Free Everything!

For sheer quantity of potential freebies, it’s hard to beat Freecycle, the international online exchange program that started in Arizona in 2003 and has since spread to over eight and a half million users in more than eighty-five countries ( Active in WNY since early 2004, this ongoing experiment in “changing the world one gift at a time” currently boasts more than 14,600 local members posting roughly a thousand messages a month to a Yahoo group. (You can join at Working within a set of mutually agreed-upon ground rules (nothing illegal, everything must be suitable for all ages, giving is considered cooler than receiving, and so on), anyone who joins can get rid of almost anything and request just about anything. It’s all a bit of a crapshoot, but that’s what makes it so much fun.

What kinds of things are we talking about? From the functional (appliances, clothing, pets, building supplies, plants, toys) to the absurd (an apparently enormous quantity of Splenda) to the highly specific (a 1983 Elvis Presley calendar), everything is up for grabs. Items can range from the badly broken to the brand-new, and the donors are generally quite specific about the state of what they’re giving away. (Remember, it’s all free, provided you’re willing to pick it up.)

Here’s a brief sample from a recent three-month period, with original typography intact:

•6 feet of dryer transition duct (“the scrunchy kind”)
•size 6 Juicy Couture Cami Tank. Yellow with Ecru lace tatting on the bottom
•Gucci handbag with leather strap
•4 Robovorskie hamsters
•Small amount of roofing materials (“Maybe enough for a dog house …”)
•Baby boy shower supplies (“i gave a shower, spent lots of money at Party City, now want to offer to someone so they dont have to spend it”)
•Wanted: apple stuff for kitchen. switching my kitchen over to apples, anything you might have would be appreciated!
•Wanted: Freezer burned meat East Aurora (I use this to make food for my dogs. Will take venison, chicken, beef, turkey, pork, etc. I will travel far if there is enough meat to cover the cost of my gasoline. Time to clean out your freezer!)
•I have an extra wide potty chair, a metal closet, and a buffalo bills winter jacket. Size 2x or 3x. Please no time wasters! I need it to be gone by 8 tonight!

Descriptions often have a wistful or nostalgic quality. Some are heart-rending, others playful. Some read like short poems; taken as a group they create a striking snapshot of our community:

•Wanted: Weights and/or Weight Bench. For my son, who is now into that weight lifting stage.
•Wanted: Walking Egyptian plants will drive to get them thank you
•I really could use one or two pallets in my basement.
•Wild rose bushes. … You will receive a stick with a root on the end. Stick the root into the ground in a sunny spot and they should take -- then they will spread like wild. … MUST be picked up tonight or tomorrow. I am going to go dig them up right now and put them on my porch. If you don’t pick them up, they will die. Please don’t ask for them if you can’t come. Let someone else have them.
•WANTED - Record Albums. I have recently gotten back into listening to records and collecting them. I keep hearing about people throwing them out because they don’t want them taking up space. Please don’t do that. I would greatly appreciate them! I will clean them and listen to them and give them a good home.

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