44: The Joy of Freecycling

44: The Joy of Freecycling

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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The Joy of Freecycling

I only feel angry when I see waste — when I see people throwing away things we could use.

~Mother Teresa

When my wife and I moved our family to the North Carolina mountains to simplify our lives, we were thrilled to find a home with plenty of storage space: a full garage, six closets and two walk-in storage areas in the loft. It brought home to us what a prosperous country we live in, one where we have so much room to store so much stuff. The downside is that it’s been a real challenge to maintain our simple approach to life when our home is constantly filling up with stuff.

Maybe it’s that my wife and I have recessive hoarding genes. After all, when Ann drives the forty-five miles down the mountain to visit her mother, she usually returns with the car full of stuff her mother no longer wants. Then there’s all the stuff we’ve acquired from the two rental properties we own when the tenants move out and leave behind their own stuff.

And it’s not that some of this stuff isn’t good, usable stuff. It often is very good stuff: toys, clothes, furniture, household appliances, dishes, pots and pans, even a five-burner stainless steel grill. But for whatever reason these items didn’t make the grade when it was time for the tenants to move on. So we were left to figure out what to do with it all.

Lucky for us we discovered freecycling shortly after one of our tenants vacated a three-bedroom house, leaving behind a massive amount of stuff, not all of which was trash. The concept of freecycling is simple, as explained on their website: Freecycle is “a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It’s all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills.”

After that tenant moved out, my wife washed ten laundry loads of children’s clothing, then folded and organized them according to size. We offered the clothes on Freecycle. They were scooped up by several families who expressed their gratitude with notes and e-mails back to us. The same was true for the many different toys, kitchenware, and several pieces of still usable furniture. We have given away TVs, couches, clothes, tables, shoes, make-up, shampoo, and luggage — all perfectly usable stuff that stayed out of the landfill. All of it found new homes through Freecycle.

We started recycling so much stuff through Freecycle that we had to set up a special “Freecycle table” next to our garage so people who’d requested the items we posted on our local Freecycle e-mail list could pick them up at their convenience. Suddenly, we became very popular in our small mountain community.

But freecycling works both ways. We have often posted requests on Freecycle before purchasing something to see if anyone had what we were looking for. Often, within a day or two, we have someone offering to help us out. My daughter found a great pair of rhinestone shoes that she needed for her upcoming prom. Then when it was time for her to start setting up her own household, she received her first set of dishes, a bed frame, and a headboard, all through Freecycle. Some of the other items we’ve received were plants for our garden, microwave dishes, curtain rods and brand new pillow stuffing my wife made into pillows for our sofa. We even received carpeting left over from a new installation that we cut up and used for entryway mats and a rug in our guest bedroom.

One of the best things about freecycling is that by pulling together in their local communities, people have kept tons of perfectly good, usable stuff out of landfills while at the same time helping their neighbors. Now that’s what I call a win-win-win scenario.

~W. Bradford Swift

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