One person’s trash is someone else’s treasure – 10 freecycling tips

Who doesn’t like free stuff? One person’s trash is someone else’s treasure is something that is shown to to be true every day in Swindon, courtesy of the local ‘freecycling’ groups.

The point of Freecycling is to stop things going to landfill, by enabling people to pass on things they no longer want to people who need them. Users can either offer items they want to get rid of, or request things they need. It’s a win-win as the old item gets a new home rather than heading off to the tip and there’s no need for someone to buy a new one.

You might have heard of the original Freecyclers over at They started up back in 2003 and now have more than 9 million members in 110 countries. Then in 2009 a group of UK Freecyclers founded Freegle, Both organisations run groups in Swindon.

The range of stuff being offered on the sites is huge. From bits of old carpet good enough to keep the weeds down on someone’s allotment, to electrical goods, furniture and pianos that might be tricky to get down to the local charity shop.

It’s a great to be able to give something that you need a new home, and it’s just as great to be able to pass something on to someone else rather than sending it to the local tip.

For a while, I was one of the moderators of my local Freecycle group, as well as being an active freecycler myself (it was my dodgy old carpet that was set to use in someone’s allotment). Here are my top 10 tips for successful freecycling:

  1. Sign up to both Freecycle & Freegle. You’ll find different items being posted on each site so you have a better chance of finding what you’re after if you’re on both. You might find you live close to more than one local group, so consider joining more than one.
  2. Manage how you want to use the sites. You can choose to get notified via email when new posts are made to the groups, or simply browse online whenever you fancy it. If you do you opt for the emails then think about setting up a dedicated email account or email filters to help manage the amount of notifications you are likely to get. This will vary depending on where you are, and how active your local groups are.
  3. Let others decide if they want your stuff, don’t be shy of posting something that you’re not sure that someone will take… other people might have a use for it even if you can’t imagine what it might be. Many freecyclers will be after stuff for craft projects or upcycling, or might be able to fix that broken thing you have.
  4. When offering something, consider adopting a ‘fair offer’ policy. Typically this means just waiting a while before choosing who to give your stuff away to. It gives people who aren’t stuck in front of a computer 24-hours a day a fair chance to get hold of something.
  5. Give plenty of detail about the item, and post a photo if you can. Particularly with things like furniture or clothes the look of something, and the state it is in, are important.
  6. When replying to an offer be polite and think about giving a reason why you’d like the item. Avoid a sob-story, but if you have a particular need for the item it might help the person when making the decision of who to give their stuff to. People really don’t like getting a response like “I’ll take it” (which happens more often than you might imagine).
  7. You’re under no obligation to take an item that isn’t what you wanted. It’s often hard to describe something completely in a simple online post. If you turn up and the item is different to what was described or simply isn’t suitable for your needs then you can just offer a polite “no thank you” and walk away. If anyone asks for money then refuse and report them to the moderators.
  8. Stay safe online and at home. Be careful about what you share in your posts and messages with the people you are dealing with. If necessary, arrange for someone else to be at home when the taker comes to collect.
  9. Moderators are all volunteers, so be patient and polite in your dealings with them. Whether you have a technical query or an issue with another freecycler there are probably only a few mods giving up their time to manage the group so it might take a while for them to get back to you.
  10. Don’t forget why you’re freecycling. You might think another user is making too many requests, they might even be reposting the stuff they’ve bagged for free onto an auction site like eBay. By all means you can take that into account when choosing who to give your items to, but as long as it keeps that thing out of landfill does it really do any harm?

Freecycling is a great way to work with a community of like-minded people to make a difference to the amount of stuff being sent to landfill. Why not go ahead and sign up to your local groups via the links above?