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ThredUP online clothing swap is an alternative to trashing, donating [Updated]

March 2, 2011 | 10:39 am

ThredupThe average American child will get rid of approximately 1,000 things by the time he or she is 13 years old, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's a lot of Bakugan brawlers and coloring books, princess tiaras and, of course, clothes. 

What's a parent to do with it all? Trashing, donating and storing are the usual options, but ThredUP offers something new. The online swapping service allows users to trade boxes of unwanted kid stuff, paying only for shipping and a $5 service charge.

ThredUP uses the medium flat-rate shipping boxes provided by the U.S. Postal Service, which cost $10.95 to mail, regardless of weight. Playing off the USPS slogan, "If it fits, it ships," the ThredUP motto is "If it fits, it swaps."

Registration for the service is free. People with clothes, books, toys and other items to swap are provided with 10 USPS boxes that are shipped to their homes for free. Online, they list what's in their boxes; other users then browse the boxes. When a box is picked, the person who listed it is e-mailed the mailing address to which the box should be sent. Print out a shipping label, and ThredUP arranges home pickup through the postal service. 

The person receiving the box pays the $10.95 for shipping and the $5 ThredUP fee. It's completely free to send items to other families on ThredUP. [Updated 3-2-11, 6:20 p.m.: The original version of this post said the recipient paid for shipping and the sender paid the $5 ThredUP fee.]

"We were looking for a unique way to solve the thousand-item problem," said ThredUP founder and Chief Executive Officer James Reinhart. "The traditional middle-class American family who makes between $40,000 and $80,000 spends about $1,000 a year on kids' clothing, and that's just for staples. We're trying to build a business to help families in a meaningful way."

Founded last April, ThredUP is based in San Francisco and has about 100,000 members. [Updated 3-2-11, 6:20 p.m.: The original version of this post said ThredUP launched in August.]

 -- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Items swapped through the online service, Credit: ThredUP