Although I take most of our declutterings (is that a word?!) to charity shops, I also use our local Freecycle for anything that I think another family could use or that I think the charity shop wouldn’t take. I really love using it as you meet the people who are going to get your stuff and it’s a great way of decluttering larger or more specialist items.
What is Freecycle ?
In 2003, Freecycle was founded in Tucson, Arizona, by Deron Beal who wanted to see if goods could be re-used instead of being thrown away. Since then it has spread to over 85 countries and has millions of members. According to the main Freecycle website, they are helping to keep 500 tons of waste out of landfill every day, which must be a good thing.
Local Freecycle groups are run as Internet groups by volunteers who moderate posts and photos. The principle is that you offer items for free to other members of the group who may be able to use them. And you can also make an offer to collect any items listed.
How to find and join your local group
To find your local Freecycle group, go to the main UK Freecycle website and look for your local area. I find the area search easier than the general search box.
Once you have found your local group, you just have to sign up with them and, as soon as your membership is approved, you can start posting messages for anything you want to pass on to someone else.
My local group is on Yahoo Groups. I decided to have a Yahoo email address specifically for Freecycle as you do communicate directly with people to collect your stuff and I felt a bit uneasy about letting strangers know my personal email address. Although, to date, everyone that has come to collect our unwanted items has been really nice so it hasn’t been an issue so far.
How to use Freecycle
Freecycle is really easy to use but you have to follow the conventions for posting your items. So, if you want to advertise an item, you use OFFER as the Subject, followed by a short description of the item eg My Little Pony Collection and then your area so that people know how far they might have to come to collect the item. As we live in a large London borough, everyone usually puts an area and the first part of their postcode but other groups have different conventions. There is a wizard that you can use to post messages which is what I usually use.
Within the text body, I usually describe the item – be honest! – and also ask people to say when they can collect the item. This does help weed out the responses on popular items as quite a few people don’t include this information.
Once your Offer message goes on the group site, you will usually start to get emails from people wanting the item within minutes, especially if it is children’s toys or clothes or anything electronic.
It’s best to wait a few hours or even a day before you decide who to offer it to. In the past, I have offered it to someone really quickly and then received another email an hour later from a deserving cause. Mind you, if someone says they can collect the same day, I often go for them – it’s great to have a decluttered item out of your house within hours of deciding to let it go!
Once the item has been collected, you post a TAKEN message with the same detail as above to let everyone know that the item is no longer available.
People can also post WANTED messages if they are looking for something specific. I recycled our old camcorder and a book by Robin Skinner that way.
What can you recycle on Freecycle?
You can recycle just about anything legal. Checking my old emails, items I have offered include:
- curtains, curtain poles, light fittings
- unused rugby boots
- midi hi-fi system (went to a youth club whose system had been stolen)
- Lego robotics stuff (went to a special needs school)
- clock radio & cassette (went to a dad whose kids went to sleep listening to stories on cassettes and their one had just broken)
- My Little Pony cushions – collected by a single mum whose daughter was thrilled with them
- old lever-arch files
- Samsonite briefcase
- child’s step-stool – taken by a grandmother who looked after her grandson
- colour printer
- ice-cream maker (only a small one which made great ice-cream as long as you didn’t overfreeze the container and I kept getting it wrong!)
- all my son’ s dressing up stuff as a job lot
- Child’s Tudor outfit (went to someone who hires out costumes for charity)
- our old dinner service even though it was incomplete
The only item that I have not been able to recycle were a pair of curtains that were in the house when we moved in. In the end I took those to a charity shop.
I have not had any real problems with Freecycle so far. Everyone that has come to collect stuff has been really nice. You can leave items outside your house if you are concerned about opening your front door to a stranger.
Occasionally people don’t turn up at the time arranged but this has usually been because of genuine emergencies and they have always shown up a few days later. Sometimes you have to email to check whether they still want an item as no-shows can assume that you will have offered it to the next person on the list. I try and stick with whoever I’ve originally offered it to but that’s up to you.
Why use Freecycle?
Freecycle is a great way of decluttering items quickly and easily. And you can choose who gets your stuff which I also like.
Other similar organisations
Freegle was founded in the UK in 2009. Most of its groups were originally part of the Freecycle Network but weren’t happy with the way it was being run and decided to set up their own organisation. If you want to read more, read this Guardian article on the split
I am very happy with my branch of Freecycle so will be staying with them.