June 20, 2013 by

One of the most daunting aspects of downsizing possessions is trying to figure out what to do with all the excess. Perhaps you don’t have a way to haul that old chest of drawers to Goodwill, or it’s not worth it to you to try to sell your broken lawnmower on Craigslist, or those unused landscaping bricks are too heavy to set out for the trash.

Freecycle just might be the answer to your downsizing dilemma. It’s an online organization devoted to keeping useable items out of landfills by giving them free of charge to people within your own community. Local groups are found in most cities across the United States (Freecycle.org states that its network includes 5,096 groups and 9,332,889 members globally, as a matter of fact). So it’s quite similar to Craigslist, except all exchanges are, well, free. Omaha’s Freecycle group has over 11,000 members, and objects are requested and offered online daily.

“As a green-accredited professional, the whole idea of putting all these samples in a landfill was just abhorrent to me,” says Amy Boesen, an Omaha interior decorator. A friend clued her into Freecycle last year, and Boesen gave a book of wallpaper samples to a guy for use as crafts in his wife’s daycare. Another batch of upholstery swatches were turned into hammocks for an animal rescue. Gazing ball stands were used as birdbaths. “When stuff started moving and I could see how it was being used, it was so awesome for me,” Boesen says.

She, herself, has only requested one thing on Freecycle: fishing poles as event décor. “It’s a fantastic way to very quickly get rid of things you don’t need and find things you don’t want to buy,” she says.

Participating in Freecycle does mean dealing with Yahoo!’s Groups feature, which is inelegantly linked to Freecycle.org. You’ll need a username and password each for both Freecycle and Yahoo!

To join the Omaha group, follow these steps (thank goodness you only have to do this once):

  • Go to freecycle.org. In the Find a Group Near You window, type in Omaha. Select Omaha from the search results, and click the Sign up/Log in button. Choose a username and password, and you’ll be taken to Omaha’s Group Info page.
  • Click Visit the Omaha group and see the posts. You’ll be taken to a Yahoo! Groups page. Click the blue Join This Group! button.
  • Log in to Yahoo! Create a Yahoo! account if you don’t already have one. If Yahoo! isn’t your normal e-mail client, you can choose to have e-mails forwarded to, say, your Gmail address instead.
  • Choose how you want to find out about new posts. Consider opting for Web Only. Don’t forget to click Save Changes.
  • Browse posts. You can also post messages yourself and respond to other members’ posts.

Once you’ve posted an item (called an Offer), your post will go through a moderator who will make certain you’ve included essential info such as a nearby cross street (never put your address in a post). When another member e-mails you (via Freecycle…your e-mail isn’t exposed) expressing interest in that chest of drawers, you can respond with your address and let them know it’s waiting for them outside. They’ll pick it up without needing to set up a specific time and without having to meet you. All you have to do is enjoy your decluttered home and the knowledge that you’ve done your part to save the Earth.