If you're looking to spruce up your wardrobe this fall but don't have a dime to spend on it, consider throwing a swap of unwanted stuff with friends. And, though most swaps involve women's clothing and accessories, you can trade men's and children's clothing, books, toys, craft supplies or plants. Here are tips on how to pull off a swap:
1. INVITATIONS: Start small. Those in the know suggest inviting five to 10 people for your first swap event at your home, although much larger events exist. Using a Web-based event invitation service can save time (and most are free). Some veteran organizers suggest inviting guests who wear similar sizes to maximize each attendee's choices.
2. TIMING: Swaps can happen any time. But the turn of the season, when people are critically eyeing their wardrobes and other possessions and hoping to update, is optimal. Give guests several weeks' notice so they have time to decide what to bring.
3. WHAT TO SWAP: All items should be in good or excellent condition, clean and mended. Some hosts suggest letting guests bring as many items as they want, while others limit the number of items each person can contribute.
4. PREPARING THE VENUE: It's a party, so make sure the place is comfortable. Ensure there are mirrors, adequate lighting and enough space to try things on. You may want guests to sort their own items as they arrive, placing clothing in one area, accessories in another and so on.
5. HOW TO SWAP: Some take a formal approach, holding up each item and giving first dibs to the first person to raise a hand. But this can be time-consuming. Others start off the night with "window shopping" - a half-hour, say, when guests can peruse the entire selection. The least formal but most popular approach is to let guests grab whatever interests them and, if there's a dispute, to settle it with a roll of the dice or drawing straws. Also try the "rule of three": Once guests have claimed three items, they should give others a chance. Some organizers limit participants to leaving with the same number of items they donate.
Anything left over at end of the night can go to charity.