An interview with Lauren Patterson and Serena Noor of Little Swappies exchange.
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.