I'm a friggin' pack rat. My pack rattiness stems entirely from some inner inability to come to terms with the idea of throwing something away that's perfectly good, even if I'll likely never use it again. Computer monitors, computer parts, lawnmowers, old electronic components and gadgets all have a way of accumulating in my garage, attic, basement, and (much to my wife's chagrin) even the dining room and our bedroom at times. I just can't throw something away that's still usable. (I'm pretty sure there's an entry somewhere in the DSM-IV that covers my illness. If not, I'm going to recommend it for inclusion in DSM-V.)
Over the weekend I discovered a really cool service called freecycle. Freecycle is a nationwide effort, with local "chapters" each having their own Yahoo! Group. Users can post items that they no longer want or need, and other users read the listings and think to themselves, "Gee, I could use a broken Commemorative Erik Estrada Novelty Phone" and then send the original member an email to arrange pick up. Additionally, users can post items that they are looking for: "I need a size 56 male bikini brief for my upcoming trip to The Beach Waterpark" ... and people who might have an extra one around can get in touch with the requester and arrange pickup.
I joined Saturday morning at about 8:30 a.m. and by 10:00 I had arranged for pickup of a slightly broken lawnmower and old steel office-style bookshelf that my wife has been begging me to throw away for quite some time.
I do see a potential danger in freecycle: The possibility is there that for someone with a strange obsession with junk, freecycle could turn into a giant swap-meet for pack rats. As I was arranging to get rid of my lawnmower, a message came across offering an almost brand new mini fridge for a bar. It was tempting... but I've made an oath to myself that freecycle will be a strictly one-way trip from my house.
The upside is incredible:
- People get stuff out of their houses that they don't want or need, free of charge.
- Other people get stuff that they want or need, free of charge.
- Perfectly usable stuff doesn't end up in landfills.
The group is quite active; as of this writing, Dayton Freecycle has 12302 members, and there have been 640 messages posted in the last seven days. So the odds are pretty good that someone out there will want the crap that you don't.
Check it out...