Sunday, August 30, 2009


Our laundry area is more or less back in order now, with a new floor, coat of paint, and shelving. There is still some drywall and trim repair to do here and there, but it's tidy enough. And now that we've painted that end of the kitchen, we'll have to paint the rest. Yesterday was a three-hardware-store-trip day, but we have our washing machine back, and a place to put all the stuff that was dumped all over the house for the past two weeks. And the hellmouth to our crawlspace is once again closed.

So meanwhile, I am trying to get rid of some stuff that we don't need, and my new favorite thing is Freecycle. The Freecycle Network™ is "made up of 4,799 groups with 7,192,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills."

Seattle's group has about 20,000 members. Here's how it works: You post either "Offered" or "Wanted," with a description of the item and your neighborhood. It must be free, the receiver picks it up, and you must make individual arrangements to have your item picked up (not just "it's on the front porch, y'all come and may the first one win!"). Once the deal is done, you post an updated "Taken" or "Received" notice. Volume is probably 50 notices a day, but sent in 2-4 aggregated digests.

I appreciate that people come pick my stuff up, which makes it way easy. But mostly I love the emphasis on redistributing our crap to where it will get used - keeping things out of landfills, reducing the natural resources used to produce new items, helping people live frugally. And it appears that nearly any piece of crap will get used by somebody. Oh the obvious stuff, like futons and dining room tables, baby clothes and moving boxes, bicycles and textbooks - that goes in about ten minutes. But some of the things definitely have more niche appeal: two dozen egg cartons, multiple broken vacuum cleaners, antique fiddle cases, half-used containers of everything from cat litter to over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.

I've unloaded three things so far: an ergonomic exercise ball, The Structure from our recent Canadian trip (even with full disclosure about the tear in the mesh, caused by dog lunging at elk), and the seven planks of discontinued-color marmoleum which we bought and then could not use after all on our kitchen floor. All claimed (by email at least, not picked up) within an hour. The couple of times I've tried to claim something, I've never been the winning non-bidder. Stuff moves fast in the freecycle community.

So I'm getting bolder and planning to list some more esoteric stuff. The unopened bottle of extra-strength Zantac generic that I accidentally bought at Costco. Unused paint. Who knows how much of my crap would be a delightful find to somebody else?

I've heard that the IRS is unsure what to do about this increasing movement towards freecycling and the related practice of time/skill bartering. In theory, there should be tax implications to all this, but how could they ever police it? That kind of tickles me too.

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