Giving It Away is Child's Play | Seventh Generation
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Giving It Away is Child's Play

Author: the Inkslinger

Baby ClothesThere'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? 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.

photo: Mark Pilgrim


abbiemom picture
There's a company in Round Rock, TX that will take you used, broken, and expired baby gear and recycle their individual parts. They’ll make sure everything is properly disassembled and all usable parts are sent to accredited recycling centers. For example, fabrics will be shipped to developing countries, and metal, plastic and foam will be used for construction projects. In the spirit of renewing, if the item is in excellent condition it will be donated to and enjoyed by another family who needs it. Go to for more information on the project and how to ship your items to them. Your can even get reimbursed for some of your shipping fees with a $5.00 gift card to their online store!
KimMom picture
I like the rag quilt idea. Also I have made several quilts from my daughters most beloved clothing and that is a wonderful way for me to keep some of her outfits. Mostly I just saved the "first" outfits along with holiday outfits (christmas, b-days, halloween, etc). Now I don't have to make family sit through slide shows...:0)
manatee2411 picture
Another thing you can do with clothing that's too worn or stained for passing on is to cut it into strips and knit or crochet the strips into a rag rug for your home. Or make scrap quilts from the most usable parts - if you don't need an extra quilt, it could be donated to a shelter.
CDracobly picture
As another person mentioned, E-Bay is great!! Most of my son's clothes are used or I buy on sale. I buy a lot of his clothes on E-Bay. And, when he out grows them, I sell them on E-Bay and donate some. What about stained items? You can sell them as "play clothes" on E-Bay and be honest about the stains. You don't get as much for them but you get the satisfaction of knowing that they will be used again! Also...we use stained/old/ripped up clothing as household rags for cleaning. I often cut them into a good size to use. You can cut out pieces to sew cloth napkins. My cloth napkins are different sizes but they all work great. I read that if the clothing is from a natural source like cotton, you can use them in your garden as a weed barrier (I haven't tried this yet).
Francine Schoenwetter picture
Francine Schoenwetter
I have a long standing relationship with a quality consignment shop in my town. The money earned from the clothes and toys consigned generally gets pumped right back into the store for next sizes up. If I don't see what we need I take the cash but often turn it around into purchases of consigned clothes for my teen or myself at another shop. I suppose we're lucky to have such great consgnment options in our town.
AHager picture
There is not lead in children's clothing. What was threatening second-hand and consignment shops was the proposed mandatory lead testing. It was being proposed that second-hand and consignment shops would be independently responsible for testing all their used products for lead. This is something that they could not afford and many found to be insane since clothing does not have lead in it. Luckily, the regulations put out by the CPSIA no longer include testing for second-hand items and second-hand and consignment shops should be able to continue on just fine (just don't try to sell them items that were found to have too much lead - they can still get in trouble for selling those). Oh, and may I add that you should not read the article "bonbayel" posted. Feel free to look up information on this topic, but that appears to be a bad site and clicking on the link immediately brought up 6 pop-ups, some of them quite inappropriate.
katand picture
I found out about a foster care resource center in my area which gladly took my used clothes, books, toys, furniture, shoes, etc. Many times foster parents have little or no warning before getting a child and they may only have the child for a short time. These heroes need help to take care of children in need and make them feel at home.
macdonald3 picture
Wait a minute! Lead in clothing,I haven't heard that yet. Where have I been? I must also ask the question, where is it hiding? Who has more information on this?
hr1982 picture
The Children's Task Force in our area has a great program. If you bring in a bagful of your child's outgrown clothes, you can take home a bagful of the next size up. How can you beat that?
sher1217 picture
What should we do about broken toys and badly-stained clothing?
bonbayel picture
Imust say that I'm amazed that there is still so much lead in children's clothing that someone has found a need to test it! Why wasn't this eliminated years and years ago? Certainly, you want lead-free clothing for your child, so you might wonder about what you are buying at consignment shops or when you get a big bag of used clothes from a friend. At least we will be able to trust the clothes in stores better, so the lead content of used-clothes will also gradually get less as the "leaded" ones get worn out. I'm wondering where this lead is. In the colors, the fabric conditioners, the decorations? I suspect that if it is directly in the fabric that it gets washed out. However, I googled to see what the status of the law is on used children's products. The best answer is that consignment shops, and other resellers don't need to do testing, but officially things are supposed to be lead-free. You can read the article I found here.
sewciopath picture
Just be sure before you donate that your items will not wind up in a landfill. Thanks to the CPSIA, thrift stores and other resellers of used children's items risk fines and jail time for unintentionally selling items with too much lead. I fear that not many will want to risk it, and very safe items will be discarded as a result.
mtampoya picture
Those are some great ideas. Also, buying from eBay is great as many people sell numerous outfits for a fraction of their original cost. Look into Kijiji and Craigslist to find people in your neighbourhood to decrease costs from shipping.