Give (Anything) to Your Neighbors

A basket of free stuff. Photo by Liesl Clark.

A basket of free stuff. Photo by Liesl Clark.

What do you do with your extra stuff? Take it to Goodwill? Save it for a charity garage sale? Give it to strangers via Freecycle or Craigslist? Toss it in the landfill (just kidding, Barb!)?

If you’ve ever thought that you might like to give away your surplus items to people right in your own neighborhood, and that joining a “giving economy” might be a great way to get to know your neighbors and build a sense of hyper-local community, check out this new Facebook group, powered by the Buy Nothing Project.

The Buy Nothing Project began last summer on Bainbridge Island. Its goal? “Give Freely. Share the bounty. Post anything you’d like to give away, lend, or share amongst neighbors. Ask for anything you’d like to receive for free or borrow. Keep it legal. Keep it civil.”

Within three weeks, the project had taken off with 1000 members, 5 groups within Washington and inquiries from across the globe. On Valentine’s Day it finally reached Wallingford/Fremont and now those who live south of 50th, north of the lake, west of I-5 and east of 3rd can join in the fun. Of course there are guidelines, but they are all straightforward. You give things away. You ask for things you need. You get to know the people that you live near.

You can give away anything! In the past, people have offloaded given away: Halloween costumes, homemade wine, toys and supplies for local classrooms, furniture, and even bags of plastic bags. One neighbor’s trash is another one’s treasure, as they say.

Gifters are not limited to sharing goods. In other groups, people have given away lessons, gardening knowledge, face painting, in home care and more. The sharing of produce during the growing season is common. Officially, gifters may not trade or barter (forms and taxes being to complicate the situation). However, gifters are free to create relationships with each other that may lead to lovely hand-me-down chains or informal seed swaps. Anything is possible when you are gifting things to the people that you live nearby.

Critical mass is the key to making this project work. So, if you’re inclined, join now! And if enough of us join, maybe Friday North can retake first place in the Think Green Recycling Challenge!

  1. 40thandStone said,

    If you ask to join the group and do not hear back, make sure to check your Facebook messages in the “Other” folder. There is a link to your “Other” folder on the top left of your messages page under the search box.

    Here is how to change your filter so you can receive messages directly in your inbox from people who are not Facebook friends.

    Sat, March 1 at 11:52 am
  2. 40thandStone said,

    And here is a fun article about the kinds of things that have happened in other Buy Nothing groups … and how it has a different purpose from Freecycle.

    Buy Nothing Groups = Random Acts of Kindness All Day Long

    Sat, March 1 at 11:55 am
  3. Luna said,

    Okay, I’ve read the links below and am still unclear about the difference between this and Freecycle. (Which I’ve been doing for almost five years.) It seems to be smaller geographic boundaries, but there must be more to it. Can someone please elaborate? Thanks!

    Sat, March 1 at 11:24 pm
  4. Kimberly said,

    My understanding is that they want to build neighbor connections in addition to just freecycling stuff. They also encourage people to give away intangibles like services, organize clothes swaps, that sort of thing. I think it’s hyper-local Freecycle 😉

    Sun, March 2 at 8:35 pm
  5. wildnwonderful said,

    I dont think swapping is allowed. It is give only, which is difficult concept fo rme. I was looking forward to some swaps.

    Mon, March 3 at 5:32 pm
  6. Christopher Howe said,

    I have been thinking about this a lot lately .. so many useful giveaways over here.

    Wed, March 5 at 8:33 pm
  7. S2B said,

    Swaps and exchanges have tax implications, so by freely giving and receiving you can avoid any issues with the IRS. In a gift-economy the value is in the community connections … the stuff that is shared is … just stuff.

    Fri, March 7 at 1:59 am
  8. wildnwonderful said,

    exactly what tax implications? A neighbor clothing exchange held one afternoon? A book/cd/video exchange held one hour on a Sunday? please explain

    Fri, March 7 at 7:01 am
  9. S2B said,

    Four Things You Should Know if You Barter

    “…Even simple trades of goods trigger multiple tax rules. Suppose you swap your prized wristwatch for a painting you love. You consider it an even swap and not a tax event. Sorry, you may still have income. Your trade is likely to be viewed as two separate transactions, producing gain or loss depending on your basis in the watch.” ~ Robert Wood, Forbes Magazine Contributor, taxes/litigation

    Fri, March 21 at 11:31 pm
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