The Freecycle organization has been around for several years, yet there are still lots of folks out there who’ve not heard of it. Freecycle can be an excellent resource for rehoming your unwanted stuff and occasionally receiving items of use to you.
Taken from the Freecycle.org website:
The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 5,206 groups with 8,600,848 members around the world. It’s a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.
Once upon a time, Freecycle groups used the Groups feature on Yahoo. Nowadays, pretty much everything is done via the Freecycle website. Here’s how this works.
Visit Freecycle.org and open an account there. You’ll need to provide a username, password, and email address. The link to sign up is located at the top of the screen on the main page.
After you’ve logged in, it will prompt you to find groups in your area. In the search box, put in the city closest to you. There may not be a group based in your exact town but you should be able to find one reasonably nearby. You can certainly join more than one group, too, if there are multiple groups in your immediate area. For example, I travel a lot for work so I’ve joined groups in the areas I visit most often, as well as the groups nearest my home.
As you join different groups, be sure to check your email settings with each one. If you click on the My Groups tab, you’ll see a list of all the groups you’ve joined. For each one, you’ll see a button that says, “Change Settings.” There are three options:
None apart from ADMINs — this means you’ll only receive emails that are special notices from the group administrators. To view the actual group posts, you’ll have to visit the website.
Email digest — you’ll receive one email a day, with all group posts contained within it.
One for each post — you’ll receive each post to the group as an individual email.
What gets posted to the group?
There are two main types of posts — Offer and Wanted.
When people have something they want to get rid of, they’ll post it as an Offer. Typically, they will tell you what the item is, the condition of the item, and a general idea of where they are located. Here’s a sample Offer post:
OFFER: Coleman lantern
I have a Coleman lantern up for grabs. It is in fairly good condition, though I’ve not used it in several years. Located on east side of Chicago.
The other type of post is a Wanted post. These can get sort of tricky, believe it or not. In many groups, you’ll see far more Wanted posts than you’ll see Offers. You can’t expect to ask for, and then receive, a ton of high-end gear. Posting a wish list is usually not very well received by group members. Instead, here is a typical Wanted type of post.
WANTED: Coleman lantern
In need of one or two lanterns for an upcoming camping trip. I can pick up anywhere local either evenings this week or any time this weekend.
No big long story about why you need the item, just the basic facts. Offering to pick up the item is actually pretty much a given as whether the post is an Offer or a Wanted, the recipient is typically expected to arrange for pickup of the item.
Responding to a post
If you see an Offer of something you want, you’ll contact the person who posted it, either via the website or via email. It always pays to be very polite. Keep in mind that you likely aren’t the only person contacting them. Don’t give them a sob story about how much you need the item, though. That gets old quickly. Just explain that you are interested in the item and give them a time frame of when you might be able to pick it up.
Hi, I’m very interested in the Coleman lantern. I live just outside Chicago and could pick up as quickly as this evening, if you’ll be around. Otherwise, I work days and any evening this week should work. Thanks!
Rules of the group
While there are some standard rules that are common to almost all Freecycle groups, such as nothing illegal is offered, no drugs, no weapons, etc., each group may have their own little foibles as well. Some groups require new members to make at least one Offer post before posting a Wanted, for example. The rules of the group should be found on the group’s page on the Freecycle website.
I’ve been a member of many different Freecycle groups over the years. Some were great, others were terrible. Often, it comes down to how the group is run by the admins. Now, Freecycle folks are all volunteer. They don’t get paid for the work they do, so keep that in mind. Occasionally, though, you may find an admin who apparently just has entirely too much time on their hands. They will reject posts for seemingly random reasons. Or, they will argue with members about what is appropriate to be posted and what is not. The groups run by iron-fisted admins tend to peter out after a while because members tire quickly of that nonsense.
Common sense safety concerns
Unless you happen to know personally the person you’ll be meeting, it pays to exercise good common sense. If you are going to them, make sure a family member or friend knows where you’re going, who you’re meeting, and when you should return. If they are coming to you, what many folks do is leave the item on the front porch in a bag or box with the recipient’s name on it. This reduces the danger of having to open your door to a stranger.
Many people will agree to meet at a public location, such as a fast food restaurant parking lot. But, if the item is large or cumbersome, that might not be an option.
It is best to look at Freecycle as a way to get rid of stuff you no longer need, rather than just expecting to get a ton of free stuff. It really is about paying things forward. That said, there are people out there who have stuff like tents, backpacks, books, camping gear, and other cool stuff that they might be looking to part with, if only they knew it was wanted by someone else.