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Week 5: Swap Til You Drop

Step up to the checkstand at most  convenience stores and you'll likely spy a little cup or tray near the cash register inviting you to "take a penny, leave a penny".  It always makes me smile when I spot one of these because they  remind me of the importance of sharing.

Today, more than ever,  people are looking for ways to connect with one another by sharing goods and services without exchanging money. Driven by the recession and a sense of wanting to humanize the marketplace, we are increasingly creating sharing communities of all sorts. 

Some of these sprout up in neighborhoods and towns while others are found on-line.  San Francisco and Napa are just two communities that have established what are called Really, really free markets - outdoor venues where people share items. The Napa market has a good fact sheet for how to establish your own free market.

According to Method of Exchange, an informative website about forms of non-monetary exchange, swapping is "the exchange of goods or services between two or more parties. Unlike bartering, which can be a form of exchange where both parties are primarily interested in personal gains, swaps and swapping events are often organized to promote social and environmental issues, and/or to save participants money."

Sharing not only saves money for those engaged in it, but also improves their health and promotes happiness.

One on-line blog called Shareable is devoted to exploring the benefits of giving to others.  It even has researched and reported on the seven ways sharing can make you happy. Jill Suttie, author of the blog, reported, "A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues showed that giving a sum of money away to someone else lifted well-being more that spending it on oneself."

Swapping goods with one another

Gently used clothing and accessories along with toys, tools, home decor, produce, plants, music and many other items are swapped today at parties organized in people's homes, places of worship or community centers. 

A very quick search I conducted turned up a few examples in Northern California. If you do more checking, including the name of your town in your web search,  I am sure you will unearth many more:

Swap it Oakland  - This site is a go-to spot for finding out about all sorts of clothing swaps, plant swaps, food swaps etc.. in Oakland and Berkeley.

Sonoma County Lite Clothing Swaps - This is a Facebook page dedicated to advertising swaps in the wine country.

Little Free Libraries - These tiny libraries are sprouting up all over the country. People donate a book for each one they take. There are many of these in Northern California.

Bay Area Free Book Exchange in El Cerrito They currently have 10,000 titles to choose from and have given away more than 400,000 books since 2009. Click on the above link or call 510-705-1200 for information hours to shop or donate books.

One reader wrote  to tell me she hosts a big swap party every January 1st. She and her friends also swap clothes, media, housewares and other goods each quarter. She said  most of my favorite clothes come from swaps.  There are many how-to-hold-a-clothing-swap articles on-line that can help you get started.

There are also many on-line swap sites which match up strangers wanting to exchange items. Children's clothing, toys and paperback books are among just a small number of items you can exchange through the mail.

Of course, Craig's List and Freecycle are wonderful sources of sharing and receiving free stuff right in your local community, as well.

Weekly update on our family's simple living journey

Those of you who have been following this blog know our family is attempting to not buy anything new this year. (See my initial post to catch up).

I had some nice Freecycle exchanges this week, receiving an almost full bottle of liquid hand soap and giving away some blouses that no longer fit and a craft project that I started but knew I'd never finish.  In this often impersonal world there is a lot of value in the act of exchanging items no matter how small they may be. 

Last week my husband talked about purchasing a new attachment for our camp stove but he  hasn't mentioned it again.  I guess it wasn't so direly needed after all. I'm glad I insisted we wait a week to see if he still wanted it.

I scored a small stack of free magazines out of the public library's "free" bin. I will return them there after I've read them.

This coming week I will be researching some new topics to write about in the future including local currencies, bartering, services exchange networks, local exchanges, transition towns and other alternative ways to consume.

I also am trying to put out of my mind a craving I have for a pricey Bose sound wave radio (after seeing one advertised in an Oprah magazine) and thinking more about what a coup it will be to buy a $14.99 TV from a thrift store later in the year to replace our increasingly malfunctioning set.

What do you think about swapping goods as an alternative to buying them?  Tell us in the comments section below.

Photo of a clothing swap courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

mr magoo April 17, 2014 at 11:58 PM
Wha happened? Did you discover computers don't make for living simply?

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