in praise of freecycle

It's been a while since I wrote about Freecycle - once as we were getting ready to move to Canada in 2005, then again when we moved from our first place in Port Credit to the Cooksville section of Mississauga.

On this last move (Cooksville to Square One), I had no time to go through things and pare down. I hired some folks to pack us up, and now I've been combing through everything as I unpack. I thought that was completely backwards, but it's turned out to be efficient and logical. Once you're moved in, you have a better idea of what works and what doesn't, and also more time, since there's no looming deadline.

To those ends, I've been giving away lots of things on Freecycle, and I've discovered yet again that many people haven't heard of it.

Freecycle is a network of local groups, run entirely by volunteers, through which people give and get things for free. You find a Freecycle group in your own community, post items that you want to give away, and (if you choose) look for things you might want to pick up at no cost. It's like leaving something at the curb for others to take, but with a much greater reach. There are now more than 5,000 Freecycle groups globally. The only criteria for giveaways is that items are legal and free. Yay, no haggling!

Now I have a pecking order for giving stuff away.

Clothes go immediately to a Goodwill thrift shop. (People need to see clothes and try them on.)

If I need money and feel something is too valuable to Freecycle, I post it on Craigslist. Working electronics, furniture in decent condition, rugs, shelving, and tools are all great for Craigslist. Many people have switched from Craigslist to Kijiji, but I have not had one positive experience with Kijiji, only annoyance, so I gave up.

If the item is not worth selling, or if it hasn't sold on Craigslist in several tries, usually I will post it on Freecycle. Freecycle has saved me from putting countless useable items into the waste stream. I recently Freecycled our old washer and dryer (both bought used, and there are dozens for sale on Craigslist), two ceramic mugs we don't like, a gravy boat that I will never use, a stack of burner guards for the stove (the new stove has flat burners), and a dozen audio cassette tapes (outdated technology).

Freecycle is great for getting rid of furniture or housewares that no longer work for you, but that aren't in top condition. Many people Freecycle children's books and toys, and baby furniture, which is brilliant, considering the relatively short span of usefulness of those items. Planned obsolescence and the horrendously cheap and shoddy quality of almost everything sold these days works against the Freecycle mentality, but many still-useable items are thrown out - and don't have to be.

There are only two things I don't like about Freecycle, and both are minor. Because the "gifter" is not obligated to give to the first person who responds - members are encouraged to give to people in need - "giftees" often try to demonstrate their need. I find this quite irritating. If I have something really juicy to give away, I have taken to writing "Please, no sob stories" on my posts. Some people find this amusing, others dislike it, but it has helped! The other thing that can be a drag is people who say they want something, email several times for information, then no-show.

These are not major drawbacks, but it does occasionally give me pause. More than once I've been tempted to throw something out rather than deal with Freecycle, because of some members' lack of respect for other people's time. In the end, though, I'd rather give something away than chuck it, so I'll wait until I'm feeling more patient before posting.

In general, people you deal with on Freecycle are friendly and appreciative. Everyone loves to get stuff for free, and being generous makes people feel good, too.

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