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My New Obsession

Do you.... Freecycle? I just signed up yesterday, and I am so entranced that I can't seem to look away. I imagine it is the same way some people feel about Twitter (which I still fail to understand). I refresh constantly when I am at my computer, I can't stand to miss a post, etc. I am hoping the fascination will abate in a day or two as I still have children to raise who are not nearly as interested in the latest Freecycle offer as I am.

For those who don't know, Freecycle is a series of locally-focused message boards where people who have something they no longer want or need post a message offering it to the group at large and anybody who wants that item can email the owner and if all goes well they arrange to pass it along and the person who had the unwanted item gets extra storage space and the person who wanted the item gets it for free. The idea is to keep items that are still useful out of landfills, so you can post just about anything. And people do.

In the past day I've seen a couple of televisions, at least three microwaves, construction materials, furniture, mattresses, all sorts of things traded on my local Freecycle board. I've also seen half-empty packs of diapers and open bottles of vitamins, collections of half-used gallons of paint in unspecified colors, and odd collections of household items offered up as a lot. Some clothes, some toys, sort of like a huge and hugely eclectic online yard sale. Or yard give, I guess, since everything is required to be given away for free. My favorite offer so far was leftovers. Someone offered up the remains of their dinner, which they had not enjoyed and did not intend to finish, estimating that it would feed three people.

So, along with the compelling nature of things that people give away I'm also discovering that there is a great potential to trigger any social anxiety you may have. I've emailed about a couple of items in the past day, just because they would be handy to have and I wanted to see how this thing works. And sure, I understand that if you post an offer for three bikes you are likely to get a lot of emails and I may not make the cut. But when you send a very nice, exceedingly polite email expressing interest in someone's used travel Magna Doodle and get no response and somebody else get the Magna Doodle, well... it can start to make you wonder. What was wrong with my email? I said I could pick up any time! Who had a better offer than any time? Was my grammar bad? Does my email smell? Why am I not worthy of your used travel Magna Doodle? MY CHILDREN DESERVE A USED TRAVEL MAGNA DOODLE AS MUCH AS ANY OTHER CHILDREN!

It may be time for me to step away from the Freecycle.

Comments (17)

In my limited Freecycle experience (I've gotten a toaster and given an old desk), it's all about timing. First come, first served. Now, some things may be given away with more thought (my friend scored her wedding dress of Freecycle b/c her sister wrote a really great email to the owner), but I think that's rare.

OH YES we Freecycle! I LOVE it. When our crib broke after 4.75 children, and we didn't want to buy a whole new crib for the remaining .25 children, Freecycle gave us a practically new crib we liked even better than our old crib. And when we had two convertible carseats that were still perfectly good but we really really really didn't want to go through the hassle of trying to SELL them, we Freecycled them. LOVE IT. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Also, it is totally bizarre how we can get rid of practically ANYTHING. I got rid of "three assorted mugs" and "seven assorted ceramic lunch plates" and "big bag of styrofoam packing peanuts." It's tempting to start testing the limits: "Offer: one plastic lid, probably goes to some sort of plastic storage container, brand unknown." "Offer: bag of trash."

Even more fun is an in-person freecycle, which they do at my job once or twice per year. And this is at a place where people could readily afford BUY things, yet every one of the hundreds of donated items is GONE within minutes. And it's CRAZY when they open the doors -- they have to block people from entering and stampeding, and people hover over tables to guard items for other people. This year, I donated a photo album, a sweater, a microwavable heating pad, and some other items. All gone immediately. Everybody loves free stuff (except leftovers apparently).

i'm slightly intrigued and slightly freaked out all at the same time :)

I freecycled for about 5 days. My inbox was overflowing with free item notifications and I couldn't keep up. So I unsubscribed.

So, that's where you've been!

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Freecycle! I post offers at least 5 or 6 times a month and never fail to be amazed at what does and doesn't get taken. I am really impatient and generally give things to the first remotely polite person to respond. I frequently end up wishing I'd held off because a better taker comes along, but once I've decided something's gotta go, I want it gone. There are some people that I'm starting to feel really do nothing but watch offers because I know they've been here at least a few times. While I'd like to share the wealth, I also appreciate knowing which people will actually come when they say they will, etc.

