I was introduced to the world of clothing swaps when I saw an event on my friends Facebook page. The rules were simple enough, bring gently used clothes and swap for new ones! Since I was pregnant with my second boy I thought it would be nice to trade clothes so my kids wouldn’t look like twins in every picture. I really didn’t know what to expect from a swap but I took out my sons old clothes Rubbermaid containers and went to sorting. I made it to the swap with about 35 items and left with 40 (and 10 credits for the next swap). That is a lot of free clothes!
If you think of it, 10 clothes that are too small were traded to pajamas and shirts in the next size up for my oldest. The rest went for 0-18 month items. How much would it cost for ten brand new clothing items at the PX? Unless it is on the sale rack at least $50. I was also able to donate clothes and shoes for the next swap! The great thing is, these swaps in Oki are held every 3 months so by the time the kids are growing into a new size or a new season comes, you can upgrade the wardrobe for zero cost!
Want to do a swap in your area? Here are some tips!
- Find a team – Creating a swap is daunting and time consuming. Don’t tackle it all on your own if you don’t have too! You will need planning, sorting and day of volunteers. Takes as many as you can and offer them incentives for helping.
- Find a location – In Okinawa, the clothing swap is held in the cafeteria of an elementary school and every last table is filled with clothes! Find a location easy for people to get to and make sure it has a lot of space. People will rummage through many items over and over and would prefer to have a little body space.
- Get the word out – Use every outlet you and your team have to get the word out. Put up advertisements around base and advertise online. This event is almost too good for people to pass up on, so make sure everyone on your camp knows it is happening. The more people to donate = more clothes to choose from.
- Create a registration – Have all attendees pre-register with the amount of clothes they are bringing. You might want to set up a cap depending on the location you choose.
- Collect the clothes – Every donated item will have to be closely inspected for stains, rips, or pilling. Plan for a drop off day the day before the swap and use all of your volunteers to sort the clothes. All the items that have damages, will be returned to the swapper when they check out of the swap.
- Sort the cloths – Separate boys and girls clothes according to sizes and put up signs so the swappers can easily find the items they want.
- Organize – Create a system so that the swappers know how many items they can choose and make an easy check out and check in for the event. The more organized, the smoother the day will go.
- Leftovers – These can go to the next swap and the cycle can forever continue!
Military families have a certain stereotype when it comes to kids, but lets be frank many us do have kids! And we all know how fast children grow up. Swapping helps everyone save money and helps build the community environment. See if you have a swap in your area and if you don’t, why not start one?
I love this idea and would LOVE to do one here but I’m not sure how the “checkout” process would work. Also what happens when someone brings their clothes in and can’t find anything they like? You could just pass on the credit to the next swap but what if they are upset and don’t wish to participate the next time? Sorry so many questions I’m just REALLY intrigued by this idea!
Kristina wrote back:
I got an answer from one of the coordinators of the Oki swap –
We strive to have great consistency of only quality clothes, which is why we have so many volunteers reviewing the items brought in at each swap. Our strict guidelines means all the items brought in should be clean, good condition clothing. Our last swap brought in over 5500 items, and 200 registered participants, which means more selection in every size. While we cannot guarantee each persons taste in clothing will be found, we try our best to keep the consistency of the clothing quality great. I would recommend volunteering, which gives you 10 prepicks to use of your own credits, to pick before the swap starts, or perhaps only bringing in a few items this swap to check it out.
She also gave me a link to the rules for the swap here in Oki. https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B6AtLChpMGIXTG9wSTU5SE90LVE/edit?docId=1I3hT8dW7usSbAAnq_x7NApMkGHsswCnu_iFFlKH77eE
You checkout by having a table in front of the exit and volunteers that will check the number of credits (cloths) each person had before the swap began, and deduct the amount they are cashing in. Here they do lines in alphabetical order to make checkout faster!
Also if someone doesn’t find anything they like, then tell them they are more than welcome to pick out the clothes they donated. Hopefully you don’t have this issue!