There's nothing more beautiful than a baby, but if you're on a budget, there's nothing pretty about how fast they grow. Indeed, all too many parents have a drawer full of clothes that were worn only a few times before their little one grew too big. Add shoes, toys, and all the other early childhood equipment that becomes obsolete before its time, and chances are you've got a pile of like-new items that you can't use anymore.
For those with even the barest eco-conscience, it's a Brobdingnagian waste of Lilliputian proportions. Here's how you can turn your collection of outgrown items into a force for good:
- Buy only what you need! If you underestimate, you can always supplement later.
- Seek used items wherever possible. There is a wide variety of nearly-new goods available, and buying used lets you conserve everything from raw materials to energy. And you'll save money, too. Garage sales, consignment shops, and other local used clothing stores are great sources for pre-owned stuff. There are also several online resources. Check Baby Place for a long list of shops selling gently used necessities.
- Make plans to give your used items to friends and family. Don't let your inner sentimentalist talk you into saving everything as keepsakes.
- Get your hand-me-downs back from friends and families when you have more children.
- Look around the house for repurposing opportunities. Bottles can find new uses in the kitchen. Old clothes, towels, and washcloths make ideal rags.
- Donate your used items to a charity like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. These distribution organizations are excellent destinations for your hand-me-downs, especially strollers and cribs. Plus, any fabric items they deem unfit are usually sent to textile recyclers. So either way the clothes you donate will be kept out of the landfill. Local homeless shelters and shelters for victims of domestic violence are usually in desperate need of baby clothes, toys, and other gear. And preschools and day care centers may also have a need your cast-offs.
- Don't forget that you can get a tax deduction for clothing you donate! Real Simple has a quick online guide to get you started.
- If donation avenues aren't open to you, join Freecycle. This organization maintains free e-mail mailing lists in almost every region of the country. You submit messages offering items for free, which are then sent to every local member.
- Another similar resource is Freepeats, which charges a $4.95 fee for lifetime membership and operates in fewer locales but has the advantage of focusing exclusively on children's and maternity clothing, childhood equipment, and accessories like toys.
- For a $5 annual fee, the online organization Excess Access will take your list of obsolete items and match the items on it to those on the needs lists of local charities, which then arrange for a pick-up.
- Need to get a little cash back for your stuff? BabyLoot.com is an online marketplace that connects sellers to buyers in a secure online environment.
One thing is for sure -- whether you donate or sell your items you'll be doing the Earth a favor by conserving resources. And you'll be helping others care for their own children without unnecessary expenses. That's a win-win that will leave our world in a much healthier state when our children grow all the way up.