Monday, February 14, 2011


A donation of tools to the Young Makers group got me thinking about Freecycle and how much I love it. It's a simple concept: keep items out of landfill by passing them directly to other people in your community who can use them. You can offer items or ask for items; more often than not, a match will be made. A friend told me that the very first ad she saw on Freecycle was for 30 bobby pins. 30 bobby pins?! But within a few days there was a second notice stating that the bobby pins had been claimed. You never know.

Long before this blog, I considered starting one called The Freecycle Chronicles after I'd noticed how Freecycle was a catalyst to so many good experiences. I once picked up someone's extra plums, for example, and got into a long discussion on her doorstep about Village Harvest and Senior Gleaners.

Then there was the young woman who asked for canning jars and when I offered some I wasn't using, left me a jar of spiced pear butter as thanks. The same woman later picked up an old table I had refinished and no longer had space for and, at a different time, some wool for a needle felting project she was finishing; she only needed a little bit, and I happened to have the colors she requested. You tend to run into the same people over and over in the Freecycle community, which is kind of fun.

In the photo above, S hangs in a string hammock chair, given away because the cushions had gone missing. I can't imagine that he would love it any more with cushions. He sits in it nearly every day that the weather allows. He reads in it, draws in it, sleeps in it and simply looks out at the yard. 

In the background of the same photo, you can see the trampoline we also got from Freecycle. One thing Freecycle really encourages is being bold about taking things apart and putting them back together. We have assembled two trampolines (the first blew into a fence in a strong wind and crumpled like a piece of paper) without instructions; it usually takes all of us working together to do it, but that's a good time, too, isn't it?
Here's the cat tower we picked up for a friend who wanted one for her newly-adopted kitten. It came scratched up, but we asked on Freecycle for carpet scraps and amazingly, received some in a matching shade of blue. Then S and I learned how to recarpet a cat tower together. All except the lower three platforms were redone.
We have passed the kids' bunkbed to a young couple who had just received custody of their nephews; passed a vintage Singer sewing machine to a Renaissance faire costumer, passed along furniture, books, a secondhand trumpet, even moving boxes. Just as we finished the cat tower, someone else asked for carpet remnants and we were able to give them what we had left.

And we have picked up: the entire sound system for our outdoor movie theater, a replacement measuring cup for the rice cooker, and parts for DH's robot project—among many things, all of them remembered with gratitude.

Spammers do hit Freecycle with regularity, but once you learn to spot the telltale signs (an item too good to be true, usually paired with a generated-looking gmail or yahoo account), you can just ignore them. For homeschoolers, Freecycle can be a source of books, art supplies, building materials and the sort of indefinable inspiration one gets from thinking about, in a brief time period, a box spring, quilt batting scraps, parts to an electric door opener, a grapevine wreath, and a roll of shrink wrap (all of which passed through Freecycle this morning). For diy'ers, it's indispensible for odd parts, tools, yarn, 2X4s, and old cotton t-shirts for rags.

And for everyone, Freecycle is another way to be connected to the people in your community, to help and be helped, strike up a conversation, learn something new, save time and money, and step on a path which might lead anywhere.

My favorite Freecycle find? It's Maggie. She barks too much, is overly territorial, and often gets into things which make her stink. We were her fifth home in 2 years and 4 years later, she is still insecure. But she is also sweet and truly devoted, lying quietly on my lap as I type this. You just can't buy that.
Join Freecycle here.


  1. Truly? Your little lapster Waggie is a freecycle product? Amazing luck you have!

    I'll look forward to that Freecycle Chronicles (that you write in your spare time, ha ha!).

  2. Awwwee Maggie is so cute! So glad she got hooked up with you. Isn't Freecycle weirdly wonderful! Great post, I loved that you and your son re carpeted the cat tree! Amazing.

  3. We love freecycle esp for home ed/homeschool. Our best find was an enormous pine wardrobe and two massive boxes of science kit from a schoolteacher.

    It depends on the area you live in though, as to how good the local list is.

  4. Thanks for the comments! Yes, Maggie was offered on Freecycle and I agree, it does depend on where you are. We're fortunate to live in a community that values recycling and reuse.

    When I think of all the fun experiences we've had via Freecycle, I wish I'd been recording them all-- maybe someone else's Freecycle Chronicles are out there somewhere. :)

  5. I love that you got Maggie on freecycle and the you have given her such a secure loving home and have loved everything you have done through freecycyle over the years. We've had a few good experiences giving a way and old media cabinet to a sweet newly pregnant couple who loved it and giving our old pool fence to grandparents who wanted to keep their grandchildren safe. I stopped using it after a few frustrating experiences but your beautiful post is making me reconsider returning to freecycle. Loved reading your post.

  6. That's great to hear--thanks for your sweet comment!


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