The Luxury of Giving: Freecycling and Frugality

5 years ago

I'm sitting at my laptop right now, looking at a box I have packed for someone to pick up later. The box contains a dozen-plus drinking glasses that have spent years moving from one basement to another as our family moved. They're nice, but I have no visceral connection to them. Therefore, they are going to be freecycled.

Credit Image: craigemorsels on Flickr

This freecycling thing is my latest fixation. Not a week goes by that my husband doesn't come home to hear what thing went that day! My local community is a bustling one, and my offers generally go in the first 48 hours. My basement is growing, suddenly unburdened by excess.

Technically, it is a "loss" of money, unless one is receiving the items. Literal frugality would demand that I should be Ebaying these suckers and getting some profit for myself, no matter how minor. But I won't do that. For me, having the free space in my household and knowing that someone else is going to enjoy the items is worth far more than waiting and waiting to make a few bucks.

That's not to say a truly valuable item shouldn't be Ebayed. There are some fine candidates, and everyone knows someone who’s made a nice pot of money from auctioning. But I’m suspicious of the “No, wait, Ebay!” reaction so many people have to excess stuff.

I must be honest. I think of Ebay like I think of politicians: useful and worth the effort once in a blue moon, but largely a flood of bullshit. And I need less bull in my life. We all do.

Getting rid of excess means not just more space, but more time, too. So much time is spent curating stuff that it’s stunning. And it places a unique burden on women, who still have the lion's share of the housework. _Life at Home in the Twenty-First Century_ (University of California Press) documents the awful effects of clutter in what are, on some level, American Dream homes: “Managing the volume of possessions was such a crushing problem in many homes that it actually elevated levels of stress hormones for mothers.”

So here I am, giving away stuff I no longer need or want. Things that have literally not seen the light of day in years. Sometimes I wonder at the dollar value of what I have freecycled or Goodwilled. I suppose, technically, I am throwing money away. Technically. So is this freecycling frugal for the giver?

I find it hard to agree with that. I’d rather donate or give away unused goods than wait around to possibly-maybe-if-I’m-lucky sell them because I find that the act of freely giving enriches my life. I have more space, it’s easier to clean, I am active in deciding what’s truly valuable. I have more time, since there’s less stuff to curate. Even though I’m not saving money per se, I was sure as hell not saving any before when this stuff was taking up space in the basement!

Freecycling and (thoughtful) donations have become a large part of my approach to frugality. Has anyone else tried these, and how have they worked out for people?



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