By now my regular readers will know that, as Ambassador of Goodwill's Donate Movement, I love to talk about donating gently used clothing and household items, because donating is recycling and philanthropy all at once, and everyone wins! But what happens when you have objects that are broken or just plain strange or random, and you can't really donate them to nonprofits like Goodwill®? Well, have you ever used Freecycle.org? It's a free online service that allows communities to locate homes for objects that are often similar to those in Rudolph's "Island of Misfit Toys." (Just because I am feeling playful– here is a YouTube link to the part from Rudolph's special about the misfit toys.)
For example, I just gave away two broken vacuum cleaners on Freecycle, because I couldn't donate them like I normally would. They are probably easy to fix, but when I weighed the time and expense of repairing them, I was probably better off just buying a new vacuum cleaner. So instead of wastefully throwing them into the landfill, I offered them up on Austin Freecycle and arranged for someone to come and pick them up from my porch. Someone who knows how to fix vacuum cleaners, clearly.
Freecycle.org doesn't exist everywhere, so you'll need to check the site to see if there is an active Freecycle community where you live. Joining means signing up to receive emails about what is being offered and requested. Click the screenshot graphic here to see a larger, readable view of a typical day's messages on Freecycle. You can see everything from moving boxes to old particle board shelves to an airline dog crate being given away. Again, useful stuff that can't usually be donated to Goodwill.
On Freecycle people preface their subject lines with "OFFER" (things to give away), "WANTED" (requests), and "PPU" or "TAKEN" to indicate to the list that the items have been claimed (PPU is "Pending Pick Up"). In my email screenshot you can see someone requesting a TV antenna, some outdoor fabric and some fence pickets.
- Freecycle is a great resource, but it can be time-consuming to manage and does create potential clutter in your inbox. If you sign up, I recommend using a nonstandard email address that you check apart from your daily routine, or otherwise having Outlook or Gmail automatically move those messages to a folder of their own. You can also adjust your settings in Yahoo Groups to reduce the volume.
- Someone may not show up to pick up your items. I just got royally stood up by a guy who was supposed to take my broken treadmill, and now I will need to bring it to a scrap metal yard myself instead. (Can't bear to throw this giant machine in the landfill.) The better strategy is to arrange porch-pick-ups so you are not bound to a specific time commitment that messes up your day.
I believe it's best for the community in general if you donate to Goodwill whenever possible, since it's an easy decision that benefits everyone involved, including the local economy and job market, and it's certainly much less time-consuming. If you are unsure about what can be accepted by Goodwill, read my previous post on Donating Do's & Don'ts, or you can visit the website of your local Goodwill member agency. But if you can't donate it, Freecycle is a great option, and you get to decide exactly who gets to have each particular item if that is important to you.
Have you tried using Freecycle? What do you think? And what else have you done with your misfit items? Share in the comments!