It’s easy to recycle your stuff: just go to the Freecycle.org website, search for a group in your area (click “Browse Groups”), and sign up. You’ll soon be receiving notices of offers and items wanted in your email inbox. To offer some of your stuff to the members, use the email address provided by your group and type, as an example, “OFFER in Manhattan: DVDs” in the subject line. (Your group may have a different format; use the one your group provides you.) In the message area, describe the item further, and if you have any special communications requirements for further contact mention them. (Most people prefer to communicate via email, but occasionally someone will want to get in touch via telephone.)
Once you receive one or more requests for the item you want to recycle, choose your recipient, communicate about meeting to hand over your stuff, and then send an email to the group with the subject line: “PPU in Manhattan: DVDs.” Some people also let others who requested their item know individually that the item is promised, others do not. When your item is picked up, let the subscribers know by sending another email: “TAKEN in Manhattan: DVDs.”
So what to offer on Freecycle? Almost anything, as long as it isn’t against the group’s rules, and as long as it is free. Personal services aren’t allowed, and some groups have rules against offering pets. Be sure you understand and follow the group’s rules, and you’ll be fine. Some specifics:
Clothing is popular on Freecycle, and can be snapped up quickly. And who needs free stuff more than young parents? Baby’s and children’s clothing especially move well; babies outgrow clothing very quickly, and baby clothes can be in excellent shape. Young mothers are always looking for clothing in a variety of sizes as their babies grow, and your recycled donations can help young parents tremendously, especially if their budgets are tight.
Adult clothing is popular in season; offer winter coats and parkas in late fall and winter, not in the spring. Before you recycle clothing, launder it and make sure it is unstained and in good repair.
Kitchenware is popular on Freecycle.org; it will generally be snapped up quickly by people setting up new households. Big stuff like furniture, including bed frames, bureaus, and kitchen tables, pop up often on Freecycle, and can find new homes fairly quickly. The same with appliances: if you’ve replaced your stove, fridge, or washer and dryer, you can offer your old models. Be honest about whether the things work, and whether they need repairs and/or new parts. If you have the instruction manual, include that.
Are you a photography buff, or even a pro, who has gone digital? Others may welcome your old photography equipment. If you have replaced your old computer, monitor or printer with newer, more powerful models, you can recycle them to people who would welcome your old stuff. Nonprofit organizations are often looking to stretch their budgets with donated equipment, and occasionally pop up on Freecycle.org with requests.
Tips & Warnings
• If you are offering heavy, bulky items, be sure to mention in your initial email that it may require a truck or van for transport and extra help moving the item. If you can help the recipient load the item into the recipient’s vehicle, make that clear.
• Courtesy on both sides is important. If you promise your stuff will be available at a certain place and a certain time, make sure you follow through. You also have the right to expect the recipient to actually pick up the item promised. If someone fails to appear, reoffer it in a new email to the group.
• Don’t feel insulted if someone shows up to pick up an item and then decides against it. Your belongings may be perfectly good items, but may not meet the needs of the intended recipient.
• Don’t let someone into your house to pick up your stuff if you’re unsure it will be safe. Put the item out on your front step or in a garage or shed accessible to the recipient, or agree to meet in a public place. If you’re offering a heavy item that the recipient needs to carry out of your home, arrange to have one or more people with you. If someone shows up and an alarm bell goes off in your head, don’t open the door.