Thursday, September 16, 2010


This post is about swaps as a means of reusing/sharing/recycling whatever you no longer need (or can’t use up, anyway). Swaps have a lot of benefits - like reducing your carbon-footprint, saving money, getting nice surprises, and, maybe, getting to know some nice people in the process.

You know the old saying: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, swaps are one way to make that wisdom operational. Hey, it worked pretty well for us in kindergarten and grade school. But, then, a lot of us spent a lifetime buying stuff and not sharing much at all. If that’s you, in the extreme case, then: "Does your house look like another episode of “Hoarders”? Or - for others of you who’ve exercised only a bit more prudence: "Do you hesitate before going to your basement, attic, or garage because you know you’ll find a lot of things you hoped to forget about - permanently?" If you answered:"Yes," to either of these questions, then you definitely need to unclutter your home - by whatever means necessary!

Some of us have tried yard sales as our best bet at clutter-busting. But, too often, putting out our stuff in a yard sale doesn’t work very well. Time and again, we find that we can’t sell - or even give away - most of the things we hoped would leave the yard (and our lives, forever). If that’s your case, then, you should probably consider the benefits of swaps.

If you judge by the number of Internet blogs out there, smart-thinking people have come up with all kinds of swaps, and some have been quite successful. The motivation is to reduce the number of commodities that are bought by using up what's already out there. Swaps give eco-minded people a chance to give their things another useful life. Reducing consumption is a great way to cut down on the use of raw materials and the energy used to manufacture them. It also helps lighten the load on our already bulging landfills.

For those who want to borrow, trade, or share items, swapping can be an enjoyable way of meeting and working with people. Swaps help you while helping others. You get rid of things you don’t need and receive stuff you need, all for free. It’s a great opportunity to clean up your bookshelves, drawers, closets, and storage areas by carrying or shipping off your junk to somebody who needs (or thinks they need) what you don’t want anymore.

Some swaps are neighborhood or citywide so that people can meet face-to-face in local events. If you’ve got a little time and energy, try forming a local group. No formal commerce has to be involved. It can be done person-to-person. This is a lot easier when the group is limited to a small geographical area, thus reducing driving time and making exchanges more efficient. If this possibility interests you, start by researching existing swaps in your area or help organize new swap events at churches, neighborhoods, and at larger planned gatherings.

If there’s not a suitable local swap near you – and you don’t want to organize one - browse the Internet for swap websites that offer some of the same advantages of face-to-face networks.

Can swapping really be free? Yes and no. It depends on the organization, so check it out carefully. Most swap organizations don’t charge you for listing or trading items. While there aren’t usually any upfront costs, you’ll still have to deal with transportation or shipping. For long-distance trades, you can use the Post Office's one-size shipping rate. Or, if you want, you can explore a trade with a swap partner near you (or with someone you hope to see soon at a larger planned event). That way, you can forget about postage and hand over the item in person.

Like the idea? Then, let’s get swapping!

What things can be swapped?
Here are a few examples, but I’m sure you can come up with dozens of suggestions for sharing resources and keeping things out of some landfill.

- Nice clothes that don’t any longer fit or won’t be worn again (like gently used baby clothes, wedding gowns, prom dresses, nice suits and tuxes).
- Almost any kind of furniture, bric-a-brac, and electronics.
- Handmade items. Most of us like to touch and display handmade items in our homes. They're especially nice when they are gifts from people we love and respect. They serve, sometimes for generations, as a happy reminder of the creative and generous person who made them.
- Home-exchanges. Your home doesn't have to be an extreme green or Better Homes and Gardens model. Everyone needs a vacation now and then, and the possibility of a two-way or three-way home exchange may work out fine.
- “Bed and Breakfast” opportunities. The homes that are offered don’t have to look like those in magazines. Cheerful, friendly people can make their visitors feel right at home and do a lot of sharing of ideas. Somebody’s extra room, floor, or back yard may be all that’s required by another family as a great vacation retreat. The important point would be the honest statement of what can and can’t be offered.
- Transportation. Driving somewhere and would like to have company and share expenses? Need someone who can share a regular commute? That would be another good way that swapping saves resources.
- Home-grown farm products. If you're growing zucchini or have a fruit tree that produces a lot of fruit, you know that it's nearly impossible to give away all of what is produced. Don’t let any of that
good food go to waste. Offer it in baskets or cases to others who could make good use of it.

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