Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Hosting Swaps and Exchanges

I host an annual book swap where people bring books they do not want and leave with books they do. I also host an annual Holiday Craft exchange, where the we make as many items as there are attendees and then we all leave with a passel of tiny homemade gifts. I also sometimes host (but more often attend) clothing swaps, and an awesome couple I know has recently begun hosting an annual media swap.
This year's book swap: Detail of a photo by Lisa Aurigemma.
So what I'm saying here is that I like swaps and exchanges, I seek them out, and I have been doing so for almost a decade. Hosting a swap or craft exchange is not quite the same thing as having a party. Here are some guidelines that I have found useful in hosting these kinds of events:

1. Invite early. People will need time to plan for a swap or craft exchange. I suggest inviting people at least a few months ahead so they can (not only save the date but also) begin to cull their wardrobe, or their bookshelves, or their CD and DVD rack ahead of time. For a craft event, people may need to gather materials or they might even want to research or acquire a new skill. Then send out a reminder to rsvp about a week before the event.
The haul from last year's Holiday Craft exchange included
baked goods, candy, embroidery, hand-stamped gift tags,
laminated paper art and Perler bead art.
2. Be clear on the parameters of the event. If it is a clothing swap, do you want people to bring shoes too? What about toiletries? Is the book swap also a potluck? Is the invite list open? How do you feel about strangers attending? If it is a clothing swap, will there be gender-segregated places to try on clothes? If it is a book swap, can people bring old textbooks? How about out-of-date training manuals? How about small children? How about booze? How about dogs? Decide what you are cool with ahead of time and be specific in the invitation.

3. Include the aftermath in your event plan. Swaps generate a lot of leftovers. It helps to know what you plan to do with those leftovers and when you plan to do it. We also make a large-party dinner reservation at a nearby restaurant for the evening of the swap. I set an alarm to go off a half hour before the event endtime. When the alarm goes off, I know it is time to announce that we will soon be packing up all the books and get an official count for who's coming with us to dinner. This makes sure we stay on schedule, and generally means we get help packing up all the leftovers.

My boyfriend and I save cardboard boxes for weeks before the book swap. Even before the swap itself, we mark on the calendar the day we will donate all the leftovers to Housing Works.

If you host swaps or exchanges, I'd love to hear how you go about it, too!

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