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For parents of multiples, rummage sale offers double (or triple) the savings

Toronto Parents of Multiple Births Association holds a semi-annual, second-hand clothing sale. Members get first dibs before the sale is opened to the general public.


Everything is amplified after having twins or triplets or – give us strength – higher multiples.

The amount of care necessary, the amount of love to go 'round, all the diapers, and obviously all the clothes and general baby gear – everything is more. So is the joy, so is the expense.

TPOMBA, aka the Toronto Parents of Multiple Births Association, is one of the many volunteer groups providing support services and even social get-togethers for parents taking care of multiples.

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But TPOMBA also gives the parents many opportunities to buy, sell and swap children's items with hundreds of other members. It also organizes gymnasium-sized, second-hand sales for members and the general public.

It's a blueprint for how to save money when having twins or even just a single child. It's also a how-to for organizing – on a much grander scale – a friendly, neighbourly exchange between one family giving another a bag of outgrown baby clothes and toys.

The second-hand sale, in particular, "is civil society functioning at its highest level," says Shannon Moroney with a laugh. She volunteers as "ambassador" (i.e. spokesperson) for TPOMBA and is the mother of twins.

Started in 1973, TPOMBA has close to 600 members, and membership costs $40 a year. (The help and support that members give each other saves hundreds and hundreds in therapy bills, Ms. Moroney jokes.)

Members can access a Facebook group that lets parents post items they want to sell and gives others the chance to let others know they are looking for an item. It can be anything from the necessities to a bouncy baby seat, or a twin stroller for travelling and portable blackout screens to attach to car windows for nap time.

"That Facebook group is hot. Sometimes there are 30 to 40 posts a day of people buying and selling all from within the multiple births group. So it's great, and you can get two of everything," given that it's for twins or larger multiples, Ms. Moroney says. "And the savings on that are just phenomenal. Lots of times people not only buy and sell stuff, but just give it away."

It is its own multibaby, economic support system. "There are people, at any time of day or night, driving across the city to pick up a bag of preemie [premature birth] clothes or a second-hand breast pump or whatever it is," she says, "and that sort of economy – we joke that's our black-market parenting economy – is amazing."

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Ms. Moroney usually buys her twin girls new dresses for Christmas, but that's pretty much it for new clothing. The rest is mostly second-hand, at vast savings, she says.

(It was halfway through her pregnancy that Ms. Moroney realized, while in a prenatal yoga class, that "I was in a pretty different situation than every other pregnant woman in the room." It was the realization that having twins has its own special obvious and not-so-obvious needs. And That's how she got involved with TPOMBA.)

One of the group's biggest events is its semi-annual clothing and gear sale. Members of TPOMBA, as well as members of similar parenting groups, have first dibs on picking out items to buy, then the doors are opened to the general public.

For the sale to function, TPOMBA asks that parents selling items follow a careful labelling protocol. Sellers need to label the price, size, a simple description of what the item is and the name of the seller. If the seller doesn't want the item back, a red dot indicates it would then go to charity if it doesn't sell.

About 30 to 40 volunteers help sort the clothing before the sale. It takes typically three or four hours to unload all the donated items. There's that much stuff, enough to fill a gym or more.

There are many sales out there hosted by a number POMBA-like support groups, many affiliated with the umbrella organization Multiple Births Canada. TPOMBA isn't a member, though, since it is in such a major city and is generally self-sufficient with its own events, says Dina Naiman, president of TPOMBA and mom to triplets. Nevertheless, TPOMBA helps sister organizations, and it invites other POMBA members into the sale early.

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TPOMBA also holds its sales in neighbourhoods that are more in need, "so that when we do open up the doors to public shopping, we are helping a community, as well as our members," Ms. Naiman says. "We definitely like to help out fellow parents that are struggling to get the things that they need to support a family."

In neighbourhoods with many new Canadians, families may be buying snowsuits for their children for the first time, for instance. "And they are going to be able to buy them for $5 to $8 each. It's really lovely," Ms. Moroney says.

"We try to help our shoppers out. When we see pregnant shoppers come in, and we know that they are new members, we often try to help them out because they are so overwhelmed," she says.

Unlike TPOMBA's sale, some second-hand events across Canada don't last long. The budget to hold a sale can be difficult.

"From what I've understood, they are very difficult to organize and keep going," says Voula Martin, co-founder and editor of Family Fun Canada in Vancouver, a Web-based listing of activities for families. "It's kind of a fine line for the organizers to put on a great event and make some money at the same time. So, they've come and gone as the years have gone by."

"What's great about these," TPOMBA sales, Ms. Moroney says, "is that it's one thing to organize your own garage sale, which is often kind of junky, but it's another thing to go to a whole gym that's filled with kids- and family-related stuff."

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