How to Host a Clothing Exchange aka the Perfect PCS Party


Do you have clothes and friends?

Do you kind of hate those clothes but like those friends?

Do you have sweaters and dresses you probably paid too much for that stare at you each time you open your closet and condescendingly seem to whisper, “Girl. I look horrific on you, but you paid $59 for me seven years ago. You cannot possibly get rid of me. I will continue to haunt you for the next six moves or two decades. Whichever comes last.” 

Have you laid in bed eating chocolate chips and drinking wine while watching the Tidying Up show on Netflix while smugly thinking to yourself, “Those people have real problems.”

Are you able to conveniently ignore the fact that you have zero intention of getting up at any point to actually organize the 17 boxes of crap that have yet to be opened from three PCS’s ago

Do you have a friend who always looks like she just stepped out of a Madewell or Lululemon ad? Do you daydream that one day she will just decide to bring her clothes over and let you rifle through them indiscriminately and take your crap off your hands in exchange for your brave efforts? Joke’s on her, right? (A quick thank you to all of my friends who have stuck by me after reading all of my posts, by the way.) 

None of this is true for me, of course. I am asking for my friend, Georgina Glass

If any of this applies to you, do yourself a favor and set up a clothing exchange with your friends. There are so many benefits to hosting an event like this, especially for us military folk.

We are constantly moving, and our clothing needs and preferences change with each assignment and climate. I am always excited about a new adventure but having precisely curated wardrobes for Alaska and Hawaii is ridiculous sometimes challenging. What’s even less fun is playing the “How much closet space will my next little Fixer Upper have?” game.

I’ll save you the suspense, it will be the exact opposite of what you currently have. 

Here are my suggestions for setting up a fun and effective clothing exchange:

1). Pick a truly awesome, truly worthy nonprofit to donate whatever is not reclaimed at the event.

Tell everyone who is coming about the organization and encourage them to dig deep and consider what they really want to keep versus what they can choose to let go for people who really need it. I really do not get excited about dropping my crap off at Goodwill. For my clothing swap, we chose an amazing women and children’s shelter in Montgomery, Alabama. I contacted the director beforehand and asked if there was anything in particular their residents were in need of and encouraged my friends to bring those items. In this shelter’s case, it was professional and baby clothes.

Knowing that the work clothes I invested a significant amount of money into when I was employed full-time were going to help another woman get on her feet made my decision to give them up very easy.

I enthusiastically filled bags with my daughter’s outgrown Matilda Jane outfits because I knew it would make another little girl feel special to twirl around in the beautiful dresses as my girls had once done. 

2. Give yourself and your friends a good amount of time to purge what is not “sparking joy.”

Use this amazing piece about Kon Mari Mania for the Military Spouse if you need some guidance. I put out the word about a month in advance and updated the Facebook invite with my own piles of clothes to help motivate everyone.

3. Specify in advance that everyone should only bring stuff that they would consider wearing if it still fit, looked good on them, etc.

I did not want to donate a bunch of stained or otherwise icky stuff to the shelter. Kindly, NO CRAP PEOPLE. If it should be thrown away, throw it away. My house is not a dumping ground for your gross clothes.

It is already a dumping ground for my kids’ gross toys.

4. Ask your friends to bring some clothing racks if they have them.

I requested friends to bring clothing racks if they had them to create a couple of unique spaces (or rooms) for displaying accessories, shoes and miscellaneous items. Merchandise moves quicker when it looks pretty. I used our bedrooms to categorize professional/ warm weather/ cold weather and formal dresses. 

5. If you want your friends to bring their good stuff, you will probably have to lure them over with food and booze.

Ask everyone to contribute a fun appetizer or side and a bottle of wine, jug of tea, or handle of tequila — whatever trips your trigger, sisters!

6. Remind your friends that size doesn’t matter.

Sometimes people can feel a bit self-conscious at these things. What if I’m bigger or smaller than everyone? What if they only invited me because I’m size ___?

Honestly, the more sizes the better. For example, one very tall friend brought a dress that she wore as a tunic. On me, though, it fit as a dress, and I absolutely love it.

6. Remind your friends to bring bags or boxes to take their loot home at the end of the night.

I found that a lot of people showed up expecting to leave with very little and were pleasantly surprised with the treasures they accumulated.

One of the best takeaways of the night for many of my friends was a new formal dress and shoes. I had exactly one formal dress and wore it to almost every single event for the last five years. I was plenty sick of it by that point, and my dear friend was thrilled to score it to subsequently wear to every single event for the next five years.

The absolute pinnacle of the night, however, was the mountain of clothes, shoes and accessories we had leftover to donate to the shelter.

I did not anticipate how generous everyone would be, and I quickly realized I could not fit everything in my Outback. Another friend graciously offered her Suburban to make the drop-off. The director was absolutely blown away by the donations, and it led to many of us making return trips to further donate household and personal items. 

Everyone wins when you host an event like this. You get rid of stuff you don’t want, you score some new stuff for free, and you impact the lives of deserving people who are truly helped by your small gesture. 

So, when are the invites going out?

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Kate Edstrom
Kate is originally from Southern Illinois and is a formerly reluctant Air Force spouse. In her previous life, Kate served as a development professional, working for an engineering college and national sorority foundation. She is the mother of two very strong and independent girls and three dogs. She has been referred to as a “Crazy Dog Lady” by more than a bushel of folks, and she volunteers at the county animal shelter on a regular basis. Kate is married to a very kind man, who always makes her laugh and is her partner-in-crime in her pursuit to eat anything and everything along their journey.