Best things in life are free challenge: Free stuff

So far in my challenge to find out whether the best things in life really do come for free, I have sampled foraged foods and searched for free activities to do in the UK. I’ve attended local community events and uncovered a raft of free music festivals which are happening this summer I had no idea existed before.

But this week I have a new task. My mission is to find items I can source for nothing. Whenever we need something – a present or an item for the house – for many of us, and I include myself, it’s automatic to think we need to hit the shops or look online for something to buy. Being a consumer has become second nature to us and it’s customary to feel that we need to spend a certain amount on someone or something for the purchase to be good enough. But does it always have to be like this?

A couple I know managed to kit most of their first home out in furniture reclaimed from skips and the local dump. It was a few years ago before recycling websites such as Freecycle and Freegle had really got off the ground, and at the time it raised a few eyebrows, but the furniture was fine and mostly matched too, which surprised me. However, visiting my local recycling plant over the weekend, I can see how they did it. I was amazed by some of the items people had thrown away. There were two perfectly good kitchen chairs perched on top of one of the skips. Neither of them had a mark on them. DJ and I were at a loss as to why they had been thrown away. Next to them was a matching bookcase, which was also in good condition. Presumably somebody had upgraded their kitchen or dining room furniture and had thrown out the unwanted items, but it’s a shame they hadn’t found a better home for them. If I’d been furnishing a new place, I would have been tempted to take them home but we have all the furniture we need. I hope an enterprising individual stumbles across them and finds a place for them.

I’ve come to realise that my local recycling plants are worth keeping an eye on. Besides the opportunity to source household items for free, one of our plants held a special day recently where they gave away free compost made from local residents’ garden waste. Unfortunately I missed the event but given that DJ is always after compost for the garden, it’s something I’m keeping tabs on as they plan to run another free compost day again soon.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that our local chapter of Freecycle is a mine of unusual free stuff. I get several emails from them each week and have given away unwanted items on there myself, but I haven’t looked at them for some time. This week I had a good read. True, there are the clapped out sofas and junk, but there are also some intriguing things. This week somebody is giving away dark room equipment they no longer want. There are also some useful gardening items too, such as a mini plastic greenhouse and wood to make a raised bed. Other people were asking to borrow items, such as a gazebo for a fete, which I thought was a great idea. Why bother buying something like that if you only need it for a short time and somebody in the community can help you out?

It makes me think that some of these websites are probably a good place to source items for a new hobby you want to try out, as long as you have the relevant know-how to check that they are in working order. Just reading through the messages gave me some new hobby inspiration.

Have you sourced furniture or other items, such as hobby equipment for free? How successful has it been? Leave a message and let me know.

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14 Responses to Best things in life are free challenge: Free stuff

  1. Flo says:

    Things are hardly free if you need a car or van to collect them from a house or recycling area are they? What you save on the item you may well spend on petrol to collect the whatever it is. Swings and roundabouts there.

  2. Duncan says:

    I\’ve had lots from freecycle – carpet, wardrobe, mattress, and I\’ve donated quite a bit as well. It\’s much better than having it go to waste or landfill, Yes, it might require a vehicle to collect some of these things, but it would have to be located a substantial distance away before the fuel cost started to exceed the cost of the item. And that\’s without the environmental dimension of reusing something rather than joining in the conspicuous consumption jamboree.

  3. Kerri says:

    I\’ve received a number of things off of Freegle too, our wooden headboard, a small set of draws which I sanded down and re-waxed, a new divan base in our old flat with storage draws – was exactly what I needed, more storage and a new base to replace the one Guinness had used as a secondary scratch post. I\’ve also put lots of stuff on ther. Piper, I am suprised you see postings on there though where people are asking to borrow things as this (to my knowledge) is actually not allowed on Freegle.

  4. Nicky says:

    I LOVE Freecycle! I have never collected anything from there, but have given away stuff that I didn\’t need/use but couldn\’t bear to throw out (e.g. old TV). @Flo Hewitt yes you may spend some money collecting the item, but surely a fiver of petrol is better than £50 plus on something?

  5. Flo says:

    Hi Nicola-Rose, I\’m not against the logic of Freecycle at all, in fact it\’s a great idea – what I\’m trying to underline is that nothing is ever really, really, really free in the society we live in. There are always costs somewhere along the line to us in free stuff. A library is free but we\’ve paid our council tax, the local park is free but we\’ve paid our council tax. But I\’m all for using the free that is available.

  6. Neil says:

    I do not want to put a dampener on things, but actually if you take something from a skip at a council recycling centre it is stealing. Once the item goes in the skip it becomes the property of the council so, if you remove that property without permission, your collar could be being felt by the boys and girls in blue. Yes I know \’law\’, \’ass\’ and \’being\’ come to mind, but please don\’t shoot the messenger! Happy hunting!

  7. Piper says:

    Hi Kerri – wow, am impressed by all the sanding and rewaxing you\’ve been doing with your furniture. A great idea. Wish I was similarly gifted! The message about borrowing the gazebo was on Freecycle not Freegle, but don\’t know whether anybody helped them out or not. Neil – yes, good point about pinching things from skips being illegal. Oops! Have mentioned it before on previous posts but forgot to this week. Don\’t tell the boys in blue!

  8. Piper says:

    As for the travel costs, if you are travelling locally to pick something up it won\’t cost much and if you use the journey to make other errands too, you would have made that journey anyway. It\’s easy to be negative and complain that nothing in our society is free, but there are other free things – what about friendship and kindness? You can\’t buy that.

  9. Kerri says:

    Hi Piper, to the best of my knowledge, Freecycle and Freegle are the same thing – I got an email some time ago from my local Freecycle network saying they are changing the name to Freegle. Neil/Piper, if the skip it outside a house, then isn\’t the property that of the person who has hired and is paying for the skip? I understood that if you asked their permission, it was ok to take it,

  10. Kerri says:

    Hi Piper, to the best of my knowledge, Freecycle and Freegle are the same thing – I got an email some time ago from my local Freecycle network saying they are changing the name to Freegle. Neil/Piper, if the skip it outside a house, then isn\’t the property that of the person who has hired and is paying for the skip? I understood that if you asked their permission, it was ok to take it,

  11. Piper says:

    Yep – have just checked & the UK Freecycle have broken away from the US controlled Freecycle and are now called Freegle. As for skips outside somebody\’s home, as far as I know, you have to ask the person\’s permission to take the item from the skip. Once rubbish is placed on the street outside somebody\’s home it becomes the property of the council.

  12. Bill says:

    I collect & deliver fantastic quality furniture, which has been donated to a local Charity, which they give to the needy, or sell to raise funds. They pay me something fers diesel when they are having a good day, it also looks good on me CV, & I have the Charity authority ter take any item I need fers free, unless it is already "pre-sold".

  13. Bill says:

    I also get the benefit of other work, such as a day or half day household removal, which is paid cash by the punters direct. This is all duty free, fers mutual benefit, not ter be confused with cash-in-hand.

  14. Bill says:

    Why am I able ter post a comment today please, when I have not been able so to do all week-end?

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