Facebook's Genius Buy Nothing Group Helped Me Downsize Before My Move

Soft neutral bedroom with pieces of decor on shelf.

Tyler Karu

In the process of living in my current apartment for the past two years, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff. But, now that I’m moving out, I need to find a way to get rid of said stuff—and it’s stressing me out. After hours of sifting through my hoarding items, I can up with the classic piles: keep, sell, donate, or throw away.

I also came across an additional pile: knick-knacks I no longer wanted, but couldn’t necessarily sell or donate. This included small inspirational signs, random artwork, and so many mugs. While I could attempt to sell the stuff on Facebook Marketplace, it feels like a lot of effort for something I would only make $5, and I don’t really need the money. I could also donate these items to Goodwill, but I’m well aware that these items sit on the shelves for some time, and many donation centers are overwhelmed. 

I was contemplating what to do when my friend told me about Facebook’s best-kept secret: Buy Nothing groups, a network of digital neighborhood groups where you can post and give away items for free to those in your area. It was started as part of the Buy Nothing Project, and it cuts down on the carbon footprint compared to people traveling towns over on Facebook Marketplace and ensures your item is being upcycled into the community.

Modern living room with gallery wall.

Simply Grove

I looked up my neighborhood group, and after answering a few questions, I was in. A quick scroll through the group, and I saw people posting all sorts of things from unwanted snacks to full-sized dressers. I started with posting a hat lamp that was lying around for months after replacing it. Within a few minutes someone responded “Interested!” and we set up a time for pickup that afternoon. When the woman grabbed it, she said that her daughter was going to love it, which gave me all the feels knowing it was going to a good home.

Soon, I became addicted to posting and removing all my unwanted stuff from my apartment as well as how quick and easy it was to do so. I’d post batches of images of artwork, mugs my old roommate left behind, random trinkets I had in a box that I haven’t looked at in years. Things would be gone within 24 hours, and I felt the stress lifting off me as I cleared out my apartment and made one less thing to pack.

Soft neutral bedroom with pieces of decor on shelf.

Tyler Karu

Things would be gone within 24 hours, and I felt the stress lifting off me as I cleared out my apartment having one less thing to pack.

There was no negotiating, just a friendly Facebook Message of “When can you pick this up?” Plus, I feel safer meeting up with someone approved by the group than some random profile on Facebook Marketplace.

The Buy Nothing Project was started in 2013 by Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, who wanted a gift economy in their community in Bainbridge Island, Washington to live more sustainably. Local groups, however, are run by volunteers and they exist across the country and globe. It builds a sense of community (my group has more than 2,7000 members) and it’s nice to see people help others out if they’re looking for something, like say an air conditioner.

There are a few rules to the Buy Nothing community. First, you can only be in one, so don’t expect to be able to bop around different groups in your city. If you’re caught, you might be booted altogether. Second, there is no negotiation or trades allowed in the group—everything listed must be free. However, if you’re looking for something you can ask if anyone has something lying around, though these requests aren’t always that successful.

Here are my tips for getting successful transactions in your own Buy Nothing community.

Post Multiple Items at Once

I love doing a big haul of random things whether it's pots and pans, signs, posters, or clothing to get rid of a bunch of things at once. When posting multiple products, I’ll say that they can opt to take multiple things or just select items, so many members have the opportunity to join in.

Wait a Bit Before Choosing a Winner

While it’s tempting to give the item you posted away to the first person who responds “Interested!” on your post, I realized this isn’t fair to other people in the group. Not everyone is on Facebook 24/7 and could really benefit from the item. For things I think will gauge a lot of interest, I’ll say in the post that I’ll do a randomized drawing in 24 hours. That way, they all get a chance at the loot.

Don't Just Stick to Conventional Products

I’ve had a lot of success posting various home goods in my Buy Nothing group, but I’ve realized that there’s so much more to give away. I’ve seen people post beauty samples that would have otherwise gone in the garbage or unopened food items that were accidentally delivered in their Instacart order. Your trash is literally someone else’s treasure.

Neutral apartment living room.

Simply Grove

Be Flexible

While I love the convenience of someone coming to me, it doesn’t always work out perfectly. Sometimes, the timing doesn’t line up or the person is unable to pick up. In these situations, I’ll offer a contactless “porch pick up” where I leave the items in the in-between lobby where my packages are dropped up, so they can grab them whenever. For older members, I’ll offer to drop it off for them, too. 

Respond to Other Members

Half the fun of the group is potentially getting something you’re interested in. I find myself scrolling several times through the page, picking out things I’m interested in, which gives me a greater sense of community. Also, by interacting frequently you’re more likely to have group posts appear on your Facebook feed, making it easier to spot items you may be interested in, too.