Ask, and you shall free-ceive

at home preloved save money Nov 02, 2022

There’s a lot of stuff sitting around having a good old bludge.

Gumtree has published 10 'second hand economy' reports – the 2020 edition estimating the average Australian household has $5,800 worth of unwanted items lazing about.

I often wonder if my stuff gets bored; iron daydreaming about the next big event, car in the basement pining for its next trip to the beach or impromptu spin with a neighbour via Car Next Door.

The past 3 years I’ve ‘responsibly repurposed’ over 200 things, some for cash and some for free, spurred on by an attempted interstate move, an actual one and admittedly, a bit of “I just can’t bear it” street rescue.

It isn’t always a quick and painless task; it demands the time to post online, take photos and engage with strangers who mostly, are a delight, but sometimes, test your patience.

But I’ll do it to avoid that ghastly red bin.

Because if there’s one thing a circular economist values – it’s the materials all that stuff is made from – the oil, tree fibres, cotton, minerals … the least we can do is prolong their useful life, rather than give them a one way ticket to landfill hell.

My wheeling has been through the ‘usual’ channels: Freecycle, Ebay, Gumtree, Facebook Marketplace and various online swap, buy nothing new and street bounty groups.

My wondrous fares have varied: a children’s blowup boat, an Oktoberfest stein I found passed out outside my house one Spring morning, one Haviana thong – yes one (aka jandal, slides or flip flip - calm down) - maybe Alpargatas S.A. can start a 'lost sole' take back program? They can even have the name for free.

And perhaps an all time favourite - a picnic blanket and camping mattress both with holes – I really did think I was rolling the dice on this one, but within a week, a neighbour gladly swooped in on them, bragging proudly about their new life to be: insulating his home brew.

I come at this primarily from environmental motivations, but the additional thrill of meeting like minded people and seeing how much joy, and sometimes help my 'trash' can bring another person, shouldn't be discounted.

There are plenty of other channels I’ve discovered worth mentioning: a usable laptop, donated to the Refugee Language Program at Sydney University, some nice work attire, off to a City of Sydney clothes swap with The Clothing Exchange.

The wrong size batteries purchased for my car key – took them along to choir and they were snapped up.

And I took advantage of Reverse Garbage, The Bower and various animal rescue organisations, all playing an admirable role in the redistribution of useful things.  

But then, the tables turned <<<< pause for dramatic effect >>>>> I wanted some stuff.

I got to wondering if it was out there, waiting for me, in someone else’s home. So I went on my own little Freecycle experiment, during 'Buy Nothing New Month' and wrote this article as I was genuinely astonished at the results.

Here was the wish list - not completely obscure, but not too mainstream either: a lasagne baking dish, a magnetic fridge whiteboard, a rectangular stone planter, waterproof Birthday decorations, and perhaps the most important item, a Halloween costume for my dog.

Drum roll ………

Lasagne baking dish

 This was my first item.

Title: Lasagne baking dish.

Mandatory description: Hmmmmm … A dish for baking lasagne in (?!) I felt I'd used all my cards early.

Within 2 days, someone replied, "yep I’ve got one, I’ve put it out the front of my house, here’s the address - come get it when you like" - this was a 15 min cycle or 30 min drive away to collect (yes, I got those in the right order, it's Sydney after all).

Magnetic whiteboard planner for fridge

I thought this was a long shot, but a few days later I had an offer of a BRAND new one, still in its wrapping about a 20 min cycle away.


Rectangular stone planter

Two replies within 24 hours – one offer not quite what I needed and the other person offering to travel to her second property to take pictures of what she had on offer for me. My new passionfruit vine is in for a treat.

Waterproof birthday decorations

A tidal wave of replies ensued for this one – I had to delete the post, but needless to say, it warranted a satisfactory result.

Halloween costume for Dog

This was the only one that didn’t come through. I removed the post, but do wonder what the response rate would be like now the big spooky day has passed.

And upon reflection, in the end, this need was easily addressed with some white face paint and rescued caution tape, about to go in my building manager’s office bin.

So there you have it !

I could go on philosophical tangents about whether us bin chicken people are enabling other people’s consumption habits, and appreciate I live in a high density city, and this wasn’t a long term study (inner Scientist grins nervously) – but this small sample, and the results, have been enough to make sure I spin the Freecycle wheel before hitting the shops next time I need something.


Bel is a devoted circular economist and has a lot more space these days.

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