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How to organise a kid's clothes swap

One thing is certain with kids, they grow. Sometimes faster than you realize. This also means that they grow out of their clothes in a blink of an eye.

And since they do grow fast most clothes are often in a very good condition when your little one has grown out of them. Maybe you have friends and relatives to give them to, or a great second hand store that can sell your stuff on commission.

But then you still need to get new clothes for your kiddo. Hopefully you have some friends who can give you their kids old clothes or a great children's second hand nearby.

One great way to get rid of the old clothes and get new ones is to arrange a clothing swap!

I was part of arranging a swap for kids' clothes a few weeks ago and it was such a great experience! I thought that I’d share some learnings and tips on how to arrange one. I also asked Caroline Jonsson, who initiated these swaps, what made her start them. Caroline has also initiated a concept called “Wandering bags” in our area. People sign up for a bag, for example “Womens clothes size M” and the first person fills the bag (we are in Sweden so obviously it’s an Ikea-bag!) with clothes that they don’t use and sends a message to the second person on the list.

They meet, person nr 2 goes through the clothes, takes ones they like and puts new ones in the bag and so on. Some people stay in the group for a long time and some do just one or two rounds.

312304555_829179048431265_4267494970387718095_nImage by SagaSamuelsson

“I’ve been buying second hand clothes for as long as I can remember and when the climate crisis is escalating I felt a few years ago that I wanted to take it one step further. I wanted to come as close to zero new consumption as possible and tried out different ways of doing this. It was during this time that I just wrote in our neighborhood Facebook-group if somebody wanted to arrange a clothes swap with me and luckily several people were interested. Since that we’ve arranged three swaps which have all been a huge success. And the Wandering Bags that I’ve started have now 72 members circulating clothes and household things. It is really something that should exist everywhere!”, says Caroline Jonsson.

My daughter and I left the swap with, among other things, a pair of unicorn tights (I can tell you she was happy for those!), a swimming suit, sweater and tights for a friend's baby.

Tips and tricks on how to organize a (kid’s) clothes swap: 

  • Provide a 2-hour period when people could drop clothes during the event. This  avoids the situation where everybody would come with a pile of clothes at the same time 
  • Everybody was allowed to bring a maximum of 10 items. When they dropped off their clothes they got a ticket which allowed them to “buy” the same amount of items. 
  • We sorted the clothes and removed the ones that were in poor condition. 
  • Clothes were arranged on tables by sizes to make it easier for people. 
  • It might be a good idea to hang outdoor clothes separately 
  • Maybe even sell some beverages? One of the organizers had baked some small treats and we had a little coffee shop run by two 6-year olds. All the revenue went to WWF and the coffee shop owners were so proud of themselves!


Some learnings

  • There are a lot of baby clothes out there! Maybe let  pregnant women come and pick things up for free! 
  • There will probably be a rush hour during the first 1-2 hours and then it’ll be calmer. 
  • Most people will probably bring more things than they will take so figure out what to do with things that are left. In our case they were donated to a local refugee shelter.

What do you need?

  • An easily accessible space, maybe at a local library or school? This swap was arranged in a cohousing building where they have a large dining room on the ground floor. 
  • Some advertisements like posters to put out on the streets and maybe a Facebook-event or Instagram post. I guess the choice of (social) media platform depends on your target audience!
  • A group of engaged people, it’s good to be with several people at the same time so that you can quickly get all the new clothes out there and fix the space before and after
  • Clear instructions for the visitors, it makes it easier for everyone.

Now this was a swap specially for kids clothes but the same group is arranging a new swap for adults in just a few weeks.  A swap could also be even more narrow and have a theme! Why not arrange a swap for masquerade clothes or for outdoors clothes specifically? Sports gear? Or start by inviting a few friends over for a clothes swap - dinner. 

Swapping is a great way to get that “I’ve purchased new stuff - dopamine” without harming the climate or your wallet! Added bonus is that it’s fun to see your own old clothes disappear from the tables and to know that they will be used again by somebody else.


Klimakonkurransen 2023


About Anni Heikka

Sustainability advisor.