Thursday, September 16, 2010

Freecycle 101

So, you know how I love Freecycle? Well, I have had a couple people ask me about Freecycle, how it works and how I score such awesome things (they don't say it that way, but that's what they mean, of course.)

I first heard about Freecycle a couple years ago from a friend who mentioned it in passing. I didn't think much of it, and didn't really get into using Freecycle until I was in Alabama and had to furnish an apartment with stuff I didn't plan on keeping, since I knew I was moving again. Anyway, I managed to find a few things on Freecycle (some of which I turned around and sold on Craigslist, score!) and thus my love of Freecycle was born. Or fed. Whatever.

How to join Freecycle
So! Freecycle 101. How does it work? Well, I'm glad you asked! Freecycle is a resource where everything that is offered is free. Hence the name. The first step to finding a Freecycle group in your area is to go to the Freecycle website and enter your city. Depending on the area you live in, a Freecycle group may be set up differently. For example, in a small area like Paul, Idaho, you will find that there is one group for several nearby cities. In Seattle, there are several groups for the different areas of Seattle. In my case, I'm involved in the East and Central King County Freecycle groups. You just want to choose the one that is closest to you.

Once you've determined which group to join, click the link that Freecycle will provide. For all the groups I've been part of, it's as simple as joining a Yahoo group. You can set the email up so you can get a daily digest, an email every time something new is posted or no email, and just check the site. I recommend the daily digest, personally.

Receiving free items
Now, because this is free, I must warn you, it's sometimes difficult to find something good. Often, posts requesting random items or offering random things (recently I saw one for broken bathroom tiles!) come through. Sometimes there will be something good, but often if you don't jump on it quickly, it will be taken before you get a chance. Also, keep in mind that you will often have to travel to get your items. As a rule, I will only drive about 30 minutes to get something (it is free, after all!) but I will try to schedule a pick-up while I'm already in the area. The nice thing about both collecting and giving things away on Freecycle is that you don't have to meet the person, so I often find that they will leave it outside with a sign and I can just grab it and go. I did this with a free litter box a couple weeks ago! (A nice, covered one, too!)

Asking for items
So when you see something good on Freecycle, email about it, but don't be too disappointed if it doesn't work out. What I've discovered works best, is asking for items. When I was down in Alabama I wanted a coffee table. I scoured Freecycle for a bit, but hadn't found anything yet, so I took a chance and asked. What I have discovered, is that people may have a coffee table lying around that they don't think to put up on Freecycle. When I posted that ad I was able to get a fairly decent wicker coffee table (that the kitty decided she needed to sharpen her claws on).
When I asked for my free couch, I had several responses, most of which included pictures. I was able to sort through the pictures and emails and choose the couch I wanted. This was much better than just waiting for a couch to come up on Freecycle...I had my pick!
My newest Freecycle request (which I haven't heard back from yet) is a microwave. I've had one offer already, for a small, working microwave that won't be ready for a couple weeks (the owners are redoing their kitchen).

Of course, you can't be too picky, and it's important to remember that these items are free. I saw a request for an iPhone the other day, and I had to laugh at it. When I think about putting things on Freecycle it's usually after I have attempted to sell it on Craigslist (hey, I'm poor!)

Giving items away on Freecycle
Freecycle is an excellent way to give items away that you can't sell. For example, the other day I was trying to sell the extra comforter and extra twin-sized "bed in a bag" we had lying around. I just didn't want to move it, and I knew we wouldn't need the twin sheet set. I put it on Freecycle and it was gone within hours of moderator approval! I was shocked! Best of all, I left it on my doorstep and headed the time I came home, it was gone! People can't pass up free, plus it made me feel good helping someone out.

The most important thing to remember is, don't be picky, and don't expect a lot. These things are free, after all, but with a little luck and a lot of weeding, you should be able to find some half-way decent items. Our couch will work very well until we can afford another one, be it in a year or 5 years. When I'm through with the microwave or first Freecycle couch, I will put it up on Freecycle for another person to use. Ahh, the circle of life.

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