The Secret to Filling Your Closet for Next to Nothing


In the words of Sex in the City‘s Carrie Bradshaw, “I like my money where I can see it, hanging in my closet.” But is it possible to fill your closet without spending like Carrie Bradshaw? Spoiler Alert: The answer is yes!

Like Carrie, I, too, have an emotional relationship with my clothes. I can remember exactly what I wore to my daughter’s baptism, my best friend’s bridal shower, and my cousin’s graduation party. What all these outfits have in common is that they just don’t fit me anymore. Two pregnancies later, my body is different. Now I’m slightly bigger, substantially more confident, and my new normal needs new clothes.

But I can’t possibly justify a shopping spree to revamp my closet when there are family outings, groceries, and copious amounts of children’s books to buy. I also don’t want to let my too-snug-for-my-new-body clothes waste away in my closet instead of being rocked the way they deserve.

Wouldn’t it be great to update your wardrobe and fill your closet for next to nothing? But how?

The Secret: Host a Clothing Swap!

I’m taking a page out of my mom’s playbook. My mom has style, she has grace, and she’s Mrs. I-Want-Everyone-In-My-Space. What I mean is–she has great taste in clothing and in friends and revels in hosting a party where these two can intersect. She and her friends have been hosting clothing swaps seasonally for years, and they are epic.

Over 100 women come bearing bags full of clothes and accessories to pass on to their friends. Each woman vows they won’t bring anything home. After all, they’re only there to purge, which is kind of like saying, “I’ll just pop into Target to window shop.” Right.

As the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, each person will undoubtedly try on and fall in love with a pair of jeans, a blouse, a dress, or an accessory pre-loved by somebody else. Each guest will likely return with a bag full of loot, an emotional tank that’s overflowing from time spent with friends (old and new), and the satisfaction of knowing that any unwanted garments will be donated to women in need. Quite the deal indeed.

The secret to hosting a successful clothing swap in five easy steps:

1. Invite your friends and tell them to bring their friends.

There’s no need for stationary or an RSVP because the more the merrier! More ladies mean more clothes, more styles, and more sizes available. So, bag the stationary and send an email instead. Your friends can easily forward the invitation to their friends and none of the details will be lost.

At your party, have a signup sheet available so that you can stay in contact with any new guests. With one party under everyone’s (new) belts, you and your guests will look forward to setting aside clothes for the next swap!

2. As the host, you’ll provide the basics. Every guest should bring an appetizer to share and their desired drink.

With all the socializing and shopping, guests will surely work up an appetite. Luckily for you, a host can rest easy knowing there will be something for everyone and a little bit of everything. Your guests won’t go hungry, and you won’t have to foot a bill the length of a Walgreens receipt to feed so many women. You should, however, consider buying these party essentials if you don’t have them on hand.

  • Plates
  • Bowls
  • Cups
  • Flatware
  • Napkins
  • Ice
  • Ice buckets

3. Bring any clothes, shoes, or accessories that you no longer want or need.

Let me paint the scene: every room in the house is designated for a specific type of garment. There’s a room for blouses, a room for dresses, a room for pants, a room for accessories . . . you get the idea. When guests arrive, each person will sort their clothes accordingly. Guests who don’t have a reusable bag can fill a trash bag with any of their newfound treasures. (We know, you only came to drop things off.)

If you don’t have a casita the size of Encanto, don’t fret! You can easily transform your backyard into a closet by piling clothes on top of pop-up tables. If you, or any of your friends, have clothing racks, be sure to have a few wire hangers on hand.

At a glance, here’s what you’ll need.

  • Trash bags for guests to take home their goodies
  • Pop-up tables
  • Hanging racks
  • Wire hangers
  • Signs to indicate where things go

4. Offer door prizes every 30 minutes.

You can keep the energy alive by offering a door prize every half hour. It doesn’t need to be expensive. Here are a few examples of prizes that you can pick up at the Dollar Tree.

  • Set of two dryer balls
  • Mesh laundry bag for delicates
  • Clear organizer bag for out-of-season clothes
  • Hanger for organizing scarves
  • Lint roller

Pro Tip: Consider buying matching gift bags or gift boxes and tissue paper to conceal each door prize.

5. Anything left over will be donated to a charity of the host’s choosing.

Ready for the added bonus? You and your friends can give back to the community by donating any unwanted clothes and accessories to local organizations that help women in need. Before you haul off your donations, be sure to call ahead. Some organizations only accept donations by appointment. Others may only accept particular items, like clothing suitable for a job interview, and they might reject casual clothes. Consider sorting your donations in advance to help your drop-off go as smoothly as possible (e.g., dresses in one bag, tops in another).

Need suggestions on where to donate? Look no further.

  • Dress for Success accepts women’s professional and work-attired clothing. This organization helps women break the cycle of poverty by providing a network of support, professional attire, and tools to help women thrive in work and life.
  • Joy Junction accepts a wide range of women’s clothing. This organization works to provide clothes, food, shelter, and safety to homeless women, children, and families. Learn more about Joy Junction here.
  • HopeWorks (formerly St. Martin’s Hospitality Center) accepts clothing, small furniture, cleaning supplies, and other household goods. This nonprofit provides housing for people experiencing homelessness. Learn more about HopeWorks here.

A change of clothes requires a changed mindset.

Sure, if I were considering spending $100 on a dress that I knew I was only going to wear once, I might hesitate and end up leaving it at the store. But at a clothing swap, things are different. If you even sort of like a dress and you’re considering wearing it once, take it–it’s free! You can always donate it or give it away later.

For more budget-friendly ways to clothes shop, check out this guide to thrift stores in the Albuquerque area.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.


  1. A clothing swap for newly pregnant moms is amazing! A stress free way to incorporate new maternity clothes into your wardrobe, love it!

  2. What a fantastic idea! Combining fashion and friends adds up to a bunch of fun. I am the same way with outfits always wanting a new one for each event. This is a great way to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I love how this also contributes to a sustainable future!

  3. What a wonderful and fun idea! And very budget friendly! I also loved how this article mentions the different donation centers. I only ever knew of the big ones like Goodwill. It’s nice to know their are more options. Can’t wait to have one of swaps these myself. Great idea!!

  4. Love this idea! What a fun way to get together with friends, get new clothes, and be environmentally friendly.

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