Freecycle on Steroids

After recently moving into my first unfurnished property, I was faced with the prospect of furnishing it on a budget and within a short space of time. Since furniture often takes time to be built when bought new, the idea was to focus on finding good used furniture and getting a bargain wherever possible. In fact, as an ‘upcycling’ enthusiast, I was reluctant to buy anything new at all. Consequently, one of the first places I looked was Freecycle. For those of you who don’t know about Freecycle, it is a network of groups across the world who give away their unwanted belongings for free, rather than selling or binning them. This is achieved using the internet; each unwanted item is posted online and the first person to respond, gets it for free.

I think the principle of Freecycle is a great idea; one man’s junk is another man’s treasure and I hate seeing anything go to waste. I was therefore quite disappointed when I finished furnishing and realised I hadn’t sourced a single item from Freecycle. I’m certain there were plenty of things I would have been interested in, but it turns out that Freecycle is very difficult to use effectively. Although it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying; here’s what I did…

  1. Set up a dedicated email address to receive Freecycle/Freegle posts.
  2. Signed up to the various groups that were local to me, of which there were around five that I was willing to travel to.
  3. Configured each group to send posts to the email address setup in step 1.
  4. Apply email filters to remove ‘WANTED’ posts.
  5. Apply email filters to remove messages with certain keywords, e.g. books, clothes (which weren’t of interest).

However, this still left me with hundreds of emails each day that I simply didn’t have time to go through. Even when I did spot something good, it was often too far away. This problem occurs because there are many towns (including mine) which don’t have their own group. Consequently people from those areas are forced to join the nearest group, and this means that item locations can vary far more than you might expect. Another problem I frequently came across was that there is no way of knowing whether an item has been taken. I ended up sending many messages to ask if items were available and very often didn’t get responses.

All of this got me thinking about how things could be improved and I’ve decided that, over the coming months, I will develop a website of my own to promote reuse and recycling. My focus will be on providing a service which makes it as easy as possible for people to find items they need within a certain distance of where they live. For me, this is an opportunity to exercise my problem solving skills but it goes without saying that I’d love to see people using it one day. Keep an eye out for further updates…