Got something to get rid of? Looking for something that’s not in your budget? Maybe you’ve tried Craigslist but have you tried FreeCyle?
A reader recently asked if I’d heard of Freecycle. The answer was yes, but that I hadn’t thought about it for a while. After having it pulled back into my consciousness, I decided that perhaps I should summarize what Freecycle is, why it’s awesome, and my own experience with it (mixed).
What is Freecycle?
Freecycle isn’t a single organism, it’s a network of groups organized around the same principle: Give it away instead of throwing it away.
It operates from the (generally correct) theory that one person’s junk is another person’s treasure. And it’s not all junk on there. When people move or refurnish their houses or have kids grow older or simply quit a hobby, they end up with extra stuff that’s in perfectly good condition (or usable) and that someone else might really like.
For example, once I gave away a book series that I simply wasn’t into anymore. The other option was donating it to a used bookstore, but they wouldn’t give me credit that I could use towards genres that interested me so I thought I’d give it to a mom whose kids were into the series instead! It felt a very satisfying to know that the books would be read.
Groups are local, like Craigslist, generally you do the handoff in person rather than by mail. Freecycle.org has ways to find your group. Last I checked, they were operating on the ListServe model, where people send out e-mails to the group when they have an item available. Then people respond to ask for the item…generally the first person to respond is the one who gets it.
Edited to add: You can also send out a request for items and may or may not get any responses. Most groups require you to post an item for giving before you send an item. These requests are a nice way to get rid of things you don’t need but hadn’t thought to give away.
Because groups are independent and local, your experience will differ depending on where you live and who is in your group. From what I’ve heard, some groups are better than others.
My Freecycle Experiences
On the whole, my experience with Freecycle has been a good one (though I didn’t subscribe to the DC one after I moved here…). As I mentioned above, I’ve been able to dispose of some items on Freecycle that probably wouldn’t have sold on Craigslist and that would have been thrown or given away in some form anyway. It felt good.
Back in college, it was an great way for me to get free fabric. Periodically, someone would be cleaning out her stash. I got both fabric and batting from it…good times! Now that I have less time on my hands (how did I find the time in college?), Freecycle may end up being a way for me to get rid of some fabric and support another person’s crafting addiction.
So why did I say up in the intro that my Freecycle experience was mixed? It’s the crazy competitiveness of the listserve.
Because they don’t have to pay the items, I think some people spend a lot of free time snagging whatever they can off Freecycle…perhaps even reselling it. That’s certainly legitimate, but there are days when you feel like you don’t even have a chance against people who are able to monitor their e-mail more frequently than you can. So it sometimes brings a strong sense of futility.
But that depends a lot on your local group, on the popularity of items that interest you, and on whether or not you can spend much time checking your e-mail for new items.
Would I Recommend It?
I’d recommend giving it a shot at least, especially if you’re a college student or otherwise on a limited budget. To handle the huge number of e-mails, I created a separate e-mail account to sign up for Freecycle and I’d recommend that as well.
Disclaimer: I do not run Freecycle. I am in no way affiliated with them. So if you’ve had a problem feel free to comment about it but I cannot fix it. Also, please do not post items here to Freecycle, sign up in your hometown instead.