I got a free mini-fridge yesterday. Not for me, for a friend. (Seriously!) While clearly secondhand, with a couple of scratches and dings, it smells freshly washed on the inside and will help someone out.
Helping people out is the stated purpose of the fridge’s source: a Buy Nothing Facebook group. Sort of an intensely local Freecycle, this page is a great way not just to keep things out of the landfill, but also to connect with your community.
I haven’t been a member for very long, but it’s already scored me free rhubarb, some baby formula for a family shelter and a cool birthday gift for a nephew. (Can’t say more, on the off-chance he’s reading this.)
It also helped me find an elementary school teacher who was delighted to take some empty Altoid tins off my hands. She’s also stoked about receiving fidget spinners, slap bracelets and any other fun items I bring back from the Financial Blogger Conference. (Teachers are always looking for things for their classrooms.)
My niece has been able to find new homes for some decorative items (she’s changing décor), some outgrown toys and a big bag of shredded bedding for pet cages (her snake died). Recently she picked up a big bag of clothing for her younger son, and also a major holiday gift (again, can’t say exactly what in case the kiddo is reading). She and I both check the page regularly, to see if anyone’s giving away something useful.
Or looking for something useful – the Buy Nothing group runs both ways. If you don’t see what you need, you can ask.
For example, one woman was looking for a bike helmet for her 5-year-old. My niece told her that a nearby fire station was giving away children’s helmets.
Another woman wanted books for her granddaughter. A member provided the location of a Little Free Library set up specifically for children’s books.
Maybe the first woman was on a tight budget and a free bike helmet gave her a little wiggle room. Perhaps the grandmother needed to gift carefully because her retirement goes only so far. It could also be that both have resolved to go secondhand in order to reduce their impact on the Earth.
Either way, the Buy Nothing Facebook group is a great resource.
The theory of Buy Nothing
“Give where you live” is the idea. Buy Nothing is based on the idea of the “gift economy,” in which people share items, talents and time.
“True wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors,” according to the Buy Nothing website.
Modern life being what it is, meeting your neighbors isn’t always easy. Hence a Buy Nothing page. From the enthusiastic messaging that occurs on the group I’m in, people are meeting people this way. Instead of making the trip to drop stuff off at Value Village or Goodwill, they’re connecting personally with others who can use it – and in the process, finding others who also have kids or who share the same hobbies.
I expect in truly ritzy areas, like Manhattan, the pickings are mighty fine. (Ever been to a garage sale in an expensive neighborhood?) But the stuff I’ve seen locally is pretty great.
A beautiful red sari, hand-made in India. Children’s boots worn just a few times before being outgrown. A full-sized stove. Toys still in the shrink-wrap. A push mower. Hard-sided suitcases with a cheerful op-art print. A waffle iron, a two-week pill organizer, a pair of decorative baskets, a Disney Princesses sleeping bag. Shelving, a child’s raincoat, board games, chicken wire, a breast-pump shield.
Again, some of those items were offered and some were being sought. The beauty of a Buy Nothing page is that it lets you give and receive, lets you boost your budget or shore up someone else’s.
One particularly resourceful person said she had a bunch of junk that had to go to the landfill. Apparently none of it was reusable. So….Did anyone have one of those free dump passes that come with the annual property tax bill?
How to find a Buy Nothing page
Like Freecycle, the Buy Nothing groups don’t exist everywhere. Organizers and moderators are needed to get them going and keep them running.
To find out if there’s one in your area, visit the Buy Nothing Project’s “Find a Group” page and click on the country in which you live. From there you’ll be led to find a neighborhood page. (Fun fact: The city of Perth has more than 100 groups.)
If there isn’t one in your area and you feel there’s a need, talk with friends about starting a Buy Nothing page. If all goes well, the money you save on buying new stuff (and paying dump fees) will more than pay for the time. You might even make a new friend or two.
Readers: Have you participated in Buy Nothing, Freecycle or some other version of the gift economy?
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