Did your children outgrow their clothes overnight? With growing kids, it is a fact that you will end up with clothes that still have some wear-ability after your kids not longer fit in them. You can give them to relatives if they live close by, but inevitably your kids will be the last girl or new baby and yours will be a season off so winter clothes fit in July. And wouldn’t it be nice if your budget grew just as fast as your kids?
Clothing exchanges are a good way to pass clothes to kids who will use them in your community and get clothes for your kids when you need them. It is a chance to both purge your kids’ rooms of things that no longer fit and refill their drawers with “new” clothes that don’t break the budget.
Planning. A clothing exchange can take many forms. You can start a clothing exchange with your local preschool parents, PTO, church group, mothers group, or just all of your friends. Decide on a location, date, time, what you want to swap, who can swap and when, and what to do with the leftover clothing.
Jeanette L. from Sterling, MA and mom of three chilren, said, “Clothing swaps were great when I was having my third child and I wasn’t sure of the gender. I was able to pick up barely worn newborn items in green, white and yellow and a couple really cute things for boys and girls too – just in case!” She helped found the semiannual clothing swaps in her local MOMS Chapter.
Location, Location, Location. A clothing swap takes up more space than you will expect so a church hall, school cafeteria, or library meeting room are all good spaces. You will need a lot of tables, so check to see if they have them or if you will need to supply them. Be sure you have plenty of parking and have a space that is stroller friendly.
Layout. Arrange tables in large U-shapes or long lines of tables ease the flow of swapping. You will want to separate the clothing by size and gender so that girls’ clothing on one side and boys’ on the other. Be sure to sort the clothing by size and label the tables. This will allow more people to help with the set up. Also think about strollers and if they can fit around corners and around both sides of the table.
What to include. Do you want to include maternity, mens’ and women’s clothing? Maternity clothing is a natural addition to a children’s clothing swap. The addition of Men’s and Women’s clothing will depend on space and the goals of your swap. If you are working to support families with stay at home parents or a refugee group, having adult clothes for swapping is a wonderful addition.
What about sports equipment and toys? Both of these groups take up a lot of space. Having sporting goods such as cleats and baseball gloves can really help a family out. Specialized sports gear can be very expensive if you have multiple children and rarely does a child ruin this type of equipment before they outgrow it.
Who can swap? Some groups give swap credits based on the value of what you bring in. Other groups set up the swaps differently so that if a member brings something, they have the chance to shop a few minutes earlier that folks who didn’t bring clothes, while some groups allow everyone to start swap shopping at the same time. Once again, how you set up your swap will depend on your goals – are you interested in getting as many clothes used locally in your community or are you interested in swapping with an equal monetary value?
What about high end clothes that were expensive when they were new? Generally these kinds of clothes are better sold to a consignment store or children’s resale boutique. If it will make you crazy to see it go for free, then leave it at home and find another way to pass it on.
What about left overs? No matter how many people come to a swap, there will always be left over clothing. Do you ask people to take their un-swapped clothing home? Many times you can donate the clothing to a charity like Goodwill or Salvation Army but it is best to arrange this with the local chapters. If you have nice clothes for adults that can be worn for a job interview, check with your local YMCA or YWCA, many run programs to pass on clothes to welfare recipients returning to work.
Liz. K. from Sutton, MA and mom of two sons, said, “We have definitely have saved so much money with the clothing swaps. I’ve been able to find great quality clothes for my children. It’s also fun to see other kids enjoying your children’s outgrown clothes. There is a pair of Bob the Builder PJ’s that have been loved by at least three children, and they are still in good condition for a fourth child.” She has been participating in a local clothing exchange for about four years.
With a little planning, a good location, and good friends, clothing swaps are a fun way to build community and save your budget. Who knows, you might be the one to find a new favorite shirt!