GratiTuesday: Buy Nothing Project

It’s a simple concept really, one that has been around forever: neighbors helping neighbors. Borrowing a cup of sugar, lending a tool, or handing down clothes your child has outgrown. Because of social media, this transfer of items – no longer needed by one person but wanted by others – can extend beyond a few houses on a single block.

I discovered the Buy Nothing Project through another local Facebook site and was immediately intrigued. As anyone who has read this blog for a while knows, my husband and I have been focusing on getting rid of stuff. Most of our unwanted items are donated to our local charity shops or, sometimes, listed on eBay, but what about those items that don’t fit neatly in the Donate or Sell boxes? Things like half-used but perfectly good pads of paper, or partially used colored pencils, or three-ring binders that are no longer needed? Do we have to just throw them away? Despite our desire to get rid of clutter, we didn’t want to add to the landfill… especially if someone else could use them.

The Buy Nothing Project (buynothingproject.org) Mission Statement says it all:

We offer a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.

How great is that?

Here are just some of the listings found recently on our local Buy Nothing Facebook page: gently used shoes, a bag of yarn, board games, succulent cuttings, wine corks, a need for a ride to the doctor, an offer of lemons from a backyard tree, some used-once but no longer wanted skin lotion, a baby seat. (By the way, that baby seat gift was followed up by a delightful gratitude post showing the new owner’s baby enjoying his gifted seat. After he is done with it, my guess is that the seat will be regifted to someone else.)

On the Buy Nothing Project About page, you can learn more about their vision and principles, and find a group near you to join. What if there isn’t already a group in your area? They also provide information about how you can set one up.

The Buy Nothing Project started in 2013, when two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, created an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island, WA. I am grateful to them for having the vision and a shared belief in the kindness of others. Their little experiment in community giving has become a worldwide social movement, with groups in 20 nations.

Author: RetirementallyChallenged.com

My blog is about travel, relationships, photography, and whatever else pops into my head (even, sometimes, issues surrounding retirement and aging).

70 thoughts on “GratiTuesday: Buy Nothing Project”

  1. This is a great idea. In simpler times people used to barter. The dentist pulled your tooth, you ‘paid’ him with perhaps a pot of chicken soup and a homemade loaf of bread….fresh from the oven.

    Then we started leaning towards giving away stuff we no longer needed or wanted to someone who could really use it.

    Both winners in my book. We’ve practiced gifting usable, but not used any longer, items to family, friends, neighbors we barely knew, all our married life….56+ years. Why? Why not? It’s fun. It’s practical. Everyone wins. It’s a great way to ‘pay it forward’.

    But The Buy Nothing project really takes gifting to a new level. I’m going to forward this post to some family and friends that I think will be very interested. Since I’m not a fellow blogger, I am totally ignorant of “blogging etiquette”!! I’m working on the assumption that when a blogger posts something, they want it read by as many people as possible, and so you won’t mind my passing this on.

    Great post. Thanks for sharing this.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    1. Absolutely, Ginger… share with anyone you think would be interested. I love the concept and would be thrilled if it spread even more widely than it has already. So much is thrown away that could be used – and appreciated – by someone else.

  2. Love this idea. Wouldn’t be great if this was done everywhere, no wastage no need for more landfills. We do try and give as environmentally as possible. We do give our clothes that we no longer want to various charity shops we towns we are housesitting instead of putting them in the rubbish as long as they are in a useable condition.

  3. This is great information! I often come across items that don’t exactly fit as a ‘donation’, and since it’s usually something I no longer find useful, I would like to pass it along. Thank you for including their links and story. I have never heard of this before, and it is such a good idea!

  4. Okay, so I tried to post a comment to your blog and got a message “This comment could not be posted”, so I’ll try another way. Let’s see if you get one or two comments from me. Here’s what I tried to post:

    “We are so in tune. I just dropped off two armloads of wire coat hangers at the dry cleaners, then when I went to the garden center, I returned the plastic pots from my last visit. I’ve donated all of my excess vases to the local florist shop, and last weekend six framed prints that we no longer want were donated to the Visiting Nurse fundraiser.

    I’m going to check out the Buy nothing project to see if there is one near me. What a great idea! I’m thinking about what else I can shed to simplify my life. “

    1. Hi Shelley! I just received this one comment… are you spending some time in spam prison? 🙂 You are obviously already a member in good standing of the reuse/recycle club! Buy Nothing just takes things to a different level. I hope you have a group near you… it’s fun to look through the items and requests that are posted.

