Reduce Clutter: Start a Swap Network

>> Saturday, March 7, 2009

This post is my submission for the Green Moms Blog Carnival. The topic is "Green Spring Cleaning." Check out the musings of all the great Green Moms on March 10 at Tiny Choices.

I have a huge pile of stuff in my bedroom. It's taking up one corner, and sometimes creeps toward the center of the room until I fight it back into the corner with a couple of swift kicks. My husband keeps asking me, "Why is that stuff there?" I keep telling him, "I'm going to give it away when I get around to it."

It's almost spring, so now is a good time to work on reducing the clutter. I could sell it on Craigslist, but...I don't enjoy selling things - I'd rather give stuff away. So I could Freecycle it, but...I'd rather give it to someone I know. And that's why I'm starting a Swap Network.

I'm sure I read about Swap Networks somewhere, but when I tried to research the concept for this post, Google was a bust. So maybe I made it up. Either way, I think it's a good idea. :)

(But if I stole this idea from you, please let me know so I can give you credit.)

There are three advantages to being part of a Swap Network, rather than just using Craigslist or Freecycle:

  1. Besides swapping stuff, you can also trade time and skills. For example, I'm hoping to utilize my Swap Network as a babysitting co-op, coordinating babysitting trades and playdates with my friends.
  2. You can borrow and lend, rather than just give stuff away. Say you're a poor college student with a tiny lawn and no lawnmower, and your neighbors are starting to give you the cold shoulder because your lawn has turned into a jungle. (True story, by the way.) Wouldn't it be great to have a network of friends with lawnmowers who would loan you one for a weekend? Or friends with tools? Or a Wii? (Everybody needs a friend with RockBand.)
  3. You swap with people you know, building a sense of community and friendship.
Ideally, you would create a Swap Network with your neighbors, perhaps through your homeowner's association. You could utilize your association's newsletter or website for posting needs and wants. You would get to know your neighbors, and the stuff wouldn't have to travel far.

But since I'm new to the area, and I live in an apartment mostly housed by college students who are constantly changing, I'm going to try the Swap Network with friends from church. My plan is to set up a Ning page where we can post our needs and wants, and then swap the items at church, since we all see each other there once or twice a week anyway.

Sample ads would look like this:

I have a huge pile of baby boy stuff that my kids have outgrown, including an infant carseat, an Exersaucer, a bunch of clothes, and some toys. If you would like any of these things, let me know!

I am going to a fancy wedding this weekend. Anyone have a dress I could borrow?

I would like to learn to knit. Who knows how and would be willing to share their skills? Could we start a knitting group?

I need to spiffy up my wardrobe. Anyone want to be part of a clothes swap?

You get stuff you want, get rid of stuff you don't, trade skills, and make friends. What could be more fun than a Swap Network?


Maren Hansen March 7, 2009 at 1:33 PM  

I've heard of more specific things, like Toy Lending Libraries or Baby Swaps (baby goods like toys, car seats, clothes, etc), but I like yours better. Great way to build community! And I love Ning--we use it to keep our friends together from our time at Umich...

Joyce March 7, 2009 at 2:36 PM  

Great idea! Our church happens to have a website. I wonder if that could become part of it? I'll have to ask the webmaster. If not, we could use Ning as well.

Emily March 9, 2009 at 1:13 PM  


My neighborhood has this and it is the BEST THING ever!

In addition to the permanent kids swap shop, there is a Fall Back to School Exchange and a Spring Useful Goods Exchange (my favorite).

The first day you trade stuff on the honor system (take approx what you brought). The second day it is a rummage sale (and the proceeds benefit the playspace). All of the leftovers are donated or recycled. It is amazing. We have a PILE of stuff that we are so excited to take this year.

Check it out. Maybe you could start something like it in your area.


Erin aka Conscious Shopper March 9, 2009 at 8:59 PM  

Maren - There used to be a tool lending library in Takoma Park, but it closed down because not enough people were using it. When I found out, I was like, "They should have advertised more! I would have used it!" You can also borrow toys from the children's libary in Kensington.

Joyce - Good luck! Let me know if your church implements it and how it goes!

Emily - That is the most awesome thing ever! I am going to have to think about how I could get that started here.

Diane MacEachern March 11, 2009 at 10:47 AM  

Nice idea. It's like FreeCycle, isn't it? Another idea: just give stuff away. I've gotten to the point where I don't want anything back! I just want to unload (mostly for selfish reasons, but also to find a way to give that doesn't require more cash outlay).
Thanks for the post!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper March 11, 2009 at 8:40 PM  

Diane - Yes, it's a lot like FreeCycle except that you swap with people you know, so you can not only trade stuff, but you can trade time and skills and you can borrow and lend. I'm with you about giving stuff away, and if I really liked something but don't need it anymore, I love giving to someone I know so I can watch their enjoyment in using it.

Andy March 12, 2009 at 12:19 PM  

FREE LOUBOUTINS… WOOP WOOP!!! is the Internet's biggest clothes swapping website. More than 3,000 new items are added every week. There's currently loads of fab stuff to swap... inc. a gorgeous pair of Louboutin peep toes, a Marc Jacobs trench coat and a Roberto Cavalli evening dress... all for FREE. Have a sneaky peek at:

Happy swapping xxx

p.s. Oh, and the site is free to use. Yey!

mother earth aka karen hanrahan March 14, 2009 at 6:41 PM  

great idea - good luck with that! My kids are grown, but we did this very successfully with children's video's

Going Green Mama March 21, 2009 at 4:38 PM  

I was chatting with a friend of mine - who has triplets - today. She is tagging up with another triplet mom to trade toys, walkers, etc., for a month. She figures when they're swapped back, they'll be "new" for the kids again!

Mary Hunt March 22, 2009 at 12:27 AM  

Anything that helps to build and maintain a community is a great idea! Today it's toys, tomorrow it's dresses...

Jody Reale July 6, 2009 at 5:38 PM  

Did you know that makes it easy to start a swap network with people you know? Using their groups feature, Zwaggle takes the tedious administrative work out of trading with friends and family. And, if you ever decide to open the circle to the rest of the network, you can. What do you think?

generic viagra March 18, 2011 at 11:50 AM  

My son is the one who has my room like a nuclear zone after a detonation, he likes to take all of his toys and leave them on my room.

generic cialis May 3, 2011 at 11:15 AM  

SO true, we always keep unnecessary things in our home, things we think we may use later, but at the end we dont.

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