Trading, crafting and the journey of the travelling box.

A blog by @mircwalsh

Trading, crafting and the journey of the travelling box.

Now with the Big R looming, job losses and budget cuts it is interesting to reflect on how the philosophy of shopping has changed.

Few are now proud to march along with their bags from high street stores with more and more turning to recycling, internet shopping and swap shops. Over the past few weeks I have met with people who consider themselves former shop-a-holics but who are now trying out alternative way of shopping and I have also learnt about the famous travelling boxes that are sweeping the nation.ezine_pics_050106_websitesjpg

Websites like Freecycle and Jumble town are now being bombarded by consumers wanting to trade their goods. Jumbletown, which describes itself as being, “the Giveaway Website that helps the community and the environment”, is now a popular source amongst Irish shoppers. Established just three years ago Jumbletown is just like eBay except all the items and the service are free. The website helps people pass on still useful but unwanted items to others in their community, thereby freeing up valuable space in homes/workplaces. It also ensures that the life cycle or usefulness of an item is completed before it makes its way into costly recycling or disposal systems. Talking about Jumble Town Marketing Manager Des Fitzgibbon says, “The response to the service over the past two years has been very encouraging. Furniture, computers, domestic appliances, garden sheds and cuddly toys – you name it – they’re all changing hands for free on a daily basis. At present, JumbleTown has a community of over 28,000 members, and the growing popularity of the site proves that if you have an unwanted domestic or work-related item that is taking up valuable space, someone, somewhere, wants it.” Free cycle is much the same apart from the fact that users are divided into categories depending on their location. This does make it harder for users to navigate around unlike Jumbletown where people can contact members from all over the world.

Talking to users of Freecycle and Jumbletown I am encouraged to get involved and give it a go. Many members use it for getting rid of short term items such as baby clothes, prams, cots etc. A baby only needs these items for a couple of years and then it is hard to know what to do with them. One member tells how she takes advantage of this “I got a load of baby stuff – a mosses basket, travel cot, high chair and pram – which was fantastic. The pram was almost new, the one we’d been looking at buying, and would have cost us about £400” Another member managed to get rid of her old car I’ve given away loads, including a Mk1 fiesta because I wanted it to go to someone who’d restore the bodywork after we did the engine, rather than sell it for £200 to be ragged into the ground. I’ve since seen it and it looks fab now!” So whether you are looking for something or looking to get rid of something both Jumbletown and Freecycle are filled with great opportunities and give members the chance to save the environment.

Swap boxes are also a new invention with consumers worldwide indulging in swaps through forums across the Internet. Starting off in 2006 with what became known as the one red paper clip swap American Kyle MacDonald started off with one red paper clip and traded and traded until he eventually received a house. Now he is trying to trade on the famous house and is open to any offers.

The quest into the unknown has been intriguing and at Leemail we decided to give it a go. Facing the fact that we would probably not get a house out of it we packed up a box with five random items and over the past few weeks it has travelled the world from Cork to Kildare, Belgium to Switzerland and ending in the UK before it returned to us. With a limited time the distance the box could travel was limited but travelling boxes such as this are open to a list of endless opportunities.

Titled the “random swap” the box left Cork at the start of March.The first destination was to beimg_13691

Kildare where Jill decided to remove the necklace we had placed in the box as well as the perfume and replaced both of these items with some chewing gum and more perfume.

Next stop Paula in Belgium. Paula decided to sign up for the swap “just for the fun of it” Taking out the chewing gum and a lapel pin she replaced with some arnica gel and a candy hot dog.

Then the box was off again and landing in Switzerland Joan

100_2894decided to take out a lip balm, the candy hot dog and the arnica gel and replace them with some magnets, perfume and a hair and body spray. Joan is no stranger to swaps and this is her 15th. Admittedly she is a bit of a ‘swap addict’ and likes to get the chance to discover new things.

The final destination before returning back to Ireland was Catrin in the UK. Arriving to her on the 1st of April Catrin took out the magnets and a pin and replaced them with a hair band and a candy rock. She says “I love taking part in most types of swaps, it is nice to see what has gone as well as what they’d been replaced with”.

Swaps have been known to carry themes with members swapping anything from Star Wars memorabilia to key rings or even tea bags the list is endless. There are few forums out there where members are not swapping and it is certainly an exciting and very different form of gift giving where you will never know what you get.

Continuing on the philosophy of shopping it is interesting to learn what people do with items received from Jumble town/ Free cycle and swap shops. I recently talked to Emma who owns an etsy store called The Gift Shed. Just last year Emma who is a gardener by trade decided to branch out and be creative and explore the market of personalizedsupernatural4jpgnotebooks.

In the beginning her aim was to use up some odd supplies that had been lying around the house but then pretty bits of wrapping paper kept cropping up and were “crying out to be reinvented”.

As a gardener the winter months can be slow in terms of work and Emma saw this as an opportunity to let her creativeness flow. In her own words she says “ I started off with supplies that I already had to hand, and turned them into a profit”.Each notebook takes her anytime from a half hour to several hours to make. Of course this has become easier over time Talking about where she finds the materials to do this she mentions that the wrapping papers comes from gifts received and that some people who have come across her work have also sent her some paper to recycle.

Commissioning items such as photo albums for weddings keeps her going and once the customer gives her a rough idea on the style and colors they would like she lets her imagination run wild.

Notebooks are not the only things Emma makes. Finding it hard to throw away favorite items of clothing she decides to give them a new lease of life by making handbags out of them. Her trinket boxes are made out of recycled materials such as cardboard boxes, which her newsagent to saves just for her. So after all the work is it really worth her while and are these products what people really want.  Well talking to Emma I had no doubt about her success. In the beginning she remembers wondering if her items would sell.

“When I first started making trinket boxes I said to myself that I’d be happy if I managed to sell one every couple of months”. As it turns out she has managed to sell over 40 trinket boxes and just under 100 notebooks in 14 months. She says “I’m slightly overwhelmed by the positive response to my products if I’m honest, but hugely flattered and, of course, extremely pleased!”

Looking into the future Emma wishes to continue her craft business and offering words of wisdom to up and coming entrepreneurs she says the best advice is to know your market. She says, “I wouldn’t have sold anywhere near as much as I have done if I didn’t have an eye for what the customers want, and also for what they’re prepared to pay”

So is it all doom and gloom. Lack of money and worries of the future don’t mean an end to shopping be it by trade, traveling boxes or crafting things into something new there are always opportunities out there to acquire something new.