Neighboring Sustaining

Starting A Community Swap Shop

There are thrift shops and flea markets. So, what’s a swap shop? It’s a free and local exchange where community members can pass things on that they no longer need or want in exchange for something they do want or need. You don’t have to bring anything to be able to take something — and vice versa.

Many people describe swap shops as a cashless bring-and-take or bring-and-trade situation. Swap shops are excellent places to exchange items. If you’re not interested in selling, you can bring it to a swap. Perhaps there aren’t any in your area; no worries; here’s how to get started.

How To Start A Swap Shop

Location – Location – Location

Location will be significant. Community centers, schools, and other places known to the local community are ideal locations. An easy-to-find venue is bound to attract more visitors. Swap shops set up in an area of mixed housing will increase the chances of attracting givers and takers.

Finding venues large enough for your needs and facilities like parking, toilets, space for refreshments, and access to facilities for those with disabilities should be considered when choosing a venue. You’ll also want to ensure the swap shop won’t be booked during other local sales or fundraising events.


Swap shops are usually held on Saturday mornings through the afternoon. However, this depends on the proposed audience. For instance, people with children might prefer to set up a swap shop on a weekday to schedule things around the kid’s schooling. That said, it’s all about planning something during a suitable time for both those running the event and those attending.

Suitable Items For Swap Shops

What you or anyone else chooses to bring to a swap shop is your choice. Some items commonly found at swaps are DVDs, CDs, books, pictures, tools, home and garden items, home decor, children’s toys, baby items, and small furniture.

When running a swap shop, choose what you feel is appropriate. For instance, if you prefer not to have household cleaners or chemicals at the event, state that in the flyer, etc. It’s best to try and stick to things people can fit in their vehicle, so nothing excessively large should be brought to the event.

If people do have large or heavy items to offer, provide a photo or corkboard that they can post them on.

Helping Hands

While it’s feasible to run an average-size swap shop with a handful of volunteers, the saying “many hands make light work” applies here. Recruit as many volunteers for the day that you can find.

Getting volunteers is easier if they’re only asked to lend a hand for an hour or so instead of hours at a time. All volunteers should be briefed about what’s expected of them. You’ll want to have well-informed volunteers for the following tasks:

  • Advance Publicity
  • Setting Up The Venue
  • Closing The Venue
  • Setting Up Signage
  • Car Parking
  • Greeters
  • Sorting Items
  • Taking Pictures
  • Making Refreshments
  • Cleanup
  • Transporting Any Unwanted Leftover Items


If you want to have a decent turnout, publicity is critical.  Here are a few ways to promote your swap shop.

  • Put up posters or flyers in as many public places as you can.
  • Advertise in local newspapers and newsletters beforehand so people have time to gather their items. You’ll want to re-advertise one more time several days ahead of the event.
  • Advertise on local news sites or channels.
  • Pass out leaflets or flyers around the community.
  • Email and social media are also excellent places to spread the word.


It’s helpful to share your event with another local volunteer group. This attracts a broader range of people, shares both publicity and the workload and allows you to get to know other community members. Because swap shops typically draw in a diverse range of people, it’s a prime time to showcase initiatives the groups might be involved with.

You can invite other organizations to set up stands or offer demonstrations to draw in a crowd. “Teamwork makes the dream work.”


Offering refreshments and a sitting space allows different community members to meet and socialize, especially those that might not usually meet outside of the event. Some folks attend swap shops to meet and mingle. While the event is all about swapping items, it’s also about a sense of community.

Handling Leftover Items

Have a plan of action for what will be done with any of the leftovers. Transportation may need to be organized. Inform the public during the initial advertising stages that you cannot transport or store large items. Here are a few ideas of what can be done with any leftover goodies:

  • Donate the items to another charity or a thrift store.
  • If you’re going to host more than one event and have a place to store the items, do so until it’s time to set up the next swap.
  • Any office or school supplies can be given to local schools or daycare facilities.

Swap shops are a great time! You meet other community members and share unwanted items with others who may need them. Not to mention, all of the perfectly usable items are being saved from landfills!

-Elaina Garcia

Photo by Julien-Pier Belanger on Unsplash


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Elaina Garcia is a published writer in various niches. She has been studying and practicing plant medicine and natural healing for 15 years now. A New York native living far from her old home, she lives a sustainable lifestyle in her tiny home! Her writing career began a little over 4 years ago starting at the bottom and working her way up. Elaina is the author of children's educational books and a content creator with work on various sites

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