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Today's Family Magazine

Host your own swap party

Jul 01, 2016 06:58PM ● By Today's Family
By Stacy Turner • Published July 2016 Issue

Ever since I discovered the concept of a swap party, I knew I wanted to give it a try. In case you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a swap party is a fabulous way to make time to get together with friends, eat, drink, and as if that weren’t enough, swap for some cool stuff. Here’s how a swap works.

First, decide what type of swap you’d like to hold. People are familiar with cookie swaps, but you might try a freezer meal swap, soup swap, or canned item swap to build up your pantry. Others prefer health and beauty products like homemade soaps or body scrubs. Some host swaps to trade new or gently used books, home décor, clothing, or accessories, while others choose to swap garden plants or seeds. The themes are as varied as the number of swap party ‘pins’ you can find on Pinterest. Any way you choose to go, your event will be full of eating, catching up, and swapping fabulous stuff with your creative friends.

Next, remember to send out invitations well in advance in order to give people time to find, make or grow the type of items requested. Make sure to let them know the type of swap you’re hosting, giving examples of potential items to spark their creativity.

Next, make sure you include an RSVP deadline so you’ll know how many people to expect. This helps with calculating food and drink quantities, but also gives you the opportunity to notify attendees if your guest list fluctuates, reducing the number of items they need to bring.

Finally, you will need to plan what type of food and drink you’ll provide. The first swap party I organized was an early spring luncheon where I provided soup, bread, and dessert. When I scheduled a second late afternoon swap party in the summer, I provided iced drinks and dessert.

For my most recent swap party I decided to limit the number of guests to 10, including myself, and requested the items to be something that was handmade or homegrown. Since each person brought 10 items, every guest received one of each item that was brought. My reason was simple –– I thought that creating too many swap items might be overwhelming, and I felt the group size would be more conducive to conversations.

If you don’t want to limit your guest list, you could ask guests to bring a smaller number of items, and each guest can swap their items at will with other guests, but this means not every guest gets to try each item. I think it’s more fun when everyone leaves with one of everything, so that’s the way I organized my swap.

At our recent party, we decided to swap first and have dessert later. First, we each lined our items up on the communal table and took turns describing what we brought and how it was made. Afterwards, we each traveled around the table grabbing one of each item, stashing them in the bags and boxes we brought our own treasures in. After the items were stowed away, we cut into the decadent dessert, poured iced drinks, and got absorbed in ‘momversations,’ as my kids call them.

The whole process feels a little like the holiday season, in that the planning and making takes more behind-the-scenes planning and time. The actual swapping part is like Christmas morning without all the torn paper and trim; after a flurry of activity, it’s over before you know it. Afterwards, chatting over dessert also feels a bit like Christmas, too. Speaking of holidays, you might consider timing your swap party in the spring prior to Mother’s Day or late fall to potentially help stockpile holiday gifts, that is if you can bear to part with any of them.

At my first swap party, items included fresh cavatelli pasta, gazpacho soup, lemon crinkle cookies, backyard eggs, rhubarb hibiscus jam, homemade laundry detergent with wool fabric softener dryer balls, and quilted potholders.

This time, we swapped spiced pear jam and hot pepper jelly, taco seasoning, cilantro and garlic salsa, root beer barbecue sauce, lavender body scrub, painted and fabric trimmed flower vases, homemade candles, felt essential oil diffusers, and handmade card embellishments. The best part of each day was that although no one knew what anyone else was bringing, we all ended up making different items.

All in all, it was an afternoon of food and fun, with the biggest issue being figuring out how to carry the fabulous stash of goodies home.

Next time, I may try an evening event with appetizers and cocktails, or maybe a dinnertime swap. Or help the kids plan their own book, toy or craft swap party for their friends. The options are as endless as the items you can swap!