Each year as the Christmas season approaches, I have mixed feelings. On one side, I absolutely love Christmas. I love giving gifts. I love helping my kids find and make gifts for each other. I also love hosting a Christmas Party each year. I love having people over and enjoying my favorite Christmas treats.
On the other hand, knowing full well that my kids will be getting plenty of toys for Christmas, I’ve also found myself thinking “They already have enough…Do I really want to add more to their piles of toys?”
Not only that, but as the economy has gotten worse and I and many others have found themselves with thinning pockets, Christmas can sometimes bring stress.
So, last year, I decided to try something. You may have heard about it before. I first heard about it on an Oprah show years ago. It’s the Great Christmas Exchange.
Here’s how it worked:
First, using Evite, I sent out an invitation to everyone I knew. The invite said the following:
‘Tis the Season of gift giving, fun, friends, family, and unfortunately, for some, the endless question of “what should I get him/her”? If you’re like me, ’tis also the season of thinking “I already have too much stuff. Should I really add any more to this chaos?” If you’ve asked yourself either of those questions this year, then come to the gift exchange party this year.
Here’s how it works. Bring whatever toys, household items, clothing, jewelry, etc. that are in good repair that you no longer want or need. Bring items for any age or gender. You’ll then have a chance to “shop” for gifts you may want to give to people in your family from the items others bring. It’s a great way to recycle, a fun way to shop for Christmas and a free way to beat the recession!
Please note, although you’ll need to bring something to be eligible to shop, we are also going to have a great Christmas party with treats, music and friendship, so please join us either way!
For now, clean out those closets, sort through those toy chests, and start collecting things you’d like to pass on. And, don’t forget to save the date and get a sitter for the little ones. Due to all the fun surprises and gifts that will be throughout the house, please just bring kids 2 and under.
The RSVPs started rolling in. This was a hot idea! I had people asking to just donate things and others excited to shop for free as well as get rid of their used things.
One week before the event, I sent a follow up to the original invite that read:
Hello Everyone! Only 7 more days until our Christmas Gift Exchange! So clean out those closets, sort through those toy shelves, clear out the storage and get ready for this Wednesday (or day/night of the party)! Here are just a few last minute details to consider:
1. Due to the many Christmas Gifts and Surprises that will be throughout the house, please only bring children 2 and under.
2. Don’t forget you can bring gifts for any age or gender. Feel free to bring music, movies, games, toys, clothing, household items, craft projects…whatever you don’t want that’s in good condition and may be a good gift for someone else.
3. Here’s how the day will go: Please bring all the items you want to give away at _____ (the party START time). We’ll chat, munch, and browse until _______(45 minutes after the party START time). At that time, we’ll all pick a number and will start picking gifts in that order. We’ll continue until we’re done! We won’t be able to add anything to the gift tables after we start, so please bring your gifts promptly at ______ (Party Start time). If you know you’re going to be late, please drop off your things earlier in the day or the night before.
4. Don’t forget: To “shop”, you need to bring something. But, even if you’d rather not shop, we’d love to have you for the fun!
5. Gifts are only half the fun of Christmas. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without the holiday food. Please bring your favorite Christmas Treat or Hors’ Doeuvre to share!
6. I’ve arranged to take all of the left over goods to an inner city shelter. So, whether your items get picked or not, they’ll all make someone’s Christmas happier.
The Christmas Exchange was a hit. As people came to the door I directed them briefly as to where to put their items (toys/kids items in the Living Room, household items in the dining rooms, books and movies in the den, clothing in the family room, etc). I asked them to set up their things and then start browsing for what they’d like to pick to take home.
Thirty minutes after the party started, I counted up the number of guests and put that many papers in a bowl. I had 18 guests, I think, so I had papers numbered 1-18. Each guest picked a number. Forty-five minutes after the party start time, we started with #1. Since she had already browsed, she ran right to what she wanted and came back to my family room and called for #2. She stood and ran to what she had already browsed for then called for #3 and so forth. When we got to #18, we started over and continued the process.
If at any time someone was done shopping, they would just say “pass” and we’d move on to the next person. It went quickly, but while people waited their turn, they stayed in the family room where we all mingled, talked, laughed and enjoyed all the treats people had brought.
In the end, it was a great success. It was a lot of fun and in less than 2 hours, people had come, gotten rid of things they no longer needed, had a great time with friends, and then left with boxes of “free” Christmas gifts. It was such a hit, in fact, that by early October of this year, I was already getting requests to host it again. As for me, I was able to fill every single one of my kids’ Christmas wishes while still emptying half of my toy room. It was everything I had hoped for.
Best of luck with your Christmas exchange. I post it now because I find that early November is the best time to host such a party…before people start shopping for Christmas and before everyone’s calendars get filled up.
Feel free to copy and paste my invites, filling in your own dates, times and details. And, have a very Merry Recyclable Christmas!