A Parent’s Guide to Freecycle

If you haven’t heard of it yet, Freecycle is changing the way we look at junk! The notion that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure has never been so true! Freecycle is a network of individual local email lists across the country. Each list is free to join and available for those who have stuff they want to get rid of and for those who are looking for other people’s junk. Not only can you get rid of your stuff with a good conscience and not worry about filling up the landfills but you can often get rid of stuff that would otherwise be very difficult for you to offload on your own such as play structures, swimming pools, large appliances, vehicles of many types, lumber, paint and more. Additionally, if you routinely give your goods to charity, freecycle gives you the ability to chose your recipient based on need so you can cut out the middle man.

Freecycle is a parent’s best friend! Many people make available their maternity clothing, used baby furniture and equipment, children’s clothing, sports equipment, books, toys and more. Although freecycle is not set up to be “free shopping”, it is a great place to go to give a little and take a little. I know, as a parent, I have had unusual or obsolete items (like a large soccer goal, for instance) that I didn’t want to just set at the curb. The idea of a garage sale is unappealing and way too much work for me. I wasn’t looking to make a profit. But I wanted the item to be used by someone instead of collecting dust in my garage. A quick post to Freecycle and it was gone the same day. Similarly, my family wanted a picnic table but we weren’t in the financial market for one. On a whim, I posted a request to a local freecycle list and within the hour someone offered me all the hardware for a park-sized picnic table, all that it needed was a few planks of new wood! Our large family of 8 uses this picnic table all season long. Likewise when we moved recently, we could not take our play structure and did not have time to take it down so we freecycled it. Within a few days, someone else did all the dirty work and it went to a good home!

Here are a few tips for parents who wish to use freecycle:

  • When you offer something of yours on freecycle, consider up front how you plan to pick the recipient. Will you chose the first person who responds to your offer? Or the first person who can pick up your offer? Or will you chose the person who seems the most in need? Decide up front and post your method of choice in your ad so it is understood.
  • As soon as you’ve chosen a recipient of your item, send an email to your freecycle list announcing that your item is “pending”. When it is picked up, make sure you post that it is “taken”.
  • Don’t give your phone number. Use your email address for offers. Otherwise you will have people calling you constantly for weeks or even months to see if your item is still available even if you post that it was taken.
  • Be cautious. Never list your address on a freecycle site. Only give your information to someone who is willing to give you theirs, as well. If you are a single parent or will be home alone, consider leaving the item out on your porch. Never invite a stranger into your home without another adult – a spouse, neighbor or family member – on site. Be cautious about picking up items from freecyclers as well and never travel alone to a stranger’s house. This is all common sense. Freecyclers are generally an amazing, kind and giving group of folks. You will likely find that you meet many great friends through your freecycle experiences!

How to sign up:

Go to Freecycle.org and see if there is a freecyle group in your area. If there isn’t, consider starting one!