Philanthropy Thursday

The subject of Freecycle has been on a couple of my favorite blogs in recent days. In reading the comments for these posts, I’ve become aware that not everyone loves Freecycle like I love Freecycle.

I think that to enjoy Freecycle, you must repeat the mantra, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” quite often. You must also ignore the people who ask for a “new car in perfect condition” or “an apartment in Boston for a year”.

With patience and a lot of weeding through posts, you may find that you can actually be philanthropic while cleaning out your attic, your kids’ playroom, your closet or your garage.

Now, to be clear, Freecycle is NOT a charity organization. You do not ‘donate’ items to them. It is more of a huge swap meet where you post items you don’t want and look for things you may want.

Our first experience with Freecycle went like this: we had a large wooden bedroom set that had belonged to my husband in his ‘bachelor days’. It was moved to the basement when we turned the guest room into the girls’ room. Fairly Odd Father tried to sell the entire set on Craigslist for a mere $200 but we had only 1-2 inquiries and no takers. By the time I mentioned trying Freecycle, we were sick of having most of our basement taken up by this set. FOF posted a listing at 9pm in our local Freecycle group. By 9:20, he had several inquiries. Two days later, a couple drove up with a U-Haul and loaded up the entire set and drove away.

I was hooked.

Since then, we have given away loads of things: toys, kitchen items, ice skates, bird cages, a lawn spreader, old office equipment, etc.

I’ve also been on the receiving end of some greatness: the 10-pound bag of beach glass is still one of my favorites. The 100-year old piano is another.

But, how is this philanthropic? It is philanthropic when someone with a real need (versus a want) is able to get what they need from the site. One woman asked for items to help her start an in-home daycare business; her husband had just arrived home disabled from the Iraq War, and she had quickly become the primary breadwinner for her family. We gave her several of our larger infant toys.

There have been requests to help families whose homes have been lost to fire and to help neighbors struggling to make ends meet.

Once, when I posted an offer for some toddler toys, this email response stood out: “I work with some girls who don’t have a lot for their kiddos, so I try to help them out when I can.” I told her she could have the box of toys that were in great condition, but had been ignored for quite some time by my kids. I later received an email that said this, “Just wanted to let you know that I dropped the toys off yesterday and I got a call this morning that the little girl who got the toys saw a backyardigans character that you included and started crying because she was so excited”.

Once again, I was hooked.


  1. I’m hooked on freecycle as well. I’ve give away a lot of strange things, and I’ve gotten some amazing stuff. My best: an old, out of date surround sound set that we love but the other person obviously felt was no longer good enough. Heh. And a huge garbage bag of summer clothing that no longer fit someone, but fit me for the most part. OK, some of it wasn’t my taste, but a huge bag of clothes for free? Score! Plus there were a couple of red sox items of apparel in the bag.

    I also got an air conditioner this spring that we put upstairs, making our entire house air conditioned. It was GOOD.

  2. I love Freecycle! I’m actually the group leader for my local group. I roll my eyes a lot at some of the tuff people ask for, but it’s still great to find out that your old junk is treasure tosomeone else. 🙂

  3. I don’t live in an area where joining a freecycle group would be possible, but it sounds like a wonderful thing.

  4. utterly addicting. jamie feared that i’d start leaving his CDs on the curbside. for some reason, it’s so much easier letting go of unused things that someone else thinks is a treasure. i recently cleared out PILES of stuff that i had been saving for a tag sale* and donated everything to a woman who was organizing a sale to raise $ for the Jimmy Fund.

    * yard or garage sale to all others outside of Western Mass. :>)

  5. Oh, The Joys says

    Back when I first tried it there was no RSS feed or posts – it all came through e-mail. It totally overwhelmed me. Maybe I’ll have to give it another look now.

  6. Just Seeking says

    I have never tried Freecycle, but I just might head over there today after commenting here. I’ve been thinking about doing it for awhile and have also read some funny comments about it recently.

    I also think that Freecycle and environmentally friendly activities in general should be considered philanthropic. I know technically (was it Mary Alice who looked defined it for us?)philanthropy is about giving to humanity, but I think supporting our environment IS giving to humanity and Freecylce helps us do that, yes? less crap in the landfills.
    Good for you! I’m heading over there now.

  7. Mary Alice says

    That was a great Philanthropy Thursday idea…I will add a link to it from my blog, because I want as many people as possible to see all the collective PT ideas and hope that we spur people on to thinking about how they can pay it forward in their communities too.

  8. Alex Elliot says

    I use Freecycle as well. You wouldn’t believe all the responses I had when I donated all of our baby bottles.

  9. I love freecycle too. I’ve gotten rid of a mess of weird stuff that way. However, I’ve never actually gotten anything. The 100# jar of beach glass is pretty intriguing.

  10. Melinda Zook says

    I have been hearing so much about the Freecycle thing…literally in just the past month; like a giant boom.

    I really have to check it out. I have not yet stepped clicker on their site yet. Anyway, this is quite a touching story.

  11. Major Bedhead says

    Oh, I love Freecycle. Yes, some people are giving away belly button lint, but there are just as many giving away really useful things. I’ve received quite a few great things from freecycle – clothes and toys for the little ones being right up there. A rug for O’s bedroom. A huge Little Tykes play structure, with two slides! That one rocked.

    I’ve also given away a lot of stuff, which benefits my living space.

  12. suburbancorrespondent says

    Freecycle is useful, but I am still torqued at them for getting so bent out of shape when I tried to give away my then-4-year-old daughter. Just because you’re environmentally friendly doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to joke around.

  13. yes, I am able to ignore requests for from crazies (wanted, newer ipod for my son for Christmas…um, me too!) but what makes me batty about Freecycle is the moderators – boy do ours like to moderate – even to the point of finding out if people are cross-posting at Craig’s List or ebay…can you say free time?

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