About a week ago, I learned of a new phenomenon - Freecycle. I love it.

At its core, Freecycle solves the problem of what to do with that old stuff you have sitting around your house or apartment that you don't need, but don't want to throw out because it's not really junk. And how to get the stuff you don't really need enough to spend money on it, but if someone is offering it, you could use. And how to keep everybody's almost-junk from ending up in the landfill.

Each local Freecycle chapter is a web-based group (forum, mailing list, or whatever) where people can post things they want or have. Specific details vary across cities, but the only general requirements are that the items have to be free, and legal.

Note from Marco: The Pittsburgh chapter is an approved-member-only Yahoo group. That means that I can't even view the listings until the group owner comes around, sees my membership request, and approves it. It's been 4 days so far and this hasn't happened yet. Boo!

Some current examples from the Huntsville, AL Freecycle list:

Offer: Round Table and 5 chairs
My girlfriend just sold her house and no longer has a need of her kitchen table, so we are offering it to the first person that can come and get them (...)

WANTED: Old Wooden Windows
Looking for salvagable wood framed windows, with or without glass.

Offer: bread machine
I have a Toastmaster Bread Box model 1154 with the recipe book to offer. Worked wonderfully the last time I used it, which was about a year ago - just don't have room for it. (and we eat way too much bread when I use it - we love the cheese bread!)

OFFER: 4 Matching Goodyear Tires (15 in.)
They are a matching set and have a lot of life left in them (...)

The most popular items offered in my area seem to be pets, furniture in less than peak condition, and clothing, with a healthy smattering of other random items thrown in.

The Test

Aha, I thought, here is a good way to get rid of that landscaping fabric I still have sitting on my front porch. I used half a roll while planting a flowerbed, but the other half is still perfectly usable.

I got four responses within about two hours of posting, and after I gave the first lady my address, she picked the fabric up the next day. (She left me some beautiful hand-made soap as a thank you, too!) My front porch is now marginally less ugly.

The Next Test

What do I need? Well, I lead a Girl Scout troop that is doing a sewing badge this month. Maybe someone has some extra fabric scraps, buttons, ribbon, or something?

Three responses so far, saying "please come get my scrap box! I'd love to see it go to good use!" This will probably save me a good deal of money, since I won't have to buy these supplies, and the girls will certainly get a bigger variety of things to pick from!

The Downside

From what I've seen so far, the downside is the number of clueless people who post things like "I need a new Playstation for my son, and a new TV for his room too." Um, lady, no you don't. This is easily ignored, though.


Freecycle rocks! I love the idea of getting rid of some of my post-college junk, and I love being able to check a forum for POTENTIAL FREE STUFF. I'm hoping I'll find someone wanting to get rid of a bookcase soon - I could use one! I also like that my junk isn't going into the landfill (at least, not yet) - it's a lot easier to "freecycle" an old chair than it is to remember to recycle an equivalent mass of plastic soda bottles.