  5. What a great concept. I’ll certainly look into this, Janis. Before going to work this morning, I left a large bag of clothing and shoes for the Disabled Vets. I love to donate things I’m no longer wearing or using.

    1. I see Buy Nothing as just another avenue for donating items. I will still send my best items to The Discovery Shop because they support cancer research but, for some things, this seems like a great way to go. I hope you find a Buy Nothing group in your area!

  6. Hi, Janis – What a timely post! I just read this after dropping off a large basket of plastic and cloth bags that were being “urgently requested” for the thrift store at one of our community centers. I love the “Buy Nothing” concept and quickly checked to see if there was one in our area. The closest one to us is 45 minutes away. Unfortunately, they are requesting that all members are local (our area does not qualify). I will continue to keep my eyes open to see if one develops closer to us. In the meantime, our local thrift shop that I mentioned above, is fabulous at taking just about anything (half pads of paper, half jars of lotion, etc. etc.). Thank you for another inspiring GratiTuesday post!

    1. It sounds like your thrift shop is pretty flexible and that’s great. Too bad that your nearest BN group is for far away but I know they like to keep things very local. Maybe in your spare time, you could start one in your area… JUST KIDDING! As long as items go to people who need or want them and stay out of the landfill, it doesn’t matter how they get there.

      1. Hi, Janis – I agree that passing along usable (no longer needed) items to others is the way to go. Hopefully the Buy Nothing group that is 45 minutes away from us will expand over into our area soon! 🙂

  7. What a great idea and a worthy cause. We throw away so much unused product which would be appreciated by others. I would love you to link up and join us at the Midlife Share the Love Party each Wednesday if you are interested.
    Sue from Sizzling Towards 60 & Beyond

      1. Hi there Midlife Share is open now as it is based on Brisbane, Australia time. It is now Wednesday afternoon here. Hope you can link up if not then next week you are most welcome x

  8. Thanks, Janis, for sharing such a great idea. I checked and the closest one is quite far. However, I’ve been recycling, donating, and reusing as much as possible.

    1. I’m sorry that you don’t have a group close by. If you live in a fairly populated area, it might just be a matter of time before it arrives. In the meantime, there are other ways to recycle and donate and it sounds like you are a believer!

  9. How wonderful! My church has a yard sale once/year and I save up items to donate. Throughout the year I gather clothing we don’t use or have replaced and donate to our church thrift shop. And we have a local Habitat for Humanity store that takes household items. But I like the idea of another outlet. I’m going to check to see if we have a local Buy Nothing project.

  10. Thanks for the heads up on this Janis, I had not heard about. I plan to check it out and spread the word. We are also downsizing, and I would be thrilled to know my “stuff” is going where its needed.

  11. Thanks, Janis. I just looked and there are several local chapters where I live. It looks like most of them started within the last year and they have very few members, but I’ll spread the word amongst my friends. We’re all at the age where downsizing is a smart and satisfying reality.

    1. I bet your local group will have many new members soon. As soon as people realize it exists and how easy it is to gift an item, they’ll want to participate. And, you are right, it’s perfect for those of us in the “letting go” stage.

  12. As you can imagine, I totally love this concept. Did you manage to post items on the Facebook group for your area? I assume it’s local pick-up only? A great resource, Janis, for when you need something, or more often, need to get rid of something.

    I hate waste as well, and it would make me happy that things I have no use for will be reused. Perfect! Plus, I’ve always been a fan for “swapping”, and helping out, something that was very prominent when we lived on our sailboat and traded services and items with other cruisers and the locals. No money involved, no money needed.

    1. The groups seem to be pretty local so you can imagine that there are quite a few of them here. I’ve been able to “gift” a few items and have more to post. I love the idea of borrowing an item too – it really makes sense to share a wanted, but seldom needed, item… like maybe a big folding table for an outdoor party. Also traded services – the internet has made linking people up so easy.

  13. What a lovely idea! We’re in exactly the same spot. If it’s not beautiful or used frequently, it’s outta here! But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be used by someone else. I’ll be looking for a group like this in my area! Thanks Janis! ~ Lynn

  14. A really good idea. Many of those items you listed might not all be accepted at a re-sale shop such as Goodwill. Yet, there are uses for them such as art projects (i.e. the wine corks). Thanks for the head’s up. – Marty

  15. Fascinating. I’ve heard of individual people deciding to not buy anything new for some length of time, but never an organization set up based on that concept. Good ideas are everywhere, aren’t they?

