The Buy Nothing Experience

Contributors: Chantel Henderson and Durdana Islam

Hear from team members, Chantel and Durdana, on their experiences when they joined a Buy Nothing Group in their neighbourhood!

Chantel’s Experience

I joined my first Buy Nothing Group on Facebook last month and I’m loving it! I heard about it through a coworker, Durdana, who had mentioned it during a staff meeting. I was intrigued by the name and immediately searched for one near me. I was successful and found one within my neighbourhood (Crescentwood/Rockwood/Grant Park).

I clicked Join Group, answered the 3 mandatory questions, and was approved within hours.

Their Facebook page states that “participants may offer and request as much as they’d like, as often as they’d like. No one is under any obligation to give or receive, but everyone may ask as they choose, and give as they choose. You may request or offer anything you might otherwise want or need to buy; since this is Buy Nothing, you just may find what you want and need here without buying it.”Buy Nothing Project

Being part of a global movement such as Buy Nothing Groups highlights the benefits of a gifting economy and the much-needed move away from a capitalist, cash-based economy that thrives on consumerism. The idea that the more stuff that you buy, own, or consume, will lead to a longer, happier, more fulfilling life, is far from the truth.

Since joining, I have enjoyed the wonderful feeling of receiving and giving “gifts”. I like the idea that your item will go to a new home where someone else will appreciate it as much as you did and give it a new purpose and vice versa when giving items away. As an environmental educator and supporter of the 7Rs concept (Respect, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair, Regift, and Rot), I am always looking for ways to reduce my impact on the environment. That includes buying items secondhand from thrift shops, searching for free items on Kijiji or online giveaway groups, and most times, simply doing without. This ensures that my home doesn’t start filling up or being cluttered with stuff that I don’t need.

So far, I’ve been gifted a bag of hangers, a pretty floral dress for my stepdaughter, a Big Lebowski 500 piece puzzle, a 4 pack of beautiful coffee mugs, and a bag of unfinished friendship bracelets for my stepdaughter to complete. In return, I’ve gifted a stack of used pet bowls and plan to gift more items in the future. So far, I am loving the experience!

During my short gifting economy journey with the Buy Nothing Group, I’ve had to learn a hard lesson or two. First off, I highly recommend that you pick up any gifted items right away (usually within 24 hours is ideal). Otherwise, there’s the possibility that you might forget about it, suddenly fall ill, or become a no-show. If you are a no-show, the person giving away the item has the right to regift it to another person. Usually, many people want to be considered for the stuff we are also interested in, so the person gifting an item has the choice of how they want to gift their item. This can be done on a first-come, first-serve basis, first to comment, or random draw with names, numbers, or an elimination wheel.

Secondly, read the Fine Print document on their Buy Nothing website as soon as possible. They encourage everyone to examine each gift before taking it away and to leave it if they are not satisfied with it upon examination. In my case, I did not read the document beforehand, nor did I thoroughly examine a bag of 6 coffee mugs I was gifted. What happened is that I had become ill earlier that week and forgot to pick up the mugs which were left outside for 5 days in an open plastic bag. By the time I was feeling better and went to finally pick up my gift, I discovered at home when I opened it up, that a family of spiders had already laid claim to them and had made it their home. My fiancé had the fun duty of capturing a large 3-inch momma spider and her babies using the mugs, which had to be thrown out. We were able to salvage 4 of them despite this incident. For a few days afterward though, we walked around our apartment in trepidation and fear of spiders we might’ve missed. Thankfully, we have not spotted any more lurking around. So learn from my lesson and read that Fine Print document beforehand.

As their website explains, each item has a story to tell. For me…let’s just say that those coffee mugs will forever have an unforgettable story to tell.

Durdana’s Experience

I have been part of the Buy Nothing Bridgewater/Southpointe Winnipeg, MB group since I moved to Southpointe two years ago. This site popped up on my Facebook page one day. Being a minimalist for over a decade now, the name “Buy Nothing” captured my attention. Within a day, I was signed up and quickly realized how amazing this group is.

