Freecycle is a Yahoo! group where people can get rid of the things they no longer want: old TVs, kitchen appliances, clothing - you name it, people list it. The great thing is, it's all free. If you see something posted that you want, just contact the person who posted it, and arrange pick-up (P/U). There's a Freecycle group for most cities; in Toronto (where I work as a professional organizer) there are several - one for each major district of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
I've already unloaded a few things myself: an extra pair of figure skates I didn't need (they went to a mom who wanted to skate with her kids), some wooden tea boxes (an artist picked those up to make something crafty), a couple of decks of large-faced playing cards (they went to an elderly couple whose vision was failing), and some paper coin wrappers (for a little girl who was cashing in her piggy bank).
I've acquired some new things, too: fabric scraps from somebody's grandmother who'd died, some ladies' blazers (which ended up being too small - in the end, I donated them to Dress Your Best here in Toronto), a professional steam iron, and (my favorite) a room ionizer, which successfully removed a horrible, lingering oil-paint smell from my bachelor apartment when they were renovating one of the suites down the hall a few weeks ago.
All of my experiences with Freecyclers have been wonderful and heart-warming; I especially loved chatting with the guy who gifted me with the ionizer. He's a retired headhunter who "curb surfs" (scoops up things that people leave at the curb for the garbage truck) in his wealthy neighbourhood, then takes the stuff home to fix it up, and finds good homes for everything through Freecycle. He proudly showed me a collection of about half-a-dozen items he had waiting for pick-up the day I got the ionizer.
Downsides? Some people posting items seem to have had bad experiences with "no shows." I haven't run across that problem myself. What encourages me most of all is the thought of these things staying out of the landfill. Too bad I didn't know about Freecycle before I helped my boyfriend clean out his basement in December...
(We might have saved him seven trips to the dump...)
copyright 2007, Michelle Lynne Goodfellow