A mobile home, pianos, furniture and TVs are just some of the treasures available for free on sites like Craigslist, yerdle.com, freelywheely.com, ReUseitnetwork.organd The Freecycle Network. These sites — sometimes nicknamed “FreeBay” — are a boon to those needing to declutter, struggling financially or seeking the unusual. Like Forrest Gump’s proverbial box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.
How Freecycling Works
Membership is free, and guidelines are fairly simple. For The Freecycle Network, it’s as simple as posting what you want or are giving away. In general, luck favors those responding to offers of free items rather than those seeking a particular item. I recently sought bookcases on two local freecycle Yahoo (YHOO) groups — but nary a nibble. However, I posted to get rid of some items when I moved last summer, and people picked up the items promptly and gratefully. Let’s look at some sites:
- Craigslist may have more outrageous items — like the mobile home listed near where I live — but in general is more a site to use at your own risk. Make contact during the day, preferably at a public spot rather than your home and preferably with a friend.
- The Freecycle Network is well established, with 9 million members. It has volunteer local moderators who keep up standards and weed out troublemakers.
- ReUseit Network is a guide to free recycling groups. Sites are often popping up — and sometimes just as quickly shutting down.
- Yerdle works slightly differently in that the more you give, the more credits you earn to get something for free. It has the advantage of having a mobile app and is more social-media-oriented.
- I have experimented with smaller membership sites like freelywheely, but offerings can be sporadic.
The Etiquette of Free
- Money should never should change hands or be a condition of listing.
- It is common courtesy to add a thank you in a wanted listing.
- Just because you respond to an offer for an item to be given away does not mean you will get it. The donor has the discretion to decide among multiple responses. A recent offer for kids’ bikes on freelywheely netted 50 responses.
- Show up at the place and time arranged if you have agreed to take something.
- If you are offering items, don’t let the recipient know when or if you will be home but rather put the items in a designated place outside, such as your front porch.
- In general, if you pick up an item, it is supposed to be for your personal use and not for resale, although some groups allow resale if it’s mentioned upfront in a wanted listing.
- Drugs, guns, alcohol are almost always prohibited.
After watching these sites for several weeks, I can conclude that the most frequently items listed have been sofas, television sets, exercise equipment and children’s clothing. I have picked up a few things — like Christmas ornaments, my personal obsession — but all these sites are very much hit or miss. Setting up an alert might help you score a great catch.
Some altruistic individuals or nonprofits also use the sites to collect diapers, books or other items for a church drive or to help out a school or family. These tend to generate a very positive response.