Give. Share. Build Community.

While looking online for something to buy my peeps last December, I quite by chance ran across a link to Buy Nothing. I took this as some kind of cosmic advice and diverted my quest from buying something to "Buy Nothing."

The link took me to Buy Nothing Ocean View (North) /Willoughby Spit, Norfolk, VA, a Buy Nothing Facebook group in whose geographic boundary I happen to live. I later came to learn there is quite a collection of these independent Facebook groups worldwide, all named after their neighborhoods. If you’re an adult and you live within its confines, you’re eligible to join and participate in your closed group’s rather remarkable activities. 

Scrolling through my group’s posts, I discovered about 80 of my nearby neighbors were freely offering stuff of all kinds to each other, just for the joy of giving (the membership grew to 115 members in the time it took me to write this story). It includes everything -- from brand new stuff to seems-a-shame-to-throw-this-away stuff. Members were also asking each other for items they needed, instead of going to a store and buying them. Hey, no harm in asking, right? 

The group does not allow buying, selling, trading, or bartering – or asking for money. Just a whole lot of joyful giving and grateful getting, no strings attached. And the biggest “get:” coming to know neighbors you might not have ever come to know – actually using today’s social media to literally be sociable, like in the good ol’ days before the internet. What a concept! 

I saw a neighbor’s post asking for a six-foot, pre-lit artificial Christmas tree. Her 30-year-old, pre-lit tree’s lights had just twinkled their last twinkle. (Boy, she got her money’s worth out of that tree!). Resourcefully, she had thrown one of those outdoor mesh lights over it, just to make it through the season. 

Now, it just so happened that I had pulled my six-foot, pre-lit artificial Christmas tree down from my attic a couple of days before but hadn’t gotten around to decorating it. It was one of two Christmas trees I had up there, blocking the way to all the stuff my executor will probably have to deal with one day (many, many years from now). My cosmic antennae tingling, I posted a photo of the tree, and she responded yes, she would love to have it, thank you thank you thank you very much! 

christmas tree white lights

My extra Christmas tree, looking for a home. Photo by GW Hudgins

Though she lived just down the street, she couldn’t pick it up due to some mobility issues. So, I loaded up my Jeep with the tree and my trusty mutt Violet, and we took it to her. Let’s see: declutter the attic, check. Treat the dog to an exciting road trip, check. Spread some Christmas cheer, check. Help a neighbor, check. Meet a new neighbor, check. I was feeling pretty good about this!

The members of the Buy Nothing Group not only gift each other stuff. They also gift time, helping each other do things, learn things, make things, borrow things. Wreath-making classes. Cooking classes. Helping plant pansies in the garden. The group’s administrator, Pat Richardson, plans to compile and post a list of talents that members would like to freely offer to their neighbors.

Pat has other good ideas, too. Like the “Junk in the Truck” event where members will pack their car trunks with stuff they no longer want, meet in the empty parking lot of a local grocery store that recently closed, giving and possibly receiving from each other.

“The idea is to get face-to-face with a bunch of your neighbors all at once, and have some time to get to know each other,” Pat says. 

Also, a “lending library” just started up. Not just for books, but items of all sorts. Pat envisions members offering items for temporary use like post-hole diggers, ladders, chafing dishes – those things you buy, use only a couple of times, and end up having to store forever. 

“The Buy Nothing group is a great way to know and grow and heal your neighborhood,” Pat says. “We all need to practice giving and receiving with kindness and love.”

Two friends in Washington started the Buy Nothing movement in 2013, and groups have been popping up in neighborhoods all over the world ever since. Not a charity or a community bulletin board, Buy Nothing calls itself a hyper-local gift economy (if you’re looking for a quick description). 

At Buy Nothing’s website I was stunned to see how many of these Facebook groups there are now. Learn more at Buy Nothing’s Facebook page. Find out if there’s a Buy Nothing group in your ‘hood here. If not, learn how you can start one up here

Is Buy Nothing too good to be true – or a really good thing? Let us know what you think!

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