Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Freecycle Pays It Forward

Freecycle Pays It Forward

Last night's rain left hundreds of overstuffed couches, eager for a new home, on the curbs of Iowa City. It's moving week, as college town leases all expire simultaneously, and everyone wants to get rid of junk.

How about the 21st century approach of doing it online? claims four million members in local groups worldwide. The attitude is pay it forward and the approach is simple: post your wants or offers to a Yahoo! group, irst come first served, the recipient generally does the hauling.

"What goes around, comes around," said Iowa City group member Linda Stipe. "I have felt that moving articles out of my living space gives me gifts that are spiritually based." Stipe has not yet asked for anything, but has given away a camper trailer, an outdoor umbrella for a patio table, space heaters, tools, fencing, televisions, bedding, paint, tool boxes, and clothing. "If I need something in the future, I believe all I have to do is ask for it," she said. "I also like to make people happy -- it makes me happy."

"I found freecycle when looking for baby items," said Andrew Gall. "We have a 6 month old and she loves her exersaucer that we got for free through this service. In fact, it is her favorite toy of all! It figures that her favorite toy is one we got for free." Gall said he also gave away a dog kennel.

The group is moderated and repeat requests are limited to once every month. The quick, just a keyboard away system is something members like. "I’m too lazy to have a garage sale or consign my stuff, but am happy to give it away to keep my house organized if someone will come and get it," said Lisa Van Hofwegen.

The free-to-a-good-home approach (yes, pets are often offered) is also a benefit -- or, as Dorothy Miller put it, an answer to a prayer, "Due to loss of our business we were downsized in our income and became unable to afford the lifestyle we were used to. When I began leading a Bible Study group in my home I desperately needed some more 4 more chairs and another small table," she said. "I was blessed to find not only four but five chairs and a small table perfect for my need -- and it looks 'just like me" and the rest of the decor in my home.

Miller also likes the social aspects of Freecycle. "I also have had fun sharing things such as heirloom houseplants and garden produce and think it breeds a great sense of community," she said. "I have met folks from Iowa City, Coralville, Wellman and Kalona, folks I would not have otherwise met."

Turnaround time can be very fast. (This blogger asked for a computer and within two hours I picked up a three year old Dell from a graduating medical student who was moving to the East Coast. My six year old was happily playing games on it that same evening.) Subscriptions are available both in daily digest form and as individual posts, but digest subscribers may miss out.

"The best thing I gave was a guitar to a family of nine who all wanted to learn to play," said Lisa Van Hofwegen. "My great-grandma gave the guitar to me, but I never learned to play myself. Since my grandma grew up in the dust bowl, she was a great believer in wasting not and would love this site."

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