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Swap, donate and declutter: #MotherlyMakers with Little Swappies

Little Swappies was founded in 2012 to make it simple and fun for families to exchange and recycle children's clothing, books and toys. Since then, the Little Swappies community has grown to over 6,000 families, who have swapped over 50,000 children's items, sharing their like-new goods with other families, and keeping them out of landfills. All remaining items are donated to Little Swappies' charity partner, Room to Grow. Founded by Lauren Patterson, a mom-of-two and former attorney, with Editorial Director Serena Noor, the events make it easy to find good deals and to do your part to reduce, reuse, and recycle!


Motherly: Was there a moment when you realized that you needed to start Little Swappies?

Lauren Patterson: After our first child was born, I was astounded by how quickly we accumulated so much “kids stuff" and how quickly it overran our apartment. When our daughter was around 6 months old, I distinctly recall going through her closet and realizing that she had already outgrown, and not even worn, most of the beautiful clothing hanging in it. I didn't know what to do with all of it. At a certain point, you can't keep all of it, but there was a strange emotional attachment to the items since many were gifts, and so I didn't want to just donate everything to Goodwill. I also didn't have any other friends who were pregnant and could use the items.

Around that time, someone on my mother's group board posted asking if any members wanted to have a clothing swap. It clicked in my head that a swap was the perfect solution, so I volunteered to organize it, even though I had never planned an event in my life.

I was not thinking of it as a business opportunity, just a fun and helpful event. The event itself ended up being so wonderful and left me feeling that there was a need for more events like it. Little Swappies organically grew from there.

Serena Norr: I can clearly remember when I first became a mom where I was clueless as to what I needed. As the months went on, my apartment was slowly being taken over by baby stuff that was in good condition, but not useful for us anymore since my daughter had outgrew some of the clothes. I discovered the Little Swappies events when I was covering the event series for a story where I instantly loved how it combined a way to reduce waste in our home while also providing new and like-new items to the community and those in need. Even though my daughters are young, it was a simple and easy thing that we could do to give back as we started to have the conversation about how important it is to reduce waste, recycle, and donate. It was also fun to find new treasures and see our old items being passed along in such an organized manner.

Motherly: How do parents benefit from participating in a Little Swappies event and how can Motherly readers get started in their local community?

Lauren Patterson: Families share their gently used or new books, children's clothing, maternity wear, and toys for exchange or donation at the two-hour events. The swap begins with a registration and drop-off period complete with free stroller cleaning, children's activities, food, and drinks, as well as mingling with event sponsors. The last hour is dedicated to the swap. With a limited number of tickets sold, participants can comfortably peruse, finding just the right items for their family to enjoy.

So often, our items hold a heartfelt meaning from the past—a gift from a loved one or a reminder of a special event. Rather than storing these items away, Little Swappies provides an opportunity to share those meaningful moments with others. Through our events, families see first-hand the joy of a participant receiving their personal items, reinforcing and teaching the power of giving. If an item is not selected during the swap, it still finds its way to an appreciated receiver through our charity partner, Room to Grow, an organization dedicated to helping babies born into poverty.

Serena Norr: Families have the opportunity to donate their new and like-new items to the Little Swappies community. As parents know kids quickly outgrow their clothing where at Little Swappies they can participate in an organized swap and also know that anything that is not swapped will to be donated to someone in need via our charity partner, Room to Grow.

Motherly readers can get started by organizing their own local swaps as a way to exchange amongst readers while teaching their kids how to pass along items and give back.

Motherly: What's the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

Lauren Patterson: The one constant is change. I don't even remember who told me that advice, but it is my mantra for when times are tough or the kids are going through a difficult phase. It will pass because the one constant is change.

Serena Norr: “The days are long but the years are short." The daily challenges of motherhood can be daunting. What keeps me focused is how quickly my girls are growing up. I try to focus on the moment at hand and soak in our precious time together.

Motherly: How has motherhood transformed your career? What's your secret to integrating work and family?

Lauren Patterson: I think that I look at success in different terms now. Before kids, success meant a great education and a high-powered job. Now success is not about how others view me or how much money I am making, it is about being a role model for our children. I want them to see success as something that each person builds into their own lives.

There has to be a work/family balance, but it is never going to be a perfect balance. I consider the time that I take for work as “my time," which, for me, I believe allows me to be a better parent. What also helps me is the knowledge that what we are doing benefits not only my family but other families in our community as well.

Serena Norr: I didn't know how I was going to work when I first became a mom. It has been a big part of my life, and an important one that I didn't want to give up. Motherhood actually shifted my work and allowed me to meld both worlds as a freelancer and someone who can work-from-home.

In terms of figuring out a balance, I have to carve out a certain amount of hours for work per day that is combined with the needs of my daughters. This can be challenging (and exhausting), but it also feels so incredible to have this opportunity to really be around for them and have the chance to work.

Motherly:What keeps you inspired and excited every day?

Lauren Patterson: What keeps me going are the amazing families in our Little Swappies community. The hard work is worth it when we receive emails from parents who have attended our events, thanking us for an incredible event and relaying a personal story about an item that they received or donated.

Serena Norr: Our awesome community! Putting on events are extremely challenging, but it has been amazing to see how beneficial and fun the events are for families and especially how many bags of toys, books, and clothing we are able to donate to Room to Grow following an event.

I am also inspired by my daughters who help me tap into my silly side.

Motherly: What are your words of wisdom for other mothers wanting to turn their passion into a business?

Lauren Patterson: Try it. The worst that can happen is that you fail. But in the process you will be doing something for yourself and for your family which is very empowering.

Serena Norr: Figure out your mission and how you are different and go out there. As simple as it sounds, you will never know what you are capable of unless you try.

Motherly:What are your big dreams for Little Swappies?

Lauren Patterson: We believe that there should be a Little Swappies in every community, and we are working to build and expand our events into new locations across the country.

Serena Norr: The dream is for the Little Swappies' event series to grow nationally. We also recently started to produce high-fashion women's swaps, and we would love to host more of these events as a way to donate, network, and have a blast swapping.

Motherly: Who is your #momcrush?

Lauren Patterson: I can't say that I have a true mom crush. I think my closest friends who are also moms are the closest things to a mom crush.

Serena Norr: I don't have a specific mom crush, but I do admire and look up to women who are entrepreneurs/freelancers, etc who are paving their own way and making their dreams come true. That passion is so inspiring and infectious as these women are creating companies, websites, and brands that are built from their shear drive and determination.

Motherly: What does “Motherly" mean to you?

Serena Norr: Motherly means nurturing yourself as much as you would nurture your children. It is “easy" for us to take care of our children and do anything for them, but rarely can find the time to take care of ourselves. Motherly feels like a movement to take care of the self.

Photo of Serena Norr and Lauren Patterson courtesy of Little Swappies.

Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.

$70

Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.

$65

Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.

$45

Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!

$23

Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.

$30

Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.

$39

'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."

$35

Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.

$24

Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.

$22

Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!

$25

Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.

$32

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.

$105

Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.

$17

Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.

$68

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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