Last year I read a delightful book called “Shoe Addicts Anonymous.” In the book, four women are forced to go on budgets. Rather than give up great shoes, they form a club to trade them. Since it’s a novel, close friendships and major life changes ensue. You can do something similar, but without the major life changes, by setting up a toy, shoe, and clothing exchange with friends.
How to Find Traders
In the novel, one of the women posted on Craigslist and then arranged to meet with potential trading partners. If you don’t want to do that, you can instead gather up a group of friends who live in your area and have children your age or a decent sense of style.
What to Trade
You can trade just about anything. Here are a few ideas:
Toys: Most children outgrow their toys long before they wear out, so a toy exchange is a very affordable way for your kids to receive new-to-them toys that are in good condition and free.
Children’s clothing: This usually works out to be a better deal for families with younger children because those with other children will doing all the handing down. However, if you have a good mix of people, you should be able to arrange it so everyone finds something they like.
Shoes: Both kids shoes and adult shoes can be exchanged. When I think of adult shoes, I’m really thinking of designer heels. You don’t want shoes that may have molded to someone else’s foot unless you can get a new insole put in.
Adult clothing: If you want a few new tops or pants, but don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can exchange stylish clothing with someone else. Look for clothes with limited wear. This is also a good way to get rid of clothes that don’t fit you anymore (or never fit in the first place.)
How to Organize a Toy and Clothing Exchange
Organizing the exchange is a simple enough process. You could set it up in just a few hours and hold it in a few weeks. Just follow these steps:
Decide what to exchange. You could focus on one area, or you could decide to exchange a few different things at once so more people will find something they want.
Choose the traders. Decide which of your friends would be interested in such a trade. You could choose friends in your area, friends from your child’s school, or just about anyone whose taste you admire. Be sure to choose a good mix of ages and sizes so everyone can find something.
Set the date and time. Aim for a weekend, but avoid holidays and busy travel periods. If you have a lot of children’s sports in your area, choose a day when games aren’t likely to be scheduled.
Set the ground rules. Finally, determine your ground rules. Let everyone know ahead of time that they should bring items in good condition that they would wear or feel comfortable having in their home. This is not a way to get rid of junk. Your guests should also only take what they can actually use. No grabbing something because they might want it eventually. And no hoarding. Remember that sharing thing you learned in preschool.
Send out the invitations. Now all you have to do is send out the invitations. Use something like Evite for free, or just email a group of people with the concept and rules.
Host your party. Serve some light snacks and make space in a bedroom with a good mirror to serve as a changing room. Serve clear liquids only if this is a clothing exchange. After the exchange is done, unchosen goods can be donated to a local charity or taken home by the people who brought them.
If you do it right, your toy and clothing exchange will be a success for everyone. Not only will your friends take home “new” toys and clothes without spending a dime, but you’re also being a friend to the environment by recycling rather than replacing or throwing out. That’s something everyone can get behind.