Last year I was sorting through Soph's clothes and had a bag of bits and pieces that we no longer needed, and that I wanted to pass on to someone, but I wasn't sure who would need them.
Why not get a bunch of friends together, all bring clothes their kids didn't need, and swap them, at the same time we could drink coffee and eat cake (Mums are especially good at multitasking!).
The idea (not original, but my version thereof) was born.
That clothes swap was in my house. Today we had our second one, in the meeting room of my church's offices. I think it was even bigger and better than last time. Here's how I did it... and how you can too.
Set a date and a location. If the date is quite far off (as this one was) make sure you promote the event nearer the time, and remind people lots, but in a non-annoying way. (I hope I managed that).
Our planned location actually changed twice over time, but it was fine!
So second I would emphasise be flexible and don't panic!
Once you've settled upon your time, date and location, start telling people. (I went for 10.30 start this time, cos that meant those of us setting up didn't have to be up at the crack of dawn. I arrived at the location about 9.20am)
Invite all your friends with kids. Set up a facebook group. Think about how big your location is, but don't be scared to invite more than double the number you can actually fit in your venue - not everyone will be able to make it. Go through your phone and text all your friends with kids there too.
Pretty much everyone will bring baby clothes, so also invite expectant mothers, or those you think might be planning to have kids (get cheeky, people can always say no!)
Co-opt a couple of friends to be your beautiful assistants. You could do it all yourself, but you'd probably get a bit stressed. And your friends will bring new perspective and together you'll come up with some great ideas. I've had Rachel, Claire and Corena as my beautiful assistants for my clothes swaps, and I honestly couldn't have done it without them.
Think about child care for your kids during the event, cos you'll probably be busy running it and it would be handy to have another pair of hands and eyes around. Last time I had my mum and today my wonderful husband (and Claire's) were these to help with the kids and be oh so gentlemanly and assist with carrying etc etc. (Thanks!)
Think about how to display the clothes - we used a variety of boxes (pretty much anything I could find!) Last time we had a hanging rail.
Make labels. If you laminate them, you can use them again next time. Stick the labels on the boxes, thinking about which sizes are likely to have most clothes. For us, we had a lot of baby clothes, so I had my biggest boxes at that end and put them in small age ranges (Newborn and 0-3 month, 3-6m, 6-9m, 9-12m, 12-18m, 18-24m, 2-3years etc)
Ask your friends to presort if you can! It's so much easier if you can come and just tip a bag into a bag and go, but be prepared that you will need to help sort on the day too.
Think about what else you want to swap and share - we had bedding, towels, toy, 'baby equipment', shoes, socks, etc etc. But try to have a place for each item, so people can find the right boxes to put things in, and find things to take away too!
Consider telling people with older kids about the event (I set a rough guide of newborn-age 10 for the event). But sometimes people with older kids are ready to have a turn out of baby paraphernalia and are happy to donate it to those with the littles.
Don't feel like you have to make all the cakes - buy some, or ask folk to contribute too. People like doing that.
Tell people as they arrive, what you want them to do - We asked them to sort their own stuff into boxes, and then they could start taking. But be prepared to muck in too!
Have a plan what to do with leftovers (you will have leftover!) - we gave to charity, including my church, and I sent the people who were around at the end away with a bag or two to take to their favourite charity shop. Last time we stored some of the baby clothes because a number of our friends were expecting babies soon!
Be prepared to feel totally exhausted afterwards!
Start small the first time so you get a feel for it, but be prepared for it to all take off.
Above all, have fun!
(Of course, we're considering changing this system slightly for next time, with potentially a bigger venue, and asking people to bring their donations the day before so we can sort them better)