Guest Post: Eight Simple Rules for Freecycle or Craigslist

Today I’m welcoming my writing colleague Leah Ingram, who blogs about living frugally at, where, quel coincidence, I’m her guest blogger today.

Leah is a lifestyle and frugal-living expert and author of “Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less” (Adams Media, 2010). This book includes Leah’s unique money-saving advice, including how a family can save $25,000 a year. Her second title in the Suddenly Frugal series is “Toss, Keep, Sell! The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Cleaning Out Clutter and Cashing In” (Adams Media, 2010).

If you’ve decided to clear out your clutter and make some cash—the topic of my book “Toss, Keep, Sell! The Suddenly Frugal Guide to Cleaning Out Clutter and Cashing In”—you may turn to Craigslist to find sellers. Or if you just want to get rid of your clutter and keep it out of the waste stream, you may want to give things away on Freecycle.

Regardless of which method you use, you should keep in mind these eight simple rules for using Freecycle and Craigslist. Basically, it comes to good manners. So here is my take on good Freecycle/Craigslist etiquette:

Freecycling isn’t window shopping

It’s easy to think of Freecycle as a bargain, free-for-all. But that doesn’t mean that you should respond to every “offer” post that shows up on your Freecycle list. When people do this, it ends up making it difficult for everyone to get rid off their stuff.

Case in point: recently we cleaned out my office, bought a new desk and put the old one up on Freecycle. When the first person responded, I let her know that she would need to pick up the desk within 24 hours. Thirty-six hours later when I still hadn’t heard from her, I gave the desk to the second person who’d responded to my ad. I guess she was just window shopping.

People who post on Freecycle are not your personal shoppers

When you respond to a Craigslist “for sale” ad or something being given away for free on Freecycle, it is your job to get the desired item in a timely manner.

To respond to an ad, then say, “Oh, I’m going out of town tomorrow; can you hold it for a week” or “Gas is too expensive; can you meet me somewhere halfway?” is just not cool. You should be bending over backwards to pick that item up in a timely and hassle-free manner.

There’s nothing wrong with putting time limits in your “offer” ad

Recently, we were getting rid of some pretty big pieces of furniture, and I did not want them cluttering up my house any longer than they had to. That’s why, when I posted on Craigslist, I wrote: “Respond only if you can come to my home by Friday.” The person who could meet my deadline got the goods.

Freecycle doesn’t mean trash

While the thinking behind Freecycle is that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, that doesn’t mean that you should waste people’s time. Most people assume that others will have good intentions when using Freecycle and will offer only decent items that someone can truly use.

When posting an offer, it’s a good idea to include a picture

When you shop online, you really want to see something before you buy it. Freecycle and Craigslist are no different. When I’ve posted an offer without a picture, I didn’t get many responses. However, if I upload a photo, stuff just flies out the door.

Price responsibly when selling on Craigslist

Before we moved, I sold all of my kids’ outgrown toddler toys, which had been taking up space in our basement. When I put an ad on Craigslist for a Fisher-Price toy box, I didn’t expect to get anything near what I paid for it. I priced it at $10 and, bam, it sold. I also sold file cabinets ($10 each) and a worn-out leather couch (a college student got it for $30 for his frat house).

There are not givebacks or returns

Have you heard the phrase caveat emptor? It means “buyer beware.” That applies perfectly to getting stuff for free on Freecycle or dirt cheap on Craigslist. You don’t get a return policy or a warranty. And you’ve got to live with the outcome.

Be nice

You know that little thing called karma? In situations like Freecycle, it really is important to keep karma in mind. You are doing something good for someone by giving them something for free or taking something off their hands for free, so there’s no reason to be high-maintenance about the transaction. Smile and say “thank you,” and I’m confident that karma will come back to reward you in one way or another in the near future.


About organizesf

Professional organizer June Bell ( combats clutter and chaos with sage advice, tested techniques and good humor.
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2 Responses to Guest Post: Eight Simple Rules for Freecycle or Craigslist

  1. Sheila Bell says:

    Interesting, excellent article. I love Craig’s list too.

  2. susanweiner says:

    Thanks for practical tips, Leah! Time limit is a great idea for giving things away. Sometimes we post that “X is now out on the curb. It goes to the first person who comes to get it.”

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