We all know we’ve got more stuff than we need.

It takes something to get round to sorting out the things we don’t want and getting rid of them though, doesn’t it?

And we tend to want our stuff to go to a ‘good home’. We’d like to know it’s being used, and loved.

AND, we love an evening with friends and food, right?

See where I’m going with this?


I had a ‘decluttering rummage pot-luck party’ on Friday night. 14 of us got together at my house, with everyone bringing veggie food to share and anything they wanted to give away. Clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery, make-up, toiletries, cosmetics, books, CDs, DVDs, videos, video games, IT accessories, kitchen equipment, stationery, stickers, plants, seeds, a mirror, a standard lamp, a food processor, a hand blender, crockery, candles…

I don’t know whether I’m more chuffed that over half of what was brought found new homes, or that between us we generated several boxes and bags of leftovers that are leaving our lives altogether. Once a couple of other friends have rummaged through them, I’ll find ways to move the stuff on (looking for ways to do so that maximise the chances that each item gets reused).

I gave away clothes, a CD (Kelly Osbourne – what was I THINKING?!), and toiletries I wouldn’t have used. And I gained toiletries that I WILL use, a hoodie, a star for the top of my Christmas tree, a torch, camping cutlery and a hand blender (I’ve wanted one of those for ages!).

Friends from five different areas of my life came along, and one friend brought her flatmate, so no-one knew everyone beforehand. We all had plenty to talk about though as each person showed us what she’d brought and gradually gathered a pile of stuff she wanted.

Glittery shoes – irresistable

Everyone went home delighted with their new finds, not to mention to have offloaded so much stuff. I particularly liked it when unexpected new uses were found for things. Like my friends who run Titbits Catering taking a toy van with cakes painted on the side to decorate their stall at markets, and smiley face stickers to seal their cake boxes.

Here’s a challenge though:

how do we get men to do this? In my experience, only women hold/attend these kind of parties. Men must have stuff they could swap too, no?

My tips for a successful swap-o-rama party:

1. Get the numbers right

14 people was probably too many. It took a long time to go through what everyone had brought. If you’re going to do ‘show and tells’ rather than take the ‘put everything in one place and just rummage through it’ approach, 10 people would be plenty.

2.  Be clear about the start time

Ask people to arrive within half an hour of your stated start time. It doesn’t work well to have new people turning up throughout the evening.

3. Provide a mirror

Could be interesting

Have a mirror in the swapping room. People will want to try on the clothes.

4. Reassure people

Reassure anyone who says ‘I haven’t got much to bring’ or ‘My stuff’s such rubbish’. In my experience, most people worry that they’re not bringing enough quality items, yet plenty of stuff always gets claimed.

5. Make it fair

Consider how you’re going to handle it if more than one person wants the same item. I like to have people take turns to pick an item from the popular items pile (having drawn numbers from a bag to determine who goes first, second etc). With fewer people (and therefore less stuff), I sometimes create a ‘take turns to pick’ system for all the items. This helps to ensure that people who are less confident about speaking up don’t miss out.

6. Dispose of the leftovers in as green a way as possible

And that’s just the leftovers

Consider how you’re going to dispose of the unwanted items. You could Freecycle /Freegle everything as a job lot. Or, if you want to maximise the chance that stuff will get used, you might want to Freecycle /Freegle as many items as you can individually. Other options include clothes banks, charity shops, and recycling at household waste sites.

Give others a chance to rummage through the leftovers. One friend who didn’t make the party claimed a pair of shoes and two tops for herself, plus a bracelet and a pair of slippers for her three-year-old. Another friend will be rummaging tomorrow and I’m going to wait until my brother and sister-in-law have been to stay with me next weekend, before I get rid of everything.

7. Don’t overdo the rules

Some people like to set a minimum number of items to bring, request that people bring clothes freshly ironed, provide hanging rails and places to set things out attractively, and ensure that all guests are a similar size (so that they’ll fit each other’s clothes). I say, forget all that. Keep it casual and laid-back. It’s supposed to be fun!

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