Do you know what a Buy Nothing group is? In this post, I’ll explain what a Buy Nothing group is and why you should consider joining one. I’ll also share a bit about my experience with my local group.
If you’ve decluttered recently and felt stuck with the stuff you no longer want, being a part of a local Buy Nothing group is a great option.
Likewise, if you’re on a very tight budget and enjoy second hand items, it’s also a great option for you.
In this post you’ll learn:
- What a Buy Nothing group is
- How to join your local Buy Nothing group
- Tips for using your local Buy Nothing group
What is a Buy Nothing group?
A Buy Nothing group is a hyperlocal Facebook group where people freely gift items they no longer want. You are not allowed to ask for money or trade in Buy Nothing groups.
Buy Nothing groups were designed so that you can “give where you live.” The goal is to bring communities together and to help share resources by gifting directly to the end-user.
Some people will join Buy Nothing because they have items they want to gift. Others will join because they are looking for things they could use.
Both groups benefit by getting to know their neighbors and being able to share in the joy of giving and receiving. Participating in your local Buy Nothing group is a way to creatively share abundance with others.
How the “Buy Nothing” project started
In 2013 friends Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark created the first Buy Nothing Facebook group as an experimental hyper-local gift economy on Bainbridge Island in Washington state. It took off from there and has become a social movement in over 44 countries.
The rules for Buy Nothing are simple. In the group you can post anything you’d like to give away or lend to neighbors. You can also post requesting anything you’d like to receive or borrow.
You need to keep it legal and no hate speech is permitted. It’s strictly a gift economy so no buying, selling, or trading is allowed.
How many Buy Nothing Groups are there?
As of February 2021, the Buy Nothing Project has more than 3 million participants in 44 countries!
There are over 5,500 groups led by more than 11,300 volunteers. All groups are run by volunteers and are run independently while adhering to the project’s guidelines.
The Buy Nothing rules have been translated into 16 languages.
How do I find a Buy Nothing Group?
Buy Nothing groups are hyper local Facebook groups. You can find a list of the Buy Nothing Groups HERE.
You can also search Facebook for ‘buy nothing’ and your city’s name. Make sure to look around at the options as many cities have multiple groups.
By their rules, you are only supposed to be in one Buy Nothing group and they will typically ask for your cross streets when you request to join to make sure it’s the right one for your neighborhood.
What are the benefits of joining a Buy Nothing community?
There are various benefits you can enjoy from becoming a part of a Buy Nothing community. Here are just a few of them.
1. Saving money
I joined my local Buy Nothing group about five years ago. At the time, money was very tight and I was looking for additional ways to save.
Buy Nothing allowed me to get secondhand clothes, shoes, books, and toys for my kids. I received some items for our home as well.
During a time when I didn’t have much of a budget for these things, it was so nice to receive items that were in great condition that we could use.
If you’re looking for more ways to save money, joining your local Buy Nothing group can be helpful.
2. Reducing waste
Another great thing about joining your local Buy Nothing community is that it helps to reduce waste.
Many donation centers are overrun with so much stuff that a lot of waste happens because they simply cannot sell all the items they receive.
Gifting directly to the end-user gives the item another chance at being used and helps keep it from ending up in a landfill.
3. Rethinking consumption
In addition to giving an item another chance at being used, participating in a Buy Nothing group can help you to rethink consumption.
How often do you order something on Amazon simply because it is so easy? While I don’t think it’s always wrong to do that, being a part of a Buy Nothing community may help you to consider alternatives.
You can learn to make do with what you have or borrow from someone in the group. Being part of a sharing community helps you to do be more intentional with what you’re buying.
In a culture that tends to be consumer-driven, Buy Nothing can help you to live more simply and sustainably.
4. Creating community connections
Joining your local Buy Nothing group will likely mean you connect with people who live near you that you otherwise would not have.
I’ve heard wonderful stories of friendships formed through different groups. In a time when it’s a bit tougher to get to know your neighbors, Buy Nothing creates an easy way to do that.
I have been fortunate to meet some incredibly kind people through my local group. One woman has daughter just a couple years older than mine and she repeatedly gifted me shoes and clothes for my girls.
She also lived just a few streets away! I’ve heard of playdates happening from people connecting with others with similar aged kids too.
If you’re new to a neighborhood or just haven’t met many people yet this is a great way to join your community and both get to receive and give to others.
How do I join a Buy Nothing Group?
