Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Hooked on Freecycle

At some point last year, Richard posted a link for Freecycle on Electronic Ephemera. Freecycle is a site where people can offer items they want to get rid of to others, free for the taking. People can also request items they need, in case another member has that item forgotten in some closet or shed and is willing to part with it.

In post-Katrina New Orleans, Freecycle has been essential, not only because of the need that still exists for so many, but because the charitable organizations have been so inundated with donations since The Storm that they are not accepting donations. And since the storm, there have been a lot of reasons to give things away.

We evacuated New Orleans for Katrina with 5 days worth of summer clothes and not much else. Because we had so little with us when we reached Virginia, we had to get clothes and then household items for our apartment. We gave most of it away before we left, but we did take what we could fit in the car home with us, knowing there would be people here who needed it. Since we returned, we've been giving tons of things away to friends and neighbors who were affected by The Storm and to people who came here from other states to work with little more than their clothes and vehicles. (Like the Mexican guy who was living in the corner store with no electricity or running water while he worked on it, and the electrician who worked on my mom's house who came from California and was living in a small, unfurnished apartment with six other guys.) Once I ran out of people I knew who needed things, Freecycle was the answer.

So many of us are repairing and restoring our homes right now. I had to tear out my water-damaged kitchen cabinets, (with the attached counter) so today I Freecycled my old stainless steel kitchen sink, which was in decent condition but would stand out too much against the new stuff I'll have to get for the renovation. Someone responded within minutes of the time I posted it. As soon as I can get someone to help me move it, I'll do the same with the stove. People are giving away their salvaged and surplus building materials that cannot be returned. All my walls and ceilings have to come down (and even my chimney!!!) which means that the contents of the attic have to be removed. And there were tons of kid-related clothes and sundry items up there that were in good shape. We don't need them. Other people do. And they've snatched them up as fast as I could post them. He/she who responds first gets the stuff, but it seemed that secondary respondents were also pretty needy, so I began to coordinate donations from other sources so I could offer something to the second-wave, too. One of them has taken to calling my front porch drop-off and pick-up site the Uptown Goodwill. This may not be the most flattering designation for one's home, but I like it. (For now, anyway, because everything about my house is mighty funky these days. There is nothing home-like about it whatsoever.)

And then there's probably the most common reason that I think is prompting people to Freecycle like crazy right now. (And I probably think this because it's my biggest reason.) Like me, most everyone bugged out of here with only a few days worth of clothes and little else but the expectation that we'd be returning home within the week. In the months that followed, we really learned what we could and could not live without. Some were forced to learn this when they lost everything, but even those of us who were eventually able to return home to most, if not all of the possessions we had, came home with a new definition of value. And with this comes the urge to purge and to simplify our lives. (The less you have, the less you have to worry about losing.)

I'd had the urge to simplify before the storm, but it's overwhelming now. (And so is the task!!) And nothing feels better than finding people who need things and giving those things to them. I've managed to meet a few of the recipients in person and there has been something really special about that. We are technically strangers, but there's a bond between us all now. We've survived this great tragedy and its aftermath as one big family. And so when we meet, it's not really as strangers, but as brothers and sisters.

So many of you reached out to me and my children when we were in need and I hope you felt this kind of warmth, this bond when you helped us out. We will always be grateful for the love and care you gave us. And even though some of you thought that what you did was just a small thing, for us, it meant the world. Really. I'm glad we can "pay it forward," even if it's in a small way. The recipients seem to really appreciate what they get, so I can only hope that maybe the small things we pass on mean more than we know.

There are Freecycle groups operating all over the world, (as many of my readers know), so check it out and join us!


Anonymous Addict said...

I think I've been living in a cave... that is the coolest idea ever and I'm going to go check it out!!!

1:46 AM  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Urban muse got me onto it. I have a stack of things from my renovations that I am going to put up and have been lurking seeing how it works for the last week or 2. I am amazed at what people give away and want. Just how many old brown sofas with worn fabric really need to be rehoused? But am looking forward to getting rid of some clutter.

2:26 AM  
Blogger LisaPal said...

It's definitely better than seeing all the old stuff end up in a landfill somewhere, especially in our case, as they say that the hurricane debris is equivalent to 30 years worth of the waste we normally generate.

2:43 AM  

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