By Dot Bergin
Everything from a jar of pickles to a chintz-covered sofa to a set of elegant china – as well as children’s books, clothing, toys, and sports equipment – you can find it all on Buy Nothing, Bedford, a thriving social movement that has now grown to some 500 members in less than a year.
Buy Nothing, Bedford resides on a Facebook platform and is easy to join. It provides an innovative way for people to offer–for free–no longer needed household items, or, conversely, to put out the word for items they are seeking. But there is a deeper purpose beyond simply offloading one’s excess “stuff.” The goal of the project is to build community and forge deeper connections with neighbors, in the exchange of goods.
The Citizen recently spoke with Sonal Patel who brought the concept of “Buy Nothing” with her from her former life in San Diego. Sonal moved to Bedford in October 2017; she and her husband have two small children, ages 2 and 4. She immediately saw that the project would be a good fit for Bedford. She is the administrator of the group and told us that she often receives as many as 10 requests a day to join. The group is open to all who agree to abide by its governing rules and guidelines. A quick survey of recent postings seems to show that young families are especially enthusiastic participants. What a creative way to pass along last year’s outgrown hockey skates or the baby equipment, now that the “baby” is in pre-school!
Sonal recently posted this update on the group’s Facebook page: “I just wanted to let you all know that I’m following all your posts and love seeing all the gifting, sharing, and helping that’s happening here. We just hit 500 members in less than a year! Thank you all for being part of this group, for spreading the word about Buy Nothing, Bedford, and for helping to make our great community even better.
“Much of the beauty of this group is the realization that you are interacting with real people, with real needs, desires, worries, thoughts, and feelings. You are not ordering from an online company or a customer service operator from across the country. These are your neighbors, your friends. This experiment is about putting people first, about building real-life communities, not simply about “getting stuff” and “getting rid of stuff.” Share a bit about yourself and why you’re looking for an item, or why you’re giving it away. Use humor, tell a short story about the item, whatever will help your fellow group members understand how they can help you.”
And she adds, “Once you’ve picked up an item, feel free to let us know how it impacted your life or your family. We love to see Gratitude posts!”
One member recently expressed her gratitude in this way: “It has been wonderful interacting with gifters and ‘giftees’ of this group!”
The Buy Nothing project is now a worldwide movement. It originated in 2013 with two women living on Bainbridge Island, Washington, who had the idea of creating an experimental hyper-local gift economy. Although people may join because they want to get rid of things cluttering their lives, or simply to save money by getting things for free, they soon discover the groups are not just another freecycling program.
As the founders write, “A gift economy’s real wealth is the people involved and the web of connections that forms to support them.”