Less stuff, less stress seems to have been the mantra of the last year, as we all hunkered down for quarantine or maybe prepped for a PCS.
It’s freeing, saying goodbye to all of the things that no longer serve you, no longer “bring you joy.”
But what do you do with all of that stuff?
Often times it has a lot of life left in it, it just doesn’t fit YOUR life. There are lots of options- the on base thrift shop or Airman’s Attic for lower ranking enlisted, community charity operations, the contentious Goodwill.
Sometimes, though, I just didn’t want to turn an item over to a group, not knowing if it would actually be put in the hands of someone who wanted it. I decided to try and make a few bucks and sell it online in Facebook marketplace.
When we started purging all of our newborn baby stuff last year, I started by listing it in some of these groups. I went for a cheap price- trying to unload it quickly so we could have the space back in our home while also making it was affordable to someone who needed it.
It worked. Kind of.
I’d be contacted by someone who wanted to buy our things usually within an hour or two. We would coordinate a pick up time, and then I’d get there and wait. And wait. And. Wait.
Usually I’d get a message from the buyer (who I’d never met before) 10 minutes after our scheduled meet time, something along the lines of, “Sorry hun, running just a minute late, be right there,” or “Oh, I didn’t look at the address and went to the other grocery store, can you drive here instead?” And then when they did show up, I would get, “I know it’s supposed to be $15 but I only brought $10 so will you just take that?”
At that point I had usually invested 30 minutes of my life or more, had screaming babies who were annoyed at sitting in a parked car, and just wanted to get rid of the thing in the back, so I’d take it. I realized that selling was not worth it for me most of the time.
I also discovered that the money wasn’t really important to me. What I really desired was to create less waste by putting what I no longer needed in the hands of someone who did. In one of the sales groups, I saw someone mention the local base freecycle group and I immediately joined. I didn’t really know what it was, but the premise sounded interesting.
If you haven’t been part of one of these military freecycle groups before, either, the rules are pretty straight forward.
Everything is given for free. No exceptions.
You cannot take something for free and then resell it on a sales page.
You cannot give away things that you know to be recalled or harmful in any way (bedbugs, anyone?)
You can say you’re having a garage sale, but you cannot say what you’re selling or the cost.
You can post what you’re in search of, but you cannot offer to pay.
I watched for a bit before I started listing anything. I was curious if people would just list junk, but that really wasn’t the case. Sure, there were things that made you go ehhhh? But there was also a lot of nice stuff. Stuff that could have gone for money for sure on a sales page but the seller wanted it to go to someone who wanted it.
So I started listing, and things went quickly. Since it was a by-invite group only of military families, I felt comfortable giving people my address and having them pick up from my porch, no interaction needed. We weren’t exchanging money; there was no haggling about a price; everyone seems to have an understanding that since we are giving each other things free of charge, you should be a reliable person and show up when you say you’re going to for pick up.
When I thought about it more, it really is an ideal fit for military communities.
Sometimes when we say goodbye to a duty station, we are moving to a place with a different climate and don’t need to haul along snow suits for 4 kids (at least, I hear that happens and I’m hanging my hat on that hope one day). Or we won’t need that massive computer desk because the military member is done with school for now. It just makes so much sense to pay it forward within our greater military family and maybe cash out when we need it in the future.
Things flew out of my home at record speed. Just to name a few items: lamps, sheets for a mattress size we don’t own, curtains that don’t fit our windows and haven’t in 3 assignments, stacks of magazines for craft projects, and shampoo and conditioners that had only been used twice before discovering my child was sensitive to the ingredients. All to people who were happy to get them and would use them. I put out a search for a matching high chair for my twins when I first joined and had 3 people offer theirs within a day. I was able to give away both of these same high chairs to a fellow twin mom today. I may have gotten a little too excited and listed an item or two that I later discovered I did in fact still maybe want. But as it turned out, I didn’t actually need it and saved some space in our home.
It is such a unique community. No drama, just gratitude.
I still regularly donate to the local foster home organization and base donation sites.
But for many things, I list it on the freecycle page and see if anyone has been looking for a particular item. I found it’s so much easier to part with things I don’t need anymore when I know someone else really does.