Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Love Affair with Freecycle

Let me begin by apologizing in advance if this post doesn't make 100% sense. I am, sadly, feeling under the weather today. I will not go into the ups and downs of my immune system, but suffice it to say the hardest part about living in Texas is the intense amount of allergens that attack my body on a daily basis and open me up to all kind of bacteria and viruses. Now that that's been griped about, on to the main event: Freecycle.

Image use with the permission of the Lewisville, TX, Freecycle group.

Are you a member of your local Freecycle network? If you're not, you should be. But what is Freecycle, you're asking? Let me tell you. Freecycle is a nationwide, environmental n
etwork that uses online communication to connect members who have still-usable items which they would rather see go to a new home than end up in the landfill. Now here's the part that sometimes throws new members: There is absolutely no money allowed in Freecycle transactions, nor is there trading or borrowing. Every tangible item listed on Freecycle must be given in the spirit of free gifting.

I became a member of my local Freecycle group last year, shortly after my husband and I had embarked on the mission to declutter our lives and our home, as I hav
e discussed in previous posts. After participating in two of my friends' garage sales last summer (and wow, is that a topic for another post!) I still had 7-8 boxes full of items which in our house were simply clutter, but to other could be useful. Utility, as with beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, after all. After reading about Freecycle in an online, environmental publication, I decided to see if there was a group local to me. Less than a week later, the boxes were empty and I was hooked.

So here's how it works: I have an item which I want out of the house. I log on to my local site and list an Offer for the item, including my general location, so members know h
ow far away from them I live. Since it is an environmental group, Freecycle is concerned that members live near enough to each other that they are not wasting fossil fuels unnecessarily picking up/dropping off items. I hit send and my message is posted to the group. My local group consists of nearly 2,000 members. Some are larger, some are smaller. Some members choose to get an e-mail for each item posted, while others receive one e-mail a day with a listing of all the items posted, and still others don't receive any e-mails at all, but log on and peruse the listings on the group's home page. Then, I wait.

Sometimes it's 2 minutes, sometimes it's 2 hours, sometimes it's 2 days before I get a response. It all depends on how popular the item is. After I receive some replies, I pick which member I would like to gift the item to and set up a pick-up time with them. I put the bag out on our patio at the appointed time, the member picks it up and, voila! I'm decluttered, the item has a new home where it will be used, and our local landfill has one less item in it. Yes, I could donate things to local charities but, honestly, I like the personal contact with other members that I get through Freecycle. I like knowing where my things are going and that the people I give them to will put them to good use.

To give you an idea of what kinds of things go through the Freecycle network, here is a brief list of some of the things we have gifted to other members:

Baby blankets
Clothes (baby, toddler, men's and women's)

Furniture (an armchair, a bed frame and mattress set, a dresser, a toybox - you see it all!)
Jogging stroller

Kids' books

Makeup/hair products
Moving boxes


...and some of the things we have received from other members:

Kids' books

Furniture (cube shelves, bookshelves, a hutch)
Office supplies
Rhythm instruments
Shower curtain (one of the fancy, fabric ones)
Teaching resources)

One of the two bookshelves we received from another member.
I used scrap fabric to line the backing before installing them in our home office.

Another Freecycle gifted bookshelf, mid-paint job. This one went went from dingy white to fire engine red and now holds bins in my husband's classroom.

Now, the real secret to decluttering with the help of Freecycle, of course, is to give more than you take. One of my good friends, Shopping Gal, is my personal hero is this area. She has been a member of her local group for several years and, while she is a prolific giver, has never taken an item from another member. I would repent now and swear to follow her example, except my son keeps growing and it really is nice to be able to avoid shopping for and reselling his clothing. Plus, I am heartily enjoying the storage improvement Freecycle has aided me in implementing around our apartments and my husband's classroom.

Ready to get started? Go to the Freecycle Network home page and search for a group near you. If you live in a large urban area, there may be more than one group local to you. Some groups allow you to join instantly, while others require you to apply for membership and fill out a brief application (often verifying what area you live in) before you will be added to the group. Make sure to read the group guidelines carefully and ask the moderators for help if you have any questions (moderators are volunteers who help keep the group running smoothly).

I love to hear about others' experiences with Freecycle, both good and bad. Are you a member? What have your experiences been? If you have blogged about Freecycle, please post a link so I can visit your site and read all about it.

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