  16. What a good idea! So many people have stuff they want to get rid of, but don’t want to throw away. And we don’t always know which charities to give them to (especially after I donated an end table to a group once and watch their workmen throw it into their truck. Naturally, it broke). What a great way to recycle stuff that is still good, just no longer needed in their original home!

  17. Hi, I’m a huge believer of recycle, reuse, etc. and donated tons on our downsizing. I prefer donating or giving away to the hassle of a yard sale, which are quite common in our area. I checked on Buy Nothing and there is only one non-active group about 8 miles away from me. It doesn’t seem to have caught on here. But I’ve noted our local NextDoor often has items on it… “free to a good home” things, and some “do you have I can borrow”. So that’s another outlet. And I’ve given half-used office supplies to teacher friends…. they can use a box of mis-matched pens and pencils or extra paper in the classroom easily.

    1. That’s too bad that the nearest group to you couldn’t stay active, but Next Door is a good option too. Our Next Door site is where I first learned about Buy Nothing because they encourage everyone with a free item to start there first. My partially used colored pencils went to a teacher and I was happy to give them to her, knowing they would be well-used by little artists.

  18. Wow, what a great idea. Just don’t tell Hans… Seriously, Next Door is a great place for this idea. And being local it’s easy for me or someone to quickly come over and check out the goods. Thanks for this reminder, Janis!

    1. Do you have a Buy Nothing Group in your area? I don’t think it’s affiliated with Next Door, but I imagine that pretty much the same people follow both. And, tell Hans that it is to be used TO GET RID OF STUFF, not acquire more 🙂

  19. Does Amtrak even go through Santa Fe? When I took it through New Mexico decades ago, it passed below Santa Fe. I think I recall it going through Las Vegas, New Mexico.

    1. I imagine that you meant to leave this comment on my post about the Santa Fe Train Depot? I’m not sure where it goes in New Mexico, but this station is in San Diego. It was called Santa Fe because of the railroad company (who built the station), not the city.

  20. I like this idea. We are clearing/cleaning out closets, the office, under beds, too. I have loads of old notebooks and paper pads too. I’ll check this out
    Thanks
    Laura

    1. I hope that you are able to find a local group. It really fills a nitch between what you might take to your local thrift store and what you might toss. On the other hand, I’ve seen some really nice items listed for free, like a perfectly good dining table and chairs.

  21. As I lived in a small town, I grew up with the concept of sharing, swapping, and hand-me-downs. I had hand-me-down clothes from cousins, and my first bicycle and ski boots were gifted by family friends whose daughters had outgrown them. Neighbours shared tools and yard equipment (eg. Roto-tiller), and we made pots of soup for the local soup kitchen. I gave my maternity wear to my best friend, and she in turn gave me hers when I had my second child.

    In North America, I think the transitory lives that many of us have adopted, moving from place to place because of job opportunities, have loosened the bonds of social connectedness so that we no longer know people in our own social networks who would like that box of pencil crayons or old road bike. That has been compounded by the relentless marketing encouraging us to buy, buy, buy. I am glad of new Internet supported strategies such as Buy Nothing.

    Jude

    1. I think you make a lot of really good points. I also had a bunch of hand-me-down items growing up (even a few of my brothers’ t-shirts 🙂 ). It just made sense to reuse something that wasn’t ready for the garbage. Even in our current neighborhood, there are a few larger, more expensive communal tools shared among the households (but we are all long-time residents). Buy Nothing uses the strength of the social network to bring together those who desire something with those of us who are looking to get rid of an item. It’s a modern version of the age-old concept of neighbor-helping-neighbor.

  22. Very cool indeed. Our neighborhood does much the same thing via the Nextdoor platform, which also functions very well for reuniting lost pets with their grieving families. Not everything about social media is bad news!

    1. Next Door works really well (in fact, that’s how I learned about Buy Nothing). Since we have a robust Buy Nothing group in our area, Next Door encourages all Free items to be listed in BN first. So far, it has worked really well.

    1. There have been a few things that I’ve hesitated giving away but, when I finally do, I seldom regret the decision. Sometimes I wish we had kids to pass things down to but they probably wouldn’t want them either. Best to find someone who can use the items and give it away without a second thought.

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