WHAT IF I TOLD YOU there was a way to buy high-end products for your baby at steep discounts, saving the planet while being incredibly brand-conscious at the same time?
This is not a beautiful dream. (I don’t have beautiful dreams anymore. Last night I dreamed that my children and I were on a sinking ship and I was filling out these special secret forms to get us off it, then realized I had somehow lost both of them somewhere on the boat.) It can be YOUR REALITY if you join some parenting Facebook groups that are devoted to reselling kids’ stuff.
I say “parenting” Facebook groups, but these groups are the domain of mothers and that is no surprise: I haven’t yet met a man who’s willing to drive 20 minutes across town at rush hour to pick up two pairs of Hanna Andersson size 90 leggings in excellent used condition for $3 each from someone’s porch, leave cash in mailbox. Women, meanwhile, will form a long virtual line for these items (“interested!” “backup!” “backup!” “backup!” “impossible backup!”) and will find a way to pick them up between daycare dropoff and work.
One of the most useful parts of my maternity leave has been figuring out how the various neighborhoods of Cambridge (where I live) and Somerville connect to each other and that is pretty much entirely due to my membership in these groups. In the early days Hugh and I were driving around town to pick up half-opened boxes of newborn diapers that other people’s babies had outgrown. When I became convinced he had reflux, we did the emergency pickup of a $15 Rock n Play.
There’s more. So, so much more. A BRICA Fold n’ Go travel bassinet, new in package, for $20. A Zipadee Zip, as seen on “Shark Tank,” for $10, bought in anticipation of future swaddle weaning; a Magic Merlin sleep suit, $15, purchased for same reason. In the meantime, for while we’re still swaddling, two Halo SleepSack Micro-Fleece Swaddles, size small for $3 each (these fuckers sell for like $20 on Amazon!) A Fisher-Price space saver swing, not even manufactured anymore but how because it’s so perfect, $15, from someone who’d carefully dissembled it and had it back in the original box with new C batteries. A baby beach tent for $5. It was all found on Facebook groups, all picked up from people’s porches or back steps, in plastic bags with my name written on them.
At some point, Kevin started noticing that I was buying all this stuff to put the baby in. So, so much stuff (all meant to CONTAIN the baby somewhere other than my arms, come to think of it). We were in the car one Saturday when I casually let drop that we would be stopping on the way home from Alice’s swimming lesson to pick up a Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light. He pointed out that we already have a Pack ’n Play, at which point I scoffed. I bought the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib for $50; new, it retails for like $300, and everyone who has it RAVES about it and says it’s worth the cost — which, if true at $300, is certainly true at $50. Plus, the resale value, I told him. The resale value! Whereas I’ll probably be paying someone to take our Pack ’n Play away!
We then spent several minutes not speaking to each other. Every time I look at the Baby Bjorn Travel Crib Light sitting in the back of our car, where it’s been since we picked it up, I think about what a great deal I got.
I’ve sold things, too, you know. A lot of maternity clothes; an adorable and unique Japanese sweatshirt that Alice refused to wear; a Boden dress that never worked on me and that very well may never work on any human person’s body but sure has a cute pattern. I’ve given away a rice cooker, a baby monitor with a broken display, and some sample cans of not-our-brand formula. Every item I post on one of these groups is a tiny chance to be an entrepreneur, to display creativity, to think about what might entice someone else to buy something. I put together a “gender-neutral newborn bundle” of clothes Hugh had outgrown and listed it at $10, slyly mentioning that I’d “throw in” the plain white hospital onesies that were clogging my drawers if the buyer wanted them — and she did, and now the 18 plain white hospital onesies from two children are her problem, not mine.
As Cambridge-crunchy as these groups kind of are, they are not a Cambridge-only phenomenon; they also exist in New York City, where I used to live and where Alice was born, and presumably in a zillion other places. The “hot items” in each group vary somewhat, not surprisingly, providing a fascinating look into class and status symbols, but certain brands are popular in both places, with anything from Hanna Andersson, Keen, or Bogs leading the pack. Post that you’re giving away a few packs of outgrown Honest diapers for free and you will get 20 responses in under 5 minutes from women who spend $200 at Whole Foods each week.
The most-responded-to post I’ve ever seen, I think, was from a woman who had ordered a few pairs of Thinx period panties, and the company accidentally sent her the wrong size and told her to keep those ones and give them away. She posted that she had period underwear to give away free and the response was like a pack of hungry sharks had smelled blood. I was one of the sharks.
I love these groups. There are things to mock, certainly, like the fact that some poor sap thinks they have a chance in hell of getting $40 for a Jumperoo. (Pro tip: The larger the item, the less you’ll get for it. You can sell a Jumperoo for maybe $5; you can sell two used pairs of Hanna Andersson baby socks for $5.) Overall, though, they are perfection in part because they are so not Craigslist or eBay. (Craigslist can be pure tragedy; I once saw a post from a man selling off an entire nursery because their baby had died and he wanted to save his wife from thinking about the items. It was the 6-word Ernest Hemingway story brought to life in the modern day; it was the saddest thing I’ve seen on the Internet.) These groups are intimate; they are mothers selling, often, much-loved items that they want other people to love too, and if you post something cute, you will get not only offers for it but also simply comments on how cute it is, how bittersweet it is that kids grow up and out of these tiny adorable items, how difficult it can be to accept that at some point you have to clean out your closet.
By the way, we are done with the Rock n Play if you’d like to buy it. I’ll give you a really good price. Easy porch pick up in Cambridge.
This essay is from I’ll Be Right Back, my parenting email newsletter that comes out on Fridays. Subscribe here.