Monday, March 31, 2008


Just a post to say how much I love Freecycle.

I come from a family who keeps stuff. We have specific collections, like model trains, plus we keep an overabundance of other things, "for a rainy day". I got these genes from both sides of the family, so it is a constant battle for me to keep "stuff" from controlling me. It's really tough now that we live in an apartment with virtually no garage storage. The office/sewing room was turned into K.'s room, so our living and dining rooms now contain all that stuff, while K.'s room has some of my sewing stuff in it. There is nowhere to put his clothes and toys as he grows out of them. Did I mention we are running a general contracting business out of the small piece of garage we have? I feel very cramped. Part of it is the space, but part is that I have a lot of stuff.

Yes, I could just take bags of stuff to Goodwill or Salvation Army, and we do that from time to time. I also give things to the Daughters of Norway and church rummage sales. But, storage is an issue, and sometimes things just need to go when I get the courage to get rid of them. It's hard to explain if you don't suffer from this condition. Here's an example. A few years ago I was dieting, cycling, and running. The exercise took up a lot of my free time. I was by no means skinny, but at my lowest weight ever. At that time I bought a suit. Now that suit doesn't fit and there is no way I can devote enough time to exercising so that it will. A normal person sees a suit that's too small in the closet and gets rid of it. They don't keep it as a kind of torture device, reminding themselves every time they see it (daily) that they've gained weight, and that they don't get to cycle anymore.

And here are the excuses I had for keeping the suit in the closet: it is too new, only worn a few times; it cost x dollars; maybe when K. is in preschool I'll be able to exercise more. Finally the voice of reason kicks in: it will be out of style eventually; I've had a baby and am 39, there is no guarantee the suit will fit again even if I lost a bunch of weight; maybe someone really needs it.

Here's where Freecycle helped. I came to terms with the fact that I needed to get rid of some clothes, and should post them so that I would know that someone who really needed them would get them (yes, I know people really need the clothes at Goodwill, but I would never just stick that suit in a bag, and I might be tempted to pull it out before I ever got to Goodwill). Lo and behold I was reading the postings and someone needed dress clothes in my size. We got in touch, I gave her the suit and a few others things. Win-win. She got stuff she needed for free, I have more room in my closet, and the things are actually being used.

I wouldn't say that I'm a true compulsive hoarder, but I have have the tendencies. It's hard to get rid of things, like my old sleeping bag. Things become too special. I'm not talking about truly special things, like inherited jewelry, or the tablecloth Grandma embroidered. I'm talking about regular stuff. Never mind that we have newer sleeping bags, enough for the whole family. Never mind that it is taking up valuable space in the closet. The sleeping bag is full of memories of past camping trips and nights staying up late on the sofa watching movies. I have to come to grips that those memories aren't going away just because the bag goes away (and it is!). Plus it is still a useful sleeping bag.

Again, Freecycle lets that bag get used and gives me a little more closet space. And I don't have to leave the house, toting the kid, to get rid of it. The recipient comes to me.

It also works the other way. Sometimes you need an item but don't necessarily want to pay for it or care that it is brand new. I got a playmat from a family who had just installed carpet in their kid's room. But for someone like me it is better to stick to offering stuff. And, like everywhere, there are flakes on Freecycle. My first experience was bad. People not showing up, etc. But now I know that I need to be specific about the times I am available, and get people's phone numbers right off the bat. As time goes by you also get a feel for people.

So, Freecycle and groups like it are a good thing. Junk stays out of the landfill. People get things they want or need for free. Others get space freed up, in their closets and minds.

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