I've gotten almost nothing off Freecycle over the years because I don't read the digests I receive, but a friend forwarded an offer for a cat right after my dog died. He is probably the best "thing" ever offered and taken in the history of Freecycle.

I am completely addicted to Freecycle but not for getting things--for getting RID of things! And I agree with the first some first served. I go with the first person who can come pick it up the soonest. I love listing stuff and getting rid of it in an hour!

Oh, the joys of freecycle! I love it too, but it can be hard deciding who to give things to. I have to say I either go with first come first served or set a time period by which I need a response, and then pick at random. There is one person on the group who says yes to everything, and then sells anything they get so I refuse to give them anything. Sometimes first come first served can go against those who aren't always at their computer (I suspect the above person has an automatic response set up that says yes we'll have it, can collect anytime).

I suspect used travel magna doodles are much in demand so it isn't you - and you will get lucky at some point

(Glad you're OK BTW)

I love freecycle! I've gotten some things from it, but I mostly use it to get rid of stuff.

After we bought our house and promptly decided to gut the kitchen, I put the most random things on freecycle including our funky old sink, broken range hood and the sad broken down old cabinets and people wanted all of it. I think it probably saved me a fortune because we didn't have to rent a dumpster.

freecycle is FABULOUS. i even have a separate email folder just for people looking for stuff, so i don't have to weed through the offers & taken postings.
the novelty will wear off though; i've been doing it for 3, maybe 4 years? and i'm really over it. i've learned now to always say "available for immediate pickup & please respond with when you will be here" to limit the amount of back & forth. then it all goes out on the front stoop to await the new owner. (i only offer; the only thing i've ever picked up from another freecycler was used tennis balls for my dogs)

I'm so glad you posted. The blog stalking was starting to make me feel creepy and squicky. Like, maybe you should get a restraining order against me.

I have never freecycled - however, I am getting ready to move. And that might just be the ticket.

I freecycle often - usually to get rid of things BUT in the last month I have got a pair of Puma sneakers for my 2 year old (needed a good cleaning but look like new now) and a pair of true religion jeans for a 4 year old (seriously who buys $200 jeans for a kid?). Previously I have picked up a vintage desk that I refinished and a 3 part laundry sorting bin thing.

The best though? A few weeks ago I dragged my husbands bachelor furniture from the basement storage room and put it on the curb and posted a 'whoever picks it up wins' add on Freecycle. In 3 hours it was all gone. And Steve still has no clue I got rid of his treasured stuff.

Just yesterday I offered my like new Baby Om and Itsy Bitsy Yoga books. A few months ago I picked up a newish bed rail. Oh yeah.

I have only ever offered up items for the taking on Freecycle. I generally don't offer my item to the first person to respond -- I actually look for people who seem to perhaps really need the item, are not rude or expecting you to pick them (this is a biggie for me), and can pick it up within the time frame I had in mind.

I filter all of my Freecycle messages into a Freecycle folder I created in my Gmail... and I rarely read the messages unless I've posted something for the taking. I just go in every so often and delete all of the messages.

And yes, the novelty does wear off... after a few weeks. ;o)

My one pet peeve is the one or two people on my list who instantly (and always are the first) respond to my offers from their Blackberry. I rarely choose them -- like I said, I look for the polite people who really seem to need the stuff (without a huge sob story). Sometimes they don't show interest for a few hours -- they're probably at work or have to go to the library to check their email.

It amuses me to see the things listed "bump beds" and the like. I love to give away stuff I'm too lazy to haul to the dump and I love to get stuff that I need, "a winter coat" "clothes in a different size" "Really cool pillow shams." "new living room curtains"

I Freecycle to get rid of things, but have never been chosen to receive anything yet. It is a bit discouraging. When I give things away I wait a day to pick someone. Every now and then I get an email that makes me feel really good about giving something away. I had a large (3'x5') mirror that I didn't want and found a lady who has a daughter with Autism who loves to dance. They had just decorated her room as a ballet studio and wanted to use the mirror in her room so she could see herself dancing. I was very happy I did not chose the first to respond on that one. I also had to wait a few days for her to pick it up, but all in all it turned out great. I just hope someday someone 'picks' me!

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