Monday, October 19, 2009

The Borrowers: Tips and Tricks for Keeping Your Sanity (and your stuff)

Do you loan things out? How often do you get them back ruined? How often do you never get them back at all? Do you borrow things? Do you find you can't remember where you put those shoes your sister loaned you for your baby? Have you ever given back a crib covered in vomit? Have you ever simply not returned things you borrowed?

I have been very blessed in that I have friends who have passed along items to me. It has saved me thousands of dollars. More often than not, those items are given to me, not loaned, but I do occasionally borrow things from friends. It can really be a life-saver. It can also, however, cause much frustration.

I often find myself loaning things to friends/family. Well, I DID. I don't know if I will any longer. I've had a few negative experiences (and one AWFUL experience where my entire maternity wardrobe was thrown away) and at this point, even though some of my friends/family have been wonderful about the things they've borrowed, it's just not worth it.

Since there seems to be some question about what to do/not to do in this situation, I'm compiling a list of the do's and don'ts. Feel free to add your own.

1. Know the difference between loaned and given. If you're being given something, ask, "Do you want this back?" If you're loaning something, be absolutely clear that you will need that item back. Don't mince words. I suggest, in addition to asking/telling in person, double-check via e-mail. That way, if you're borrowing the things, there's no question. If you're loaning the things and people later claim they thought it was a gift, you can pull up that e-mail.

2. Do no loan things with sentimental value. If someone tries to loan such things to you, do NOT take them. From both sides, you never know what will happen. So while it is a lovely gesture to loan that adorable Halloween costume you made for your child's first Halloween to a friend, I advise against it. Family may be a different story, though. Yes, wearing mom or grandma's wedding gown is a wonderful tradition.

3. Be specific about when you need something back. When loaning a too big shirt to a friend because her child is a size bigger than yours, make certain you say, "I'll need that back when my child is in a 6." That way, hopefully, you can avoid seeing that child's younger sister sporting that exact same loaned shirt once yours fits into a 6. *

4. If you destroy it (or don't get it back to them in time because you did pass it along to another child), you MUST do something. Talk to the person who loaned it. How you make it up to them is really up to them. You can't just buy something else and call it good. Maybe they prefer if you repair the piece. Maybe they'll offer to repair it themselves. Maybe they'll want it replaced. Maybe they'll tell you not to worry. It's up to them, though.

5. If you loan something that is destroyed, be reasonable. Yes, they have an obligation to do something about it, but you don't necessarily have the right to demand they replace that 5 year old dress with an expensive brand new one.

6. Return something in at least the same condition you received it. If you've ripped it, set it on fire, doused it in oil, used it as a litter box, hosted a flea circus on it, etc, do NOT simply pack it in a box and pass it back. Let the person know and then see #4. Please, look over items carefully before you return them. If things like being used as a littler box or a site for a flea circus are normal for you, they're probably not for other people. A good rule is to always thoroughly clean things even better than you would your own.

7. Do NOT pass along borrowed things to others without permission.

8. Ask people first if they even want to borrow your items in the first place. On the flip side, if someone is offering you something that you really don't want/need, tell them. If you get a box of children's clothes and find you only plan to use a few items, pass the others back immediately. That can help prevent problems (see #9).

9. Know where loaned items are. Don't pack them away with your things in the attic. Don't shove them in the back of the closet. When you're done with them, PASS THEM BACK asap.

10. Be realistic. Items will have some wear and tear. Although, scribbling all over something with permanent marker falls outside the definition of, "Normal wear and tear." Be prepared for some wear. If you're not comfortable with that, don't loan the item. If you know someone is a perfectionist about clothes and will notice the slightest loose thread (aka: my mom), it might be best to politely decline if they offer to loan you something.

How about you? Do you have any guidelines that you think could help? Have you had a bad experience? A great one? Leave me a comment. I'm always curious to hear.

*Yes, I'm speaking from experience. No, don't worry. If you're reading this, you can rest assured this is not about you.

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