One of the coolest things that I love to do to help the community, my friends, my family, the earth and myself is to organize a Clothing Swap twice a year. I originally read about the idea in a magazine and thought THAT IS SO AWESOME! I can totally do this too. I talked to some folks at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden and they agreed that this idea was wonderful. So we started down the Clothing Swap road.
English: The S.W.A.P. Team founder at a Take Off Your Clothes clothing swap event. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Here are some of the big things that I have learned over the years of doing these:
1. I cannot stress this one enough….the first time we did a Clothing Swap we did not specify this and we ended up dealing with clothes with cat pee on them….it was YUCKYYYYY!!!! So here you go, make sure to advertise that the clothes need to be clean and in good repair. There will always be some people who bring them not like that but it is much easier to get rid of a few things then a bunch of things at the end.
2. Local newspapers love to help advertise and get the word out for you. You can also have people hang flyers for you when they are running errands around town. That way you can get to lots of people that need help. You can also use the internet like ksl, craigslist, facebook, email and other local community calendars. Every time we have one we are in the paper for activities etc.. and the first time we did we were featured in stories about it in two different papers.
3. One to one and a half hours before the swap, I set up the tables all around so people can get to them from the front or the back. Then I put signs on them for Woman’s Extra Large, Large, Medium and Small then Mens Extra Large, Large, Medium and Small. I have discovered after doing this for so long that I always need more tables for the womens and a smaller are for men (sorry men, it is just what happens for some reason). I do all kids the same since there are so many clothes that are unisex. I don’t break it out into girls or boys. I then do them in size categories like 16- 14, 12- 10, 10 – 8, 6- 4, 3T- 2T, 18 month- 12 month, 6 month – 8 month and newborn – 3months. I also have an area for shoes, swimming suits, maternity and a rack to hang up nice clothing. We also do a spot for shoes and things like that. I keep the signs for the next swap also. Yippeee, more reusing!
4. I then have the volunteers go put their clothes out and any clothing that has been donated before the swap.
5. I also like to include other things so for the one that I am just planning before school starts I am doing back to school supplies with it also. That way kids can get supplies that they need. During our winter one we have done toys for people to get for their kids for winter holidays. I have a big table set up this also.
6. We advertise for people to bring 30 and take 30 so that we can make sure people bring clothes but we always have tons after. Once people get there, we tell them to take what they need because we have so much left afterwards. The first time I did this I actually counted them all and gave them a number but we had so many clothes left after it was pointless. I stopped doing the counting and went with the take what you need.
7. Then people are told to go around and put their clothes on the correct table and take things as they put them away. Usually a volunteer will help them if they have a lot that they bring.
8. Afterwards we always take the remaining items to a local thrift store. That way the clothes continue to help people.
9. Make sure you get lots of volunteers to help you out with this. I have some amazing friends that always come and help with this. I let them help pick things out as we set up and a reward for helping set up and take down. A small gift but it keeps them coming back to help!
Good luck with this and I hope you have lots of fun. It can be a lot of work by I love to keep it simple and have found these above items to really help with that. One of my fondest memories of this was our very first time that we did it. We had a Mom come up to us and start crying and saying how much this means to her. She did not know how she was going to get clothes for her kids this school year. Her husband had lost his job and they were down on their luck. She was able to get them all new clothes this way and paid nothing to do. I think of her often at these and as I hear other great stories of people that these have made a huge difference to. So I hope you get to go make a difference also!