You’re finally settling into the new residence. The movers are long gone and you’re starting to rearrange your new space only to realize that your well-loved desk no longer fits in with the feng shui energy. Or maybe you’ve decided to give your spine a break and upgrade to that fancy standing desk. But what about your old desk? It’s still in great shape and has been there for you throughout the pandemic and many days before. Maybe you’re trying to keep yourself from being too wasteful … so what are your options? Donating is definitely one of them. Many services will come to you and haul away your goods.
But what if one of your neighbors’ kids around the corner from your house, newly enrolled in virtual learning, could use it?
WHAT IS IT?
According to the website, the Freecycle Network® is made up of 5,000+ groups with over 9 million members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and keeping good stuff out of landfills.
Sometimes, it’s a crafty DIY’er who is looking to rejuvenate a piece of furniture with some funky stains and colors. (I’m sure you’ve seen the Pinterest hits and misses of these pieces.) Other times, it’s someone just like you who moved into a new space and needs something or is ready to let go of something else.
Freecycling has a very user-friendly website. Simply add in your location and locate the groups near you. A message-board style of items listed as either “OFFER” or “WANTED” will show up. If you create an account, you can even search through posts for specific items. You can then reply to the post and work out pick-up details if the items are still available.
Safety tip: Make sure that you are not falling for any scams! Freecycling is FREE. Delivery fees or pick up fees are not tolerated according to group rules. Also, bring a friend or family member to help you haul and let someone know where you are. Plan for transactions during the day and plan your trip before getting to the pick-up location.
Buy Nothing is a similar concept, broken out by neighborhood in each region. Many specific neighborhoods have a Buy Nothing Group dedicated to them. This can come in the form of a Facebook group where folks can “give where they live.” I actually got a free desk from Buy Nothing just in time for six months of working from home. Posters on Buy Nothing can post items they have available with parameters for pick up or can put feelers out for things they are searching for within the community (e.g., your well-loved, but no longer useful-to-you desk for their children’s virtual schooling).
Buy Nothing has its own rules and regulations as well as tips for safe meeting to exchange smaller items. There are “safe trade” areas for these things at local police stations and other areas. Your Buy Nothing group will likely have a designated list … if not, you can do a quick internet search to find out safe trade locations in your area.
Buy Nothing doesn’t just offer free items, but also free services. Think lawn mowing, tutoring, etc. Recently, my neighborhood has a designated person who has made hundreds of face masks and put them out on their porch for pick up for the neighborhood with priority placed on our health care and other essential workers.
COMMUNITY MESSAGE BOARDS
Many communities have virtual groups set up for the sharing of information and items. These come in the forms of email chains, Facebook groups, message boards, and even meetings. These allow you to connect with your neighbors and foster a sense of community, all the while providing each other with support and help where you can. Like Buy Nothing, users can share goods or services. Just ensure you are reading the posts in their entirety; many of these services may be offered for a fee instead of completely free.
DON’T SEE THIS IN YOUR AREA? START ONE!
According to the blog my green closet, here is how to start your own group as well as helpful tips on how to make it effective:
- What area do you want to include? Your whole city, a part of the city/few neighborhoods, or just your immediate neighborhood?
- Is it going to be open or focused on specific things? (e.g., children’s items)
- What rules do you want to have? Check out other groups for examples of rules, and some good things to include in your rules are:
- Items must be 100% free, no selling, trading/bartering or “strings attached”
- Age minimum for members
- If there are any things people can’t post, for example some groups allow the sharing of free services, some are items only
- Member must participate as themselves – no business accounts
- Members must be respectful to each other and use appropriate language or can be removed
- Only Private Message the person posting when requested by that person
- Posts must be offers or ISOs; do not use the group for other purposes
- Decide if you want to require members to list an item before being able to receive anything and how you’d like to track that.
You can also start your own Buy Nothing group though the Buy Nothing Project. The have tools to help you set up the group, rules to use and follow, and will list your group.
Mygreencloset goes on to suggest that after you set up your group, it’s time to get members! A good place to start is by asking friends, family, and neighbors to join and help spread the word. You can also reach out to other community organizations or local, community-focused businesses to see if they will help you share the group.
If you are new to the area all together, maybe check in with some of your coworkers and see if they have any information on these locations.
Most importantly, enjoy the connection and community fostered by these groups. Recently, I was gifted some fresh peppers from a neighbor after our crop did not make it through the unyielding sunshine this summer. The idea of sharing fresh veggies, furniture, and services makes me feel connected to my community. I hope you can find the same within yours!