A Marie Kondo Swap: Turn Your Decluttering into a Party

published May 28, 2015
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(Image credit: Shay Spaniola)

Chances are, you’ve heard of Marie Kondo by now. Her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, seems to be everywhere these days. If you haven’t heard of Kondo’s philosophy, in a nutshell, it promotes cleansing your life of all the things that don’t give you joy. In the spirit of spring cleaning, my friends and I recently had a Marie Kondo party to collectively motivate ourselves to clean out, tidy up, and share some joy.

(Image credit: Carolyn Purnell)

Here’s the basic gist of the party: After we all read the book and cleaned out our closets, I hosted a casual dinner party. My friends brought bags of all the items they no longer wanted—we limited it mostly to clothes and books, for simplicity’s sake—to my house. After dinner, we laid everything out on my living room furniture, and we exchanged items. Everything that remained, I donated to charity a few days later.

I’ll get into some details, with tips, recipes, and music below, but even if you don’t want to host a dinner or base your party around Kondo’s book, here are several reasons why I think a spring-cleaning swap party is a good idea. For starters, it’s way easier to motivate yourself to clean out your closets when you have a deadline. Getting started is half the battle, and this gave me a goal to work toward.

Secondly, it also gave me a reward to look forward to at the end of all the hard work. Getting to see my friends and getting to hear about how they fared with their clean-out was well worth the annoying hours of sorting through my stuff.

Third, it’s really fun to go through other people’s stuff. On the one hand, it’s like free shopping, and I’m happy to report that I have friends with some good taste. But on the other hand, even if you don’t come away with anything new, there can be definite joys. For example, one friend brought an odd velvet capelet that she couldn’t, for the life of her, remember buying. We had a ton of fun parading around in the cape, taking silly photos of each other, and acting like goofballs.

And finally, group motivation is a powerful thing. You don’t want to be the only person to show up empty-handed. So if you really feel like you need to clean out your closets, then make yourself accountable to a group.

One thing I did notice, given our Marie Kondo theme, was that people took very few items. My book club hosted a swap like this several years ago, and we took stuff right-and-left. This time, I noticed that the choices were more considered, and we tended to focus on how we really felt about our new items instead of the fact that they were free.

Now, on to the party!

A few days before I hosted, I read this article on The Kitchn about things a host should do before a gathering. It gave me some basic rules of thumb to consider before I got started.

Since the book was all about simplicity, I aimed to make this gathering as low-maintenance as possible. The table setting was simple: a few candles, set on a placemat to prevent dripping, and wine-glasses and dishes at-the-ready.

(Image credit: Carolyn Purnell)

Appetizers consisted of meats and cheeses, and dinner was a basic, but hearty vegetable soup. The recipe that I used was one that my mom gave me a long time ago. It’s a recipe that came from the “Fat Flush” diet, but even as a person who doesn’t believe in diets, I can say that this soup is easy, delicious, and satisfying. Dessert, which I made the day before, were these yummy Greek yogurt chocolate panna cottas from As Easy As Apple Pie.

(Image credit: As Easy As Apple Pie)

For dinner and the exchange, I made a Spotify playlist featuring music that was positive and chill, without erring on either the depressing or too-upbeat side. I’ve found that it’s also a good playlist for work, and if you’re interested, you can check it out here.

I made sure in advance that the living room surfaces were free and clear, so we’d have plenty of room for our exchange. I turned the bathroom into an impromptu dressing room by hanging a simple sign, lighting a candle, and reminding people that it was there for them to use.

A helpful tip to remember: have a designated area for people’s personal items that aren’t being donated. If they aren’t kept separate, it would be all-too-easy to get a desired purse or coat thrown into the mix. Also, I found it useful to give people grocery bags labeled in permanent marker. That way, they could put the items they had selected into the bags, without having random piles strewn about the living room. This way, there was no need to constantly ask, “Is this anyone’s stuff?”

There were about 8 of us, which seemed to be a manageable size. There was enough stuff to make it interesting, but people and items weren’t jam-packed.

The day after the swap, I re-bagged all the leftover clothes and dropped them at a clothing donation site that’s near my house. The books, which were pretty picked over, went to a Little Free Library site down the street. One thing I’ve done before, which would have worked well if we had more stuff, is to contact a charity donation pick-up service. They will schedule a pick-up time and date, and all you have to do is leave the donation bags on the porch. It’s the easiest way to donate, and there are a number of good causes from which to choose.

Have you ever hosted a spring cleaning clothing swap? And if so, do you have any suggestions to add?

Re-edited from a post originally published 5.28.15-NT