When I was 8 years old, hand-me-down clothes weren’t cool. It wasn’t that I was ungrateful for the super-stylish New Kids on the Block T-shirts my cousin gave me, I just didn’t tell anyone they were second-hand.
Then, in college, when everyone was surviving off on Easy Mac and ramen noodle soup, thrift store shopping became very, very in.
Now, on the heels of a recession, second-hand items are even more acceptable. I know more people from all walks of life buying furniture at Goodwill, borrowing clothes from friends and avoiding the wallet-purge at shopping centers.
Whether you are an experienced freebie hunter or just starting, here are ways to score free items this spring:
Freecycle.org: The Freecycle Network strives to reduce waste in landfills by creating communities in which people can give away unwanted items for reuse. There are two main Freecycle message boards for Atlanta (inside the Perimeter and out) in addition to ones for Dahlonega, Lawrenceville and other communities.
You’ll find everything from treadmills to firewood on these heavily moderated message boards, and you can request, as well as list, items. No selling or trading is permitted, only free giveaways.
Clothing swaps: You’ll find this trend mostly among women, where friends and acquaintances gather occasionally to exchange unwanted clothes. The clothes usually are in good condition but no longer fit or aren’t being worn very often.
Swaps vary by group, but generally participants first organize the clothes, then hold a free-for-all, rapidly trying on clothes, as it’s first-come, first-served for who gets to take home each piece. Whoever hosts the party should have at least one or more full-length mirrors available.
In some groups, participants help provide refreshments. The hostess can donate any remaining clothes to charity for a tax write-off.
If you don’t know of a swap, start your own. I had been attending a swap almost 30 miles from my home, but decided to hold one at my house to save on gas. I now have a “new” wardrobe every six months or so. Win-win.
Atlanta Really Really Free Market: This is appearing for the first time in Atlanta this spring and the time and place are both to be announced. But it’s worth mentioning now because everything is really, really free.
RRFMs across the country — including Athens, New York City, San Francisco and Reno, Nev. — have catered to hundreds of shoppers and usually offer such goods as books, music, food and other donated items. But they also include services like entertainment, hair-styling, massage therapy or mechanical work.
Leave your cash at home. And no trading, either. Visit the Atlanta Really Really Free Market Facebook page to schedule an appointment to donate items or get more information.
– By Lauren Davidson, Atlanta Bargain Hunter