Spring clean with a little help from the web
You’ll recognise this scenario. I have lots of things I no longer need. They aren’t broken, some of them aren’t even old, but I just don’t need them. Because I care for the environment and can’t abide waste, I don’t want these things to go to landfill. But nor do I want them to simply sit in my home gathering dust. I want them to be used.
The internet is great for helping me realise these ambitions thanks to sharing and donating services which let me reach lots of people at once simply by listing what I’ve got on offer.
One of the best known networks of people who want to give things away to each other is Freecycle. Its origins lie in a very small, local recycling scheme set up in Tucson, Arizona in 2003. Since then it has grown to reach more than 85 countries and to have millions of members.
But the service is also very, very local. It works on the basis of groups which cover relatively small geographical areas. You can sign up at the website and then join groups based in your location. You can join as many groups as you want to, but be careful – it’s a busy site. My most local group, focussed on one London borough, has more than 6,000 members.
Once you’ve signed up it is easy to make an ‘offer’ of a particular item. People will see the offer, decide if they like it, and get in touch for more information. Just because you don’t want or need something doesn’t mean others won’t find it useful.
I once listed a duplicate music CD on Freecycle and ended up giving it to an orchestra member who was about to play the piece and wanted to hear different recordings of it!
The service also works when you want something. Just post a ‘wanted’ notice and see what happens. I’ve picked up some amazing things this way, including a wonderful old bicycle that just needed new tyres and a service to get it on the road.
Discipline is important when browsing what’s on offer as it’s easy to get tempted and end up acquiring more stuff. This rather defeats the de-cluttering concept but I have been known to succumb. Particularly when someone is giving away a ‘big bag of books’.
Freecycle isn’t the only scheme of this kind available. A very similar alternative is Freegle, a UK based network whose name reflect their ethos - ‘FREEly Given, Locally, Easily’. And there are other takes on the reuse/recycle theme.
If you need some equipment for a project, or have something you think others might like to borrow, then the Ecomodo web site might be able to help. You can even use Ecomodo to set up local ‘lending circles’ that benefit people in a small area or a shared interest group can pool resources.
And there are a number of online recycling services specialising in particular types of goods. For example, if you’ve got old computer equipment you can offer it on specialist websites that concentrate on this area such is Donate A PC which is specifically targeted at charities and not for profit organisations.
You can also check charity websites to see if they will collect items from you. The British Heart Foundation, for example, will collect furniture and electrical items – and you can book collections on their website.
The internet really does offer a lot of potential to help you de-clutter your own space without simply sending a lot of stuff off to landfill. And that has to be a good thing.
Visit our Internet Basics course Registering on a website to learn about signing up to sites.
Sandra Vogel is a technology journalist who has written for many web sites and magazines. She's written several books on computing. As well as technology she enjoys running, growing vegetables and playing the saxophone.