Tagged: donate

Swapping 101: Throw a party, get free clothes, + make friends

This I Wear | Swapping 101

Swapping, swishing, shwopping. There are many new buzzwords all pointing to the same idea: exploring alternative ways of adding to our closets without spending money or adding to our environmental footprint. When we need or want something new in our wardrobe, the first impulse might be to head to the store. But what if we could get what we needed without worrying about the sustainability and ethical issues or costs that come with buying new clothes? And we could make some new friends or reconnect with old friends in the process?

Swapping lets you exchange clothes you no longer want for clothes someone else no longer wants, usually for free and often in the context of a swap party. While there are a number of online sites that now let you consign or swap your clothes (I’m personally excited about Bib & Tuck), I still think the best way to swap is in person among friends.

Last month, I attended a swap party hosted by Moishe House, Barrie Schwartz of My House, and Stasia Cymes of Ladies Night Out to figure out the ingredients of a successful swap party. If you’re like many of the party attendees, you’ve just cleaned out your closet and you may have a pile of clothes to share. But a truly successful swap party is a social event and gives guests peace of mind by knowing that even if their contributions don’t get adopted that night, they’ll find a new home through donation.

Stasia Cymes, in addition to founding Ladies Night Out, runs a professional organizing service called Clear the Clutter. When finding your swap contributions, she recommends bringing an item…
– If you haven’t worn the piece in a year
– If you’re holding onto something in hopes that you’ll fit into it again
– If you have multiples of the same item (such as the ubiquitous “black pant”) but only feel good in one or two of your collection
– If you’re holding onto something because of its value in dollars and not its value to you
– If you’re keeping something because it might come back in style, but it doesn’t actually make you feel good or comfortable
– If it fits you physically but no longer fits your personality or where you are in your life right now

If you’re ready to try swapping, here’s how to plan your own party:
1. Clean out your closet and ask your friends (and their friends) to do the same. For a successful party, guests should bring at least 1-3 pieces each. But the more you bring, the more fun everyone will have.
2. Send the invitations. I recommend making the party single sex to make sure you have a good selection for all of your attendees and because stripping down to try on clothes is somewhat inevitable. But don’t worry about inviting guests of different sizes and with different styles. Swapping is about getting creative, and a range of sizes and tastes usually works itself out.
3. Once you’ve got a location, set up the space like you would a shop. Designate a “fitting room” or make sure you have a full-length mirror or two. Create areas for each of the product categories. If you have less than 20 guests, separate items into tops, bottoms, dresses, jackets/outerwear, and accessories/shoes. If you have more than 20 guests, you can break these categories down further (example: “bottoms” becomes denim, dress pants, casual pants, skirts, etc).
4. As guests arrive, ask them to place their items in the different categories. At this point, they can browse the items already there but no swapping yet! Cocktails or snacks will help your guests get comfortable with each other while waiting for the swapping to begin.
5. Once everyone has arrived, start swapping. Guests can begin browsing and trying on items. If you have just a few guests, let guests take as many items as they like. If you have a larger group, perhaps guests can take a piece for every piece they brought in the first round (whether by the honor system or by tickets), and then any leftovers are fair game for all.
6. Donate any remaining items. As an added perk to your guests, take care of making sure any remnants have another chance by dropping them off at a local donation center.

The perks of a swap party as both a social experience and one that is free of cost makes me think this trend will only continue to grow. And none of the guests seemed too concerned with what they went home with. Guest Annie Jackson found two items to bring home, but it was the social aspect and the opportunity to unload unwanted clothes that drew her to the event. Brittany Hunt was looking forward to getting some clothes for free, especially clothes that might be more interesting than what she’d find in stores, but she was most looking forward to the community aspect too. Brittany also pointed out that she’s more willing to try on things out of her usual style and to take things she isn’t totally sure about. So a swap party can be a fantastic way to play with your own style at literally no cost or risk. And in Brittany’s words, “You can’t really have expectations. I see it as a way to get rid of stuff that you’re not wearing and then if you don’t get anything, at least your closet is a little cleaner.” It doesn’t get anymore win-win than that.

Special thanks to Barrie Schwartz, Stasia Cymes, Annie Jackson, and Brittany Hunt for sharing their insights! And to our readers: I’ve seen the success of swapping among women, but I’m insanely curious to know if this idea can work with the gents too. Comment or tweet @ThisIWear to share if you think this works for both sexes (and if you’ve seen it in action), or if swapping really is a lady thing.

The truly clean closet: How to donate the right way

This I Wear | Lost Sock Textile Recycling

When I was growing up, my mom regularly dropped off donations to a shelter for victims of domestic violence. It was just one of the ways she served our local community. She set a great example for me, and it’s a habit I still keep. But are we all good donors? While donating unwanted clothing is a great way to do something good and clean out your closet, are we donating the right way?

Small nonprofits, such as your local shelter, have little capacity to process these abundant donations. After seeing this firsthand during a recent volunteer stint, I realized that some individuals are dumping rather than donating. Instead of thoughtfully contributing to a cause they want to support, donating becomes a quick way to get rid of the burden of unwanted clothes. We know we shouldn’t throw away that moth-eaten sweater, so we tuck it in a donation bag in hopes that someone else can do our dirty work for us. Are we all guilty of this classic “donation hit-and-run”?

It is time to start being responsible owners of the things we’ve allowed into our lives and closets. Here are a few tips to make sure your closet clean up makes a difference:

1. Target your donation. If your donation is a handful of evening gowns, and the nonprofit you plan to give to needs business attire, your dresses won’t be of much help. In this example, a quick search for “evening gown donation” will direct you to a nonprofit like DonateMyDress.org that provides prom dresses for high school students in need. A little research will ensure your donations make it to the right place and deliver the maximum impact.

2. Ask the nonprofit for its needs and requirements. Each nonprofit is different, which means they all have unique rules for donations. Rules could include that clothing must be on hangers or only seasonal or certain types of clothing are accepted. Call ahead or check their website to make sure your donation is drop-off ready.

3. Wash those clothes. This may seem like common sense, but if you’ve ever volunteered in a donation center, you know it is not. There are no secret Laundromats in the back of charity shops and donation centers, so make sure the clothes are clean before you drop them off. If you’ve had a piece dry-cleaned, keep the dry cleaner tags on. This may take time and even a bit of money, but proper cleaning makes sure your donation is put to use rather than tossed in the trash.

4. Recycle rather than donate damaged or unusable clothing. Many cities now host textile recycling days or have drop off points for clothes that are seemingly beyond repair. This includes clothing with holes, stains, broken zippers, and yes, even that lone sock. To find a center near you, search Earth911.com for “clothing” recycling in your area. In NYC, textiles are collected at select Grow NYC Farmer’s Markets. Textile recycling is a huge industry and your items are likely to find a whole new life.

As a little lagniappe, here are a few of my favorite places to give:
Housing Works (NYC) – Great charity shops that support the organization’s incredible work serving New Yorkers living with AIDS.
Dress for Success (International) – Provides suits and career support for low income women who are job hunting.
Bridge House / Grace House (New Orleans) – Donations to their thrift shops support their residential recovery program for men and women with alcohol or drug dependencies.

Comment below or tweet @ThisIWear #cleancloset to share your favorite place or tips to donate or recycle clothing.

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