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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Master of Freecycle, Liana

Liana and her family
As I've started this journey, I have found many local resources and friends willing to help guide me. One of those special folks is Liana Ottaviano, who I've gotten to know a little better over the years.

I first met her when I bought cloth diapers (and I totally failed at them). Since then, she has joined my monthly cookbook club and through this blog and her blog, I've discovered that she's very thrifty and environmentally friendly so often times, I ask her for advice or she comments on my blog.

When I decided to get more in-depth with Freecycle, I thought I would get some tips and tricks from the master herself. Here are some of Liana's tips, tricks and experiences with Freecycle.

What is your philosophy about thifting?
In general I just think too many people live beyond their means. I could go on about being anti-retail, saving money when I was unemployed, and the beauty of recycling. It is all part of wanting to live simply and below my means. Freecycle helps me do both. I don’t know which I like more about Freecycle: receiving free items I need, or passing along items I don’t need.

When and why did you start freecycling?
I joined the local Freecycle chapter in December 2004. I can’t remember what tipped me off about it, but my daughter was 2 at the time. When you have a child outgrowing clothing, toys and books, Freecycle makes it easy to give away the old and receive the new on a constant basis.

What is the oddest thing you have found and got off freecycle?
One of the more complex transactions was a woman in La Pine that was giving away 2 lamb roasts, coffee and a coffee grinder. I sent her a message immediately asking for these items and strategizing how I could pick them up. I had a co-worker that lived in La Pine and she said she’d pick the items up for me. So I sent a co-worker to a stranger’s house to pick up lamb and coffee and bring them to me at work. That same week I Freecycled a bag of girl’s clothing and toys to a family that was in need. This was around the holiday season, and the whole experience reminded me what is great about Freecycle.

Other things I’ve received from Freecycle include: A cat carrier, Kool-Aid packets, a Commute Options hat, mason jars, a hanging lamp, shaving cream, and a cat scratching post.

And I’ve given away a microwave, a printer, leftover things my company was throwing away, tons of clothing, kids books, a play kitchen, Turbo Tax software, and sand/pavers we had leftover from a project.

How often do you freecycle?
I guess you could say I Freecycle constantly. Rather than receive the “Daily Digest” of all the emails once a day, I receive every single email. We average about 300 messages a month, and I just delete 99.9% of them. Our local Freecycle chapter ranges from La Pine to Redmond/Sisters so it’s a large area and unless it’s something I am seeking desperately, I don’t consider offers outside of Bend city limits. Later today I am picking up a bag of bendy straws in NE Bend. Earlier this week I gave away some duffle bags.

Any tips/advice for beginners?
Once you join Freecycle, make sure you read the rules the administrator sends you. There is a certain way to write your posts, specifically the subject line. For example, if you live in SW Bend and are giving away a shower curtain, the subject line should be “OFFER: Shower Curtain (SW Bend)”.

Don’t worry about meeting strangers alone – all Freecycle transactions are “left on the front porch (or doorstep)” whether people are home or not.

Be polite. When someone is flooded with requests for an offer they’ve made, some just pick the first responder, but others pick the person with manners. Please and thank-you go a long way.

Don’t plan to use Freecycle as your “wish list” by asking for big-ticket items. You are allowed to make “requests” but only one a day, and within reason.

The whole purpose of Freecycle is to keep stuff out of the landfill, so before you toss something, think about whether someone could re-purpose it. It is surprising what others can use, especially artists, girl scout troops, non-profit organizations, etc.

In the past, I’ve wondered if my items can actually get to a truly needy family. What if the family doesn’t own a computer? However, there *are* people on Freecycle that watch for things they can pass along to needy people they know. I also keep my eye out for items on the “Wish Lists” of local charities.

I'm always looking for guest blog posts. If you're interested in sharing your experiences and expertise, email me at shannon at workingmomgoesgreen dot com.


  1. Liana is definitely an expert in this field! And, look at this fabulous family! Could their daughter be any cuter? Ok, I'm biased. She's my niece.

  2. I think Freecycle is a great concept! I have passed on a plethora of gift bags and wrapping paper, two mountain bikes & a few other things. I was also able to get my hubby some top quality flannel-lined jeans and a really nice shirt once - which was the score of the century, in my book! I once jumped on an offer of free clothes for my daughter when she was 18 months old, and growing faster than I could keep up with - What I ended up with was a paper bag full of super-stained, torn and even moldy clothes that weren't fit for anyone! What was that woman thinking???



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