Changing the World One Gift at a Time™* by Angela Caldin
What happens when you’ve lived in the same place for 38 years, 27 of them in the same house? You accumulate a whole lot of possessions, that’s what; and most of them remind you of someone or somewhere so that you’re sentimentally attached to them, even though they have little monetary value. Our garage was so full of chattels that the car was parked on the driveway whatever the weather. I stood in the midst of it all one day and decided that something had to be done; the clutter had to be shifted. But how? There was no way I could deliver it all to the charity shop, and eBay was out because of the problems of postage for the larger items. Then a friend told me about Freecycle™, a site where you can offer goods you no longer need for free collection.
I decided to begin with our late Aunty Peggy’s commode, which had lingered in the garage for more than 15 years on the off chance it might come in useful. Once registered with my local Freecycle group, I made my first post. There was one reply, and after making sure that the respondent really understood the purpose of a commode, we arranged a collection time. A young couple with a baby appeared. They nodded approvingly as they raised the lid to gaze at the plastic beneath and I couldn’t resist asking why they wanted it. ‘We come from Mongolia,’ said the young man ‘This is for our grandmother in Mongolia. She needs it. We will send to her £1 per kilo.’ He picked up the commode with a broad smile and they all set off down the road to catch the bus back to Shepherd’s Bush. I thought that Aunty Peggy would be delighted that her commode was off on such an exotic journey.
My next post was for a wooden single bed, bringing in several replies. I chose a Hounslow man who wanted the bed for his daughter and who appeared on the doorstep at the appointed time with a beautiful blue and green parrot on his shoulder. ‘This is Annie’ he said, as the parrot nodded agreement. After we’d loaded the bed into the car, my husband asked him, ‘Isn’t it a bit difficult driving with a parrot on your shoulder?’ He replied, ‘Not at all, and I checked with a policeman friend of mine who said that as long as she doesn’t obstruct my view, that’s fine.’ He eased himself into the driving seat and, as he turned the ignition, the parrot leaned forward and bent round right in front of his face. What could the policeman, if he existed, have been thinking?
Various pieces of furniture were snapped up by the William Wilberforce Trust which has a project in Brentford for collecting, renovating, and then selling furniture at modest prices to people on low incomes. Two decanters which we hadn’t used since our mothers’ sherry drinking days were requested by a daughter who said that her own mother’s decanter had broken. I was most sympathetic until she told me on the doorstep that she wanted to surprise her mother with the new decanters when she got back from a round-the-world cruise. I didn’t give my son’s old keyboard to someone who asked me to clean it before she collected it; I gave it to a man who had played on a similar one when he was a boy and now wanted his own son to have an identical model. Duvets, blankets, curtains, clip frames, Christmas decorations, crockery and a pair of castanets have all been recycled to appreciative new homes. Even a bag of shiny marbles found a niche with a Russian woman who had fallen on hard times and wanted the marbles to put inside glass vases for decoration.
There are also posts from people advertising for items that they want. I replied to a post by a teacher who wanted children’s board games for a club she was setting up at her school. Another woman advertised for adult and children’s books in any condition because her local library had closed and she needed books for the elderly people and needy children that she was supporting. She took a whole bookcaseful of books we no longer wanted.
It’s a wonderful system and it’s more or less worldwide; a grassroots and non-profit movement of people who are giving and receiving articles for free in their own communities. It’s about recycling and keeping usable possessions out of landfills. Each group is moderated by local volunteers and membership is free. I have had great fun while freecycling and met some really interesting people. And, perhaps even more important, we can now get the car in the garage. Freecycle™ proves the truth of the saying ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.’
Freecycle™ is at www.freecycle.org where you can find your local group, register and start freecycling.
*The trademark motto of the Freecycle movement.