How it works is, people will post things that they no longer need and the members who are interested will post in the comments such as “Please consider me” or “Interested”. Sometimes, folks are picked on a first-come-first-serve basis. Other times, I’ve seen people randomly draw names or numbers in order to pick one person from the list of interested people who will get the item. The gifter will send a private message to the “chosen one” with their address or a location to pick up the item from.

Sometimes group members will post something that they wish for and if someone has the item they are no longer using, they offer it. Every time a group member posts an item, you get a notification right away and you can decide if you want to be considered for it or not.

During COVID-19, I was a bit skeptical about how things would work. To my surprise, it worked really well. I have witnessed people leave stuff packed in a bag outside their front doors with a name tag of the person who is picking it up. I have been gifted beautiful earrings (people always disinfect the earrings before gifting them), a very beautiful tea-pot that I adore, a comforter, toaster, car-mats, cupcake holder, laptop bags, etc. I was pleased with the quality of the items people were sharing with others.

Group members are known to have given out food, jewelry, household items, toiletries, bedding, furniture, electronics, clothes, shoes, and so on. I have given desk chairs, steel bed frames, party shoes, cleaning products, shampoo, hand cream (I found the smell of the product was too strong for me), and jewelry to name a few. Whenever I need something, this page is my go-to place. I will post it there, if I am lucky I will find someone who is willing to give their item to me.

Personally, I enjoy seeing how people bond with their neighbors as a result of these groups. If you want to partake in the gifting economy, look no further than your local Buy Nothing Facebook Group in your neighborhood. If you don’t have any, there is no better time than to start one. Believe me, you will help in building a sustainable community and many people will thank you for it!

What is Buy Nothing?
It is a social movement of people participating in a gift economy where local groups are formed to allow people to “quickly get rid of things that are cluttering their lives, or simply to save money by getting things for free.” Their motto is: Buy Nothing. Give Freely. Share Creatively.

Who?
Started by two friends, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark

Where?
Bainbridge Island, Washington State

When?
First Buy Nothing Project started in 2013

Why?
It started out as an experimental hyper-local gift economy that has grown exponentially across the globe with groups in over 44 countries.

How does it work?

  • Find your local Buy Nothing Group on Facebook. Ex: Corydon/Osborne Village
  • Click Join Group and answer the following three membership questions
    1. To verify you live within the boundaries of this group, please provide the names of 2 streets that intersect near your home.
    2. You can join only one Buy Nothing Project group – the one where you live, so you can literally give where you live. You may be a member of other giveaway groups. Are you currently a member of any other Buy Nothing Project group? If yes, which?
    3. Are you at least 18 years old? Once you submit these answers, we may need to contact you to clarify eligibility. Please check your messages or contact an admin listed in the group description.
  • Remember to read the Fine Print document before starting. It’ll save you a lot of headaches while providing you with a list of dos and don’ts when participating.

List of Winnipeg Buy Nothing Groups, in alphabetical order:

    • Bridgewater/Southpointe
    • Corydon/Osborne Village
    • Elmwood/Glenelm
    • Minto/Sargent Park
    • North Kildonan
    • River Park South/Meadowwood/Dakota
    • Royalwood/Sage Creek/Island Lakes
    • Silver Heights/King Edward
    • Sir John Franklin/Mathers/Tuxedo
    • South Osborne
    • The Maples/Garden City/Riverbend
    • Transcona
    • Westwood

If you don’t see your Winnipeg neighbourhood listed above, live in a rural area, or First Nation community, start your own Buy Nothing Group. We’d be glad to add your group and update our list. Share your gifting journey with us in the comments below and tell us how you’re joining the movement towards a sustainable way of life.

For more information on the Buy Nothing Project, visit their website, Facebook, or Instagram pages.