Just about everyone has items tucked away in the back of their closet or stuffed in a storage bin that will never see the light of day — at least, not in your house. Instead of these things, many of which were costly, taking up valuable storage space, why not swap them out for some “new to you” things that you and your family can use.
Swapping works because it’s favorable to tight budgets. But there are also some social perks since swapping helps strengthen bonds and friendships, which is especially beneficial in an age where so much of our communication is done via email, text messaging, and social networking sites.
Here’s what you need to know to start swapping.
Type of swap: Clothing
If you haven’t worn or thought about an article of clothing in at least 2 years, it’s time to swap it. Get started by sorting through your closets and drawers to gather up the items you no longer wear, like, or want to keep around and swap them for items you’re sure to wear out.
A minimum of 3 to 4 swappers is best to get a variety, but the more the merrier. If you’re going to hold an at-home swap, try to keep the number to around 10 to 12 women to maintain organization and have enough time to go through all the goodies.
Make sure all items are freshly laundered and try things on before taking them home. Don’t allow clothes with missing buttons, stains or tears. You don’t want to tote home something you’ll never wear. And make sure everyone brings at least 1 item to swap in order to participate. When trying on or swapping, refrain from critiquing items because what you consider outdated or unattractive might be a once beloved treasure to a fellow swapper.
Pro tip: To display a lot of items, ask swappers to bring items on clothes hangers (that will be swapped with the item). These can be hung on rope or heavy-duty twine that’s strung across the garage, sunroom or basement. Clothes can also be transported to the swap in large plastic totes which can double as tables to display sweaters, kid’s clothes and small items.
Type of swap: Toys
You can swap toys your kids have either outgrown or grown tired of, but still have hours and hours of life in them. In return, you get like-new or gently used toys.
5 or 6 participants make indoor swaps manageable; however, if you hold an outdoor toy swap, there’s no need to set a limit. And swap without kids present because they might not want to part with their items – even if they no longer play with them.
Group toys by ages or with like items to speed up swapping so swappers know just where to go to look for items that most interest them. And whenever possible, all toys should be disinfected or cleaned before being brought to the swap. To avoid toy tug-of-wars over popular items, draw numbers from a hat to determine who chooses first, second, etc. from the toy bins
Pro tip: Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website to make sure you’re not swapping toys that have been recalled or that may be harmful.
Type of swap: Media (DVDs, Video games, etc.)
Get rid of video games and media your kids have outgrown, don’t like, or completed. Then come home with a new pile of games to play and movies to watch tucked under your arm.
You can swap with as little as one other person, but to improve the selection options, aim to have 8 to 10 swappers. Try to swap with parents whose children are around your kid’s ages to ensure you’re all getting items everyone can use and if you’re swapping video games, make sure your child erases his prior saved games and progress before the game gets a new home.
Pro tip: Media doesn’t require a lot or room so you can spread everything out on the dining room table or basement floor. Group things by their ratings or by gaming systems (if you’re swapping video games).
Type of swap: Meals
No more complaining to friends about how much work it is to cook meals for the week and or trying to figure out what to make for dinner tomorrow.
Get 5 or 6 friends or neighbors together and each of you cook a large batch of one recipe. Keep a quarter to half the food for your family and package the rest in baggies or plasticware you also swap.
You’ll save money because when buying ingredients in bulk you get to try out different recipes while saving time. You use the same energy heating up the oven to bake one lasagna or three all cooked together. But swapping meals gives your stove a break a few times a week, thus requiring less energy.
Pro tip: Choose different types of meal “themes” each month like Mexican, Italian, chicken, casseroles, soup, etc. Have each swapper make one recipe and bring four meals that are big enough to feed a family of four. We draw names to be able to pick which meal we want to take home, and have four rounds of choosing.
These tried and true basics will help you get these (or any other sort of swap) up and running.
Set ground rules. Print a list of rules such as the number of items you need to bring to participate, or how many items you’re allowed to swap. List rules for exchanges and trades, “first come, first serve” and what happens to items no one wants.
Stay on track. Determine a time limit for the swap and designate a “Swap Taskmaster” to oversee the event and make sure things run smoothly.
Take turns. Rotate swap sites to lessen the burden on swap members. And since it’s easier to empty out closets and drawers when you don’t have to haul the things past your front door, rotating sites lets hostesses take turns deep cleaning.
Reswap. Books, DVDs and even winter jackets have several lives in them. Once you’re done with swapped items, take them back and swap them again for something else.
Speak up. Make sure everyone has a common understanding of what’s expected, what items are acceptable, etc., and that you’re all comfortable communicating with each other if there is a problem.
Don’t be shy. Talk to friends, neighbors and co-coworkers about starting or participating in a swap or co-op. You never know who has your next treasure or great idea for a new swap session.
Photo Credit: Getty ThinkStock, iStock