The Ultimate Freecycle Guide
Did you know that Xbox games, gently used baby equipment, bags of kid’s clothes, televisions, even fish tanks are being given away every day across America on Freecycle.org!
Freecycle is a grassroots-based recycling community whose sole purpose is to help give away what you don’t want, and get what you do want, free. Here’s a simple guide to Freecycle so you can get started right away. Get ready to furnish your house, clothe your kids, and save planet earth from becoming one big giant landfill. Think of it like shopping and swapping for a cause.
In this Freecycle guide:
- How does Freecycle work
- What am I allowed to give away
- Freecycling safely
- Rules of FC etiquette
- How to give away your unwanted belongings
- Other sites to grab free stuff
- How to donate for a good cause
How does Freecycle work?
Freecycle consists of thousands of local email groups. Each group is run by volunteer moderators who monitor and make sure items are posted properly and contraband like pets and spam are not posted. In order to make sure that each posting adheres to guidelines, it must be approved before it is allowed on the board. There are four types of posts allowed. They include: Offer, Taken, Wanted and Received. Your zip code or specific area must be included in the posting line as well. Here are four sample messages so you can see the format:
OFFER: Baby Grand Piano - West Midwood
PROMISED - Honeywell HEPA Air Purifier (Cobble Hill, 11231)
TAKEN: Bread Machine - Williamsburg
WANTED: 6-9 month girl clothes (Queens, 11369)
17+ Freecycle Tips
- Give as well as get. Have you recently changed out your giant outdated TV for a thin plasma one? Instead of placing it on the curb, Freecycle it. Many thrift shops no longer take toys, stuffed animals or Ikea furniture. This stuff will either wind up in a landfill or it can be loved and used by someone else. Remember, one person’s trash is another’s treasure.
- The common misconception about Freecycle is that people are just unloading trash. While in some cases that might be true, most of the giveaways are usable.On any given day, you can find gently used strollers, sofas, rugs, video game systems electronics-you name it -on your community Freecycle message board. Yes, it’s a crap shoot, but most of the stuff is not crap.
- Here are some heartwarming stories from Freecyclers-
“Just gave away my couch on Freecycle two weeks ago. I'm delighted and the guy I gave it to was really happy..”
“I feel like I win every time I get something on Freecycle. My friends and I have outfitted our loft with furniture we’ve gotten off Freecycle. One guy gave me a dresser he had as a child and I could tell that he was sad about giving it away, so now every time I get something, I take a picture of it in the loft and send it to the person who gave it to me. That way they know it’s being well-loved!”
- To start, find the groups that are available in your area by going to the general Freecycle.org site. You will need to set up a Yahoo email account to register. (Tip - pick a username that does not clearly identify yourself in any way. Remember you’re giving your stuff away, not your personal info!)
- Yahoo groups will let you choose how you want to be contacted. In your account under settings, you can choose how and if you want to be contacted daily either by individual email or group messages and get alerts to new postings as they come in. You can also set up an email filter to eliminate the keyword ‘Wanted’ in the subject heading.
- If you’re a regular giver and taker of the Freecycle community, you might want to consider getting a throwaway phone, so you don’t have to give out your primary home or cell phone number when arranging your takes or offers. A little anonymity goes a long way.
- In term of safety, when picking up or giving away, make sure you have another adult go with you. If you do go alone tell someone where you are going or who you are meeting. If someone is coming to the house, arrange to meet them outside. Safety should always be your top priority.
- Don’t just be a taker, also be a giver, and give away the stuff you don’t want. Old magazines like the New Yorker, you might think of recycling, but there are plenty of people who can’t afford their own will gratefully come and pick them up. Old clothes, kitchen supplies, even those stuffed animals your child has grown out of, will be gratefully accepted by those in need.
- Post photos of what you’re giving away. It makes unloading much easier if people have a visual of what you’re giving away. Tinypic is an image hosting service where you can post pictures of your stuff free of charge.
- Avoid giving away old computers! Even if you’ve wiped your drive clean, information can still be hidden inside. Instead think about giving away your old computers to PickUpPlease, an organization devoted to helping America’s War Veterans.
- If you’re giving an item away, chances are you’ll have multiple offers. You can pick the one who seems to need it the most or will pick it up the quickest. After you’ve picked, post a Promised message, so you can stop the onslaught of messages.
- Once the item has been collected, put ‘Taken’ in the subject line and post. That way people will quit pestering you for the item.
- Act quickly, once you see an item that you’re interested in. In these situations, the early bird does often get the worm.
- Be polite in your email when inquiring about an offer. Simply saying, “I’ll take it” will almost certainly guarantee that you won’t get it. A short note about why you need it, and how quickly you can come pick it up will usually make all the difference.
- Inquire about dimensions of the object being offered and its condition if it is not mentioned in the original post.
- If you’re picked by the giver, make a time to collect and be punctual. If you cannot collect, then call or email. There is nothing more annoying than no shows.
- If after you get there, you feel like the ‘nearly new’ sofa is a flea-bitten and torn up mess, you can politely decline it and ask them to give to the next in line.
- If you post a Wanted ad, make sure it’s for something you need, not just something you want. (We all want an iPhone, but we don’t need one). Posting endlessly about wanting high-end stuff or even a car will not get your email opened. However, if you need art supplies for your class or hand me downs for your kids, people are more than likely to give you what you need.
Other places to give away free stuff
You can declutter and do good with these following sites as well:
Donate your eyeglasses to those in need by sending them to the Lion’s Club. They sort and fix the glasses (if broken or missing lenses) and distribute them directly to those in need.
You can send those no longer loved or outgrown stuffed animals to Loving Hugs. They will distribute the furry friends to refugee children around the world. While you will have to pay to ship the items, Loving Hugs has set up a UPS account with reduced rates to offset those costs.
Do you have a million unused Legos cluttering up your newly minted teen’s room? Send them to Brick Recycler and this one man operation will get them to children in need. If you email the weight and dimensions of your boxes of bricks, you’ll be sent mailing labels free of charge.
If you have some old iPods gathering dust that you are not using, send them to Music and Memory. They provide Ipods to patients with Alzheimers. They will wipe your Ipod clean and stock it with music. The iPods can be ANY generation, they just have to be working. You can download a free mailing label on their website.
Other places to get stuff for free
Craigslist is another a great place to troll for local free stuff. It won’t be as comprehensive as Freecycle, but there are freebies to be had if you check daily. You can locate the free stuff by putting in your area and looking under the ‘for sale/wanted section.
You can also check out free stuff in Facebook Marketplace. What’s great about this site is that you’ll know the people who are giving away the stuff, the negative is; it’s limited in selection.