going but are having trouble closing the cycle, gather some friends for moral support and try a clothing swap!

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