this has to be one of the best uses of the internet i’ve seen:

it’s now trivial for people to pass the things they don’t want to people who can use them. my first great experience with this was through craigslist. i’ve been looking forward for a long time for them to add a baltimore section, and they finally did this year. i subscribed to several of their classified ad sections, and have found all kinds of things through them. glenn and i now sit on the futon i found free through one person, which sits on the frame i found through another. i’m typing this on the beautiful computer desk someone gave us.

craigs can be a source of bargains, too; glenn got a year-old $100 microwave for $15, and i got a year-old $80 vacuum cleaner for the same. it can even be a source of revenue; the vacuum cleaner came with an unused $10 coffee maker (retail: $30) which i sold on amazon for $25. 🙂

but the really exciting aspect of this is the transfer of free stuff. this is a terrifically important change. in the past, so many things sat around unused or went to the landfill just because people didn’t know anyone who could use them. now, there’s freecycle, which is devoted solely to the transfer of items without cost. in each city that has a freecycle group, people post what the have or what they want, and others reply to say they want it or can give it. usually, the person who wants it comes and picks it up, so the giver gets rid of the clutter with even less effort than dragging it to the curbside or hauling it to the dump.

the social network expands. before, we could ask the handful of people we knew, and word-of-mouth might or might not bring a reply. now, we just spend a minute or two typing an email, and the word goes to hundreds. (1,212 members currently in baltimore. 6,403 in portland!)

several months of watching the craigslist ads has made it clear that all or almost all household items can be had for free or for very little cost if you just wait a while. if you can sleep on a mattress on the floor for a couple of months, someone will inevitably have a bed she wants hauled away. if you can live with a fan for part of the summer, someone will have a nearly-new air conditioner to sell at 1/2 price. if you can cook on the gas range this fall, someone will give you a microwave this winter. i’m learning just to make do and wait and watch.

from each according to his surplus, to each according to his need. and nothing thrown away!

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