Local ‘Buy Nothing’ users share strangest, stinkiest things they’ve acquired in the sharing economy
If there’s one thing bargain hunters, dumpster divers, radio station contest winners, and cheapskates everywhere know for sure, it’s that there is hardly a more satisfying thrill than getting something awesome for free. That’s why so many of us are members of our local Buy Nothing group.
Buy Nothing is a type of Facebook group used by more than four million people in 44 countries, started by two women from Bainbridge Island. You simply post a photo of something you no longer want, your neighbors express their interest in the comments, and you choose a recipient to come by and grab the item off your porch.
You can also ask for something you need. Each group is specific to a micro-neighborhood, and the rules are strict: No money can be exchanged and there is no bartering. It is a guilt-free, no-strings-attached gift.
I’ve seen everything from flat screen TVs to bicycles, baby clothes, camping gear, and wine glasses. But there are also used tubes of toothpaste, half empty bottles of apple juice, and toilet paper tubes. Almost everything seems to get claimed.
“I love the Buy Nothing community,” said Teatro ZinZanni performer Christine Deaver. “I have received some wonderful items. Everything from banana pudding to a Marge Simpson wig to a Chinese armoire.”
But we’re not here to talk about the normal stuff. This story is about the strangest things people ask for or give away on Buy Nothing.
“One of my gives was cotton batting that I gave to a woman who was in search of fiber fill so she could make her vulva pillows that she sells on Etsy.”
Puyallup’s Andrea Seachord used to be her neighborhood’s Buy Nothing moderator, and says she has seen it all.
“Including half-eaten pizzas and used underwear,” Seachord said.
But she’s no stranger to the strange.
“I was gifting a large, white, shag rug that my dog had pooped on, on multiple places on the rug,” Seachord said. “We’re not talking a small little pile of poop. We scrubbed it and we shampooed it but we could not get the smell out of this rug. So I decided to put it on Buy Nothing.”
“My husband said, ‘There is no way that anyone is going to take that.’ And I said, ‘Babe, trust me. It’s Buy Nothing. People will take anything,'” she continued. “So I put it up there, full disclosure, my dog pooped on it, it smelled. Literally, within one hour, someone claimed it and came and picked up my white, dog butt, stinky rug.”
It’s not always stuff; people can also ask for gifts of time. Seattle’s Tina Nole has a cat who often brings dead rats into the house.
“I am very, very afraid of mice and rats,” Nole sad. “Like, phobic-ally afraid of them.”
She has posted multiple times on Buy Nothing, asking if someone would remove a dead creature from her house.
“And more than once, they have answered the call,” Nole said. “They just come and pick up the mouse and dispose of it. Most of them have been women, which is pretty great!”
This story was inspired by a recent article in the New York Times titled, “Inside the World of Buy Nothing, Where Dryer Lint Is a Hot Commodity.” When I read it, I gasped: I have asked for dryer lint on Buy Nothing, and was overwhelmed with neighbors offering up bags and bags of it.
In the middle of cooking a recipe, I once asked my Buy Nothing community for a teaspoon of Chinese black vinegar and had it in my possession within 10 minutes. But I know you don’t care about that.
If you must know, I use the lint to make fire starters in empty egg cartons. I tuck the lint into the divots and cover it with wax melted down from partially used candles (that I also asked for on Buy Nothing).
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- Rachel Belle hosts the James Beard Award nominated podcast Your Last Meal and she's an Edward R Murrow award winning feature reporter. Follow Rachel on Instagram.