My daughter turned me on to a great online community group where you can give things you no longer want away to people who want what you don't. As they say...one person's trash is another person's treasure. It's so true! I have things around the house that I no longer want nor need, but I hesitate to toss them out because they are still good items, so I put them in the basement or a closet hoping to eventually find someone who can make use out of these items, because they still have life in them.
But then those items become a burden for me because I end up kicking them around the house over and over and moving or cleaning these items I no longer want. They become a chore for me, one I would have gladly gotten rid of ages ago, if only I could find someone who wanted these things.
Now I must admit that mom was a bit of a pack-rat. But dad was the type who believed there's a place for everything and everything in its place. Of course, with a house full of kids, it didn't always work out that way. Now as an adult, I tease that mom saved stuff and dad didn't, so I'm fairly well balanced. Yes, I save some stuff...just in case, but eventually I just get sick of dealing with it and out it goes. Thankfully, where we used to live we could put just about anything out in the alley and someone would find it useful and pick it up. But I was wishing there was a more meaningful way to have people actually use the stuff versus just salvaging it for scrap.
That's why I was thrilled to find Freecycle. It took me a little time to get rolling with it and it does take a little more effort than just tossing things in the garbage. But after reading the book Does This Clutter Make my Butt Look Fat?...I realized I wanted to get more ruthless about the things I was saving around the old house. It wasn't a lot of stuff, just enough here and there to get on my nerves. Freecycle allowed me to get the junk out of the house, but made me feel good knowing someone else could make good use of things I no longer needed.
Here's how this works. Go to www.freecycle.org.
Type in your city and state and, with luck, there will be an online group that works out of your area. The area is important because you want people to come by your house to pick this stuff up. And yes, having strangers come to your house can be dangerous! So I'll give you some tips about that, shortly.
Living in a big city, it was no problem finding a group listed for Chicago.
I joined. But you do have to go through a bit of a clearing to be approved for these groups and they have some great moderators who verify and validate thousands of emails a day before posting them to the group. If you're a member of any type of Yahoo support group, such as the ones I run for tech support (http://www.mousetrax.com/resources.html), then you understand pretty much how these email groups work.
However, unlike my groups that only have a couple thousand each, which I like to become friendly communities, due to the huge number of members in some of these Freecycle groups...particularly one for a city the size of Chicago...there are strict posting rules. As you may be able to see in the image below, the Chicago group has over 17,000 members! That means a lot of posts each day, so strict posting rules are needed.
But these rules actually make it much easier to weed through all the posts because messages are consistent. When you have something to give away to someone, you preface the subject with the word OFFER: and then give a brief description of the item, and include your zip code or neighborhood name so people will know if driving to your house is too much of a trip for them. Here's an image of some offers today. As you can see, people are giving away everything from printers to colanders to canned food. Everything is free for the taking.
Your email is displayed to the group through your message, so people will email you directly after you send a post offering something up for grabs. And believe me, the requests can come fast. So take the first couple...in case the first person changes their mind or doesn't show...and let the rest know the item is promised.
Or just post that it's now taken, so emails stop when the group sees that an item is no longer available.
The groups ask that you start your membership to the group by offering something you have to others, so you're not just a taker, but first a giver. But then you are free to give/take by asking if others have things you need. As you can see below, it may be as simple as someone who may have some extra bubble wrap that they don't need so you can ship off that package without having to buy a whole roll...to cat food, computer monitors, desks, beds or curtains.
Since I don't need more stuff in my life, I rarely look at the offers, but I do check out the wants because I may notice someone needing something that I may no longer need for myself. Example, I'd forgotten that we had the old toaster, which still worked, on the porch. I saw that someone was asking for a working toaster. So I emailed her and then took a few minutes to clean our family crumbs from inside...wiped it nicely...and put it in a bag on my porch. She picked it up the next morning. GREAT! One more piece of stuff out of my house and it wasn't wasted in the trash, but given to someone who wished they had such an item. I felt good times two...less trash and helping someone in need!
But as I said, you do want to be aware of allowing strangers to come to your house. Although each member is checked out a bit from their online info, it would be easy to lie about who they really are. So what I've done to help make the process easier for me and safer so I don't have to open my door to strangers (as if anyone wanted to come into my house with three insane, large dogs<hee, hee>), I've tied an open box to the porch that I've marked as FREECYCLE. When I have someone accepting an offer from me, I ask for the approximate time when they'll be by and then I put the item in a bag with their name on it and place the plastic bag in the box. Great way to reuse all those plastic bags, too!
And, as I warn my daughter, when you go to someone's house to pick something up, make sure you bring one of the guys along with you. Never go get something alone if you need to go inside a house to get it! I do like to think most people are good, but taking unnecessary chances is just stupid! And, if possible, it would be best to call ahead and ask the person to place the item on their porch prior to your arrival so you don't have to worry about dealing with strangers or going inside a strange home.
And because I can easily create a web page with photos, I save myself the time of detailing the item in the email post and just tell them an item number and give them a standard URL I've created for the stuff I'm giving away. This helps items go fast because they can see it and then I can just update the photo with TAKEN so I don't continue to get emails once an item is promised.
Help save the planet from all your junk by looking up your city to see if there's a group operating in your area and then join and give your unwanted items away to someone who can still find them valuable.