It’s an age-old problem: kids outgrow their things, and parents don’t know what to do with the outgrown gear. What do you do?
Let’s consider the options. You could…
Virtual Yard Sale Site or Craigslist
Donate to Goodwill/Salvation Army
Fill your basement with totes of old clothes
Take them to FREE toy and clothes swap!
The last option is my favorite. I’m just not in a stage where I have time to try to resell our things, and I keep a lot (especially now that we’re foster parents). But when I am ready to part with something, I put it in my box of swap things. I have found SO many great things at the free swaps that it seems only right to pass the things we’re not using on to others who will put them to good use!
The best part in my mind is that everything is free. And you don’t have to have an equal number of items that you donate or take home. The idea is that you bring what you can and take what you need.
In Terre Haute, Indiana, we’re lucky enough to have TWO awesome churches who are willing to host these toy and clothes swaps. I’ve asked the coordinator of the World Gospel swap, Melinda, if she’d share some info with all of us. I think her insight will be great for local attendees, AND it could help people in other towns across the country start swaps of their own!
What exactly is a toy and clothing swap?
We all have so many things are kids are constantly outgrowing or deciding they no longer want. What better way to work as a community of mothers than to give these items to someone who can use them? When others do the same thing in exchange, it becomes a swap!
What’s your role?
In 2010 my friend Chrissy Revell approached me with the idea for the Mom Swap. We had our first swap in the fall of 2010. Twelve people participated and everyone left happy. From there we began to have the Mom’s Time-out Toy and Clothing Exchange twice a year (spring and fall). The numbers in attendance practically doubled at each subsequent event.
I now have about 15 people who regularly help me, each with a defined job or role. At the last one we had about 50 volunteers who came to help during the drop off time and/or clean up afterwards. We also had a dozen kids from the youth group help with clean up, and the Men’s Ministry took care of setting up tables the morning of the swap AND directing traffic! The more we grow, the more help we receive from other groups in the church! We really couldn’t have a successful event without all the people who graciously give their time and effort!
How many people usually attend?
We had 250 people at the last Mom Swap. If the growth continues as it has in the past we could reach 300 for this fall! I say, bring it on! We have adjusted and expanded as we’ve needed to and will continue to do so!
How does the swap work?
Moms gather all the baby or child related items they no longer need. This includes books, bedding, furniture, baby gear, clothing, games, DVDs, etc. They sort it by type or size and gender (separate labeled bags work best!). We ask that all items are clean and gently used. At the published drop-off time (generally 1-1:45), they bring the items.
Volunteers carry donations inside and organize them according to type (books, toys, etc) and size/gender. With ticket and shopping bag in hand (everyone who drops off items gets a ticket to shop), they get in line and wait for the doors to open (usually 2pm).
Regardless of how little or how much each person has donated, everyone has one hour to “shop” and collect as many things as they would like. Everything is free!
At 3pm we announce that the Swap is over and a massive clean up begins. Left over items are donated to a local charity.
What are some of the biggest items you’ve seen donated at the swap?
We usually have several strollers, bouncers, activity saucers, and sometimes toddler beds, cribs, and high chairs. We’ve had play kitchens, riding toys and bicycles. If you can haul it, we can set it out! When you choose to take one of these larger items, we ask that you immediately put it in your car as there isn’t an area for saving or holding items.
Do you have any awesome swap stories you want to share?
One neat thing is that this has been going on long enough that some of us see things coming back that we had donated at a prior swap. One gal got rid of a favorite outfit not realizing she would need it again and found it at a subsequent swap!
Are there any rules or guidelines for donating, taking, or otherwise participating in the swap?
We have had a few questions about why it is called the “Mom Swap”, which some feel excludes Dads. We are operating under the Women’s Ministry at World Gospel, so women are our target group. If a single Dad wants to come, he is more than welcome! If a Mom isn’t able to come and she wants to send her husband, that is fine! We just ask that only one parent from each family attends. We simply don’t have room for more.
It is also important to note that this is a KID-FREE event. There isn’t space for strollers or kids walking around with their parents. We do allow babies and little ones IF they are carried or worn in some type of a backpack or sling.
Local readers, I always share updates about upcoming swaps on the Haute Happenings facebook page! If you’d like to find out more about volunteering or participating, you can ask to join the local swap groups.