Last updated: March 7, 2023
Swap parties are great events to get your friends together and exchange items they no longer need or want with others.
These parties can be organized around a specific theme, such as clothing, books, or household items.
I wrote an article about book swap parties and how to host one! On my personal blog here.
Swap parties offer a fun and sustainable way to refresh your wardrobe or home without spending money or contributing to waste.
In this post, I will show you what swap parties are, why you should host one, and how you can spice up your cocktail party or happy hour with some tips.
Why you should listen to me: Hi, I’m Nick Gray. I’ve personally hosted multiple book swap parties, and I helped my friend Courtney with her clothing swap in Texas. I’ve also hosted hundreds of cocktail parties. New York Magazine once called me a host of “culturally significant” parties.
What is a Swap Party?
A swap party is a social gathering where people bring items they no longer want or need and trade them with others for items they do want or need.
“Swap” in this context means to trade or barter, though most often it means to give away (like free) with the expectation that you will get something in return.
Swap parties can be a fun way to declutter and give your old items a new life. By trading with others, you can find new items that are more useful or enjoyable for you! They’re also a sustainable and community-oriented way to have fun with your friends and neighbors.
Why host a Swap Party?
- Spend time with friends
- Do something good for the environment
- Support your community
- Recycle or upcycle your old items
- Find new things for yourself (clothes, books, etc)
Swap Party Rules
As Priya Parker says in her book The Art of Gathering (one of my favorites!), every gathering needs intention and boundaries.
Creating a fair and easy system to swap items at your gathering is important. It will ensure that everyone has a positive experience at the swap party, and that no feelings are hurt. It also helps so that one person will not monopolize all the trading.
I’ll outline setting these simple rules below:
- Theme or category
- Limit on number of items
- Fair trading system
Set a theme or category
You can choose a specific theme or category for the swap party such as clothing, books, accessories, or household items. This will help people know what items to bring and what to expect.
- Good example: Bring new or used books. No magazines or journals, please.
- Bad example: Bring anything you want to swap!
Set guidelines for items
It’s always good to clarify things. You can set guidelines for the condition and quality of items. For example, you can ask people to bring items that are in good condition and clean, or bring unused swimwear, swimwear, etc. If this party is about women’s clothes only, then mention it.
A consistent piece of advice in other swap articles is that all clothing should be washed beforehand. This makes it much easier to donate afterwards, as well, for anything left behind.
- Good example: Women’s swap party for dresses, jackets, and blouses. No t-shirts, please.
- Bad example: Clothing swap! Bring as much as you want.
Set a limit on the number of items
If you want, you can set a limit on the number of items each person can bring to ensure that everyone has a fair chance to trade.
For example, you can ask people to bring no more than five items. This might encourage some people to only bring their best items and not “dump” everything from their storage unit to suddenly be your responsibility.
Create a fair trading system
This final guideline is optional. Some people may want to create a system for trading items that is fair and easy to follow. You can use a ticket system where each person receives a certain number of tickers that they can use to “buy” items from others. Use playing cards, tokens, or raffle tickets (given away for free) to each person.
How To Plan Your Own Swap Party
First, start by sending invitations to your friends or neighbors via text, email, DM, etc. You could say:
“Hey! I’m getting my friends together to host a book swap in three weeks. Can I send you more info? It will be on a Wednesday night, May 24th, from 6-9pm. Let me know if you’re available!”
This is one of the most important things you need to do to set your party up for success. Give yourself at least three weeks in advance to invite people and collect RSVPs. It will ensure that you have enough time to fill up your list of RSVPs.
The second most important thing you need to do is collect RSVPs. You can use a free online event platform like Mixily, Paperless Post, Partiful, etc to collect RSVPs for your swap party. This will help increase your attendance rate and to let people know what to expect.
On your invitation page, include all the details and expectations for what to bring. By being clear and specific about the condition of items, you can ensure that everyone has a positive experience and receives items that are in good condition.
Pro tip: If you’re hosting a book swap, you can ask your guests to bring items in specific styles or sizes like “Hardcover or paperback books with no notes inside.”
Swap Party Tips and Tricks
Here are some tips and tricks to ensure your swap party is fun for your guests.
Swap Party Venue
Hosting a party at home can be convenient and cost-effective, as you already have many of the necessary amenities on hand for your swap party. However, if you don’t have the space for a party in your own home, renting a venue can be a great alternative. See other venue options here.
A co-working space may have rooms available for rent that can be suitable for hosting a party. Make sure to consider factors such as the size of the room, the availability of tables and chairs, and any other amenities that may be necessary for your party.
Set the atmosphere
Having music playing and serving food and drinks is a great way to keep guests entertained and satisfied during the event. Simple snacks like crackers, cheese, dips, veggies, and cookies can be easy to prepare and enjoy.
I shared the exact shopping list I have for what to buy to host a swap party, cocktail party, happy hour, or even housewarming party.
Have display areas
When hosting a swap party where items will be displayed for guests to browse, it’s important to create an inviting and organized display. Here are some tips to consider:
- Take items out of bags and boxes. Consider arranging items on tables or other surfaces in an organized and visually pleasing way.
- Good lighting is key to creating an aesthetically pleasing display.
- Use long tables or side tables. If you’re hosting a large swap party, consider using extra long tables to create more space for the items to be displayed.
- Create a cohesive display. Group the items by category, color, or theme. This can make it easier for guests to find what they’re looking for and create a more enjoyable experience.
Don’t forget to have fun and relax during your swap party. It might be a lot of work, but they are memorable gatherings.
Don’t forget these key points to have a successful swap party:
- Set your swap party rules: Theme or category, guidelines for items, number of items, a fair trading system.
- Planning your swap party by sending invitations and collecting RSVPs.
- Setting up your venue and display areas
Eat some snacks, grab a drink, do some icebreakers and then trade!
My name is Nick Gray. I wrote a book called The 2-Hour Cocktail Party that teaches you how to have a successful party regardless of whether it’s your first or hundredth time hosting. I’m really proud of it.
When is your party? Send me an email and I will give you some bonus tips, including a pre-party checklist that you can print out. Plus I’ll answer any question you have, free of charge. I love talking about parties and I’m on a mission to help 500 people host their first party.