Join your local Buy Nothing group by finding the correct Facebook group for your area and requesting to join. Generally, admins are pretty quick to approve those requests (provided that you live within the bounds of that group).
Be sure to review the rules before you begin posting in the group.
How do people post on Buy Nothing?
Posts in Buy Nothing groups begin with either “Gift” or “Ask” and then stating the item that is being gifted or requested.
When gifting, pictures and descriptions are very helpful including if the item has any flaws. Most people will let their post sit for 24-48 hours before selecting who they will gift to.
There are various ways to decide who gets an item from their explanation for needing it to doing a random drawing. It’s really up to you how you want to do that.
After you’ve given the item, update the posting to ‘Gifted’ so that people know the item is gone.
When arranging pick-up with the recipient, be clear about when and how you need it to happen. Many people offer porch pick up but others prefer to meet in public places.
What is a flash give?
A flash gift is when someone posts an item that they need to get rid of A.S.A.P. The gifter may give to the first person who says they can pick up or perhaps that person who can get there soonest.
While there are some situations where flash gives are necessary, most groups don’t like items normally being posted this way as it doesn’t tend to feel as community building.
How are Buy Nothing Facebook groups different than other Buy/Sell groups?
Buy Nothing communities have a different feel than Facebook buy/sell groups. First of all, you can’t buy, sell, or trade in them.
Since their intent is to build community and not simply exchange items, you’ll notice there tends to be a friendlier feel to the group.
Buy Nothing is not about just grabbing all the free stuff you can. It’s about participating with your community and only taking what you need and will use while also offering what you don’t want anymore.
What to expect when you join a Buy Nothing Group
Decluttering your life
I’ve loved using my Buy Nothing group to help me simplify. Rather than giving all my donations to a place where it may or may not get used by someone else, I can give it to someone who I know wants it.
During this past year it’s been challenging to find places that are taking donations at times and it’s also been challenging for people who normally shop in thrift stores.
Buy Nothing allows you to cut out the middle man and freely give to someone who can make use of your unwanted item.
Sharing and the joy of giving
I’ve found using Buying Nothing to be particularly helpful when I’m letting go of sentimental items. I enjoy being able to gift to someone who can appreciate the item.
Years ago I was given a coverlet that belonged to my grandmother who had recently passed away. However, it wasn’t my style or something I could make use of in my home.
Posting it on Buy Nothing helped me find someone who truly appreciated the item and would give a second life to it.
Blessing someone else in need
Letting go of baby items was another category I found difficult. However listing those items and being able to gift them to an expectant mother felt really good.
In my local group there is a woman who works at a local food pantry who gifts excess food to people in the group.
It’s so appreciated by people who are facing tough times that they can simply go pick up a bag of free food from someone in the community.
Receiving a blessing
During our season of living on a very strict budget, I greatly appreciated my Buy Nothing group. I got second hand books and toys that I could give my kids at birthdays and holidays.
It relieved a lot of stress for me. I was fortunate to receive items that were helpful to our family during a stressful time in our life.
Coming together as a community and being able to give to people in need is such a gift. You don’t have to be going through a difficult time. Your goal could simply be to refrain from buying unnecessary items.
Tips & best practices
When you join your local Buy Nothing community, there are a few best practices to be aware of.
Be a good communicator
Whether you are giving or receiving an item, clear communication is key. If you were gifted something, don’t flake on the giver.
Be polite and respectful of other peoples time. Also be honest about the condition of items being given.
I can say from personal experience that I mostly didn’t have problems with how items were represented except in one case where I received a bag of children’s clothes that smelled like cigarettes.
This left me in an awkward situation of not wanting to pass along smoke filled clothes to someone else, so I spent a while Googling and then washing the items quite a few times.
A lot of headaches can be avoided by clear and honest communication.
Say ‘thank you’
In Buy Nothing groups it is very common for the recipient to post a thank you in the group after receiving something. It’s a kind gesture to extend a ‘thank you’ when you receive a gift.
This helps to further the sense of community as we practice common courtesy.
Use good judgment
If you aren’t comfortable giving out your address, then don’t. Find a local public place to pick up. It may be a bit more work, but it’s worth it if you don’t want people coming by your house.
As always, be wise with what information you give out online. While most people are well-meaning, it just takes one person to ruin things.
Don’t take things you don’t need or won’t use
It’s important to be intentional with the items you bring into your home. Free items can cause clutter in your home.
I used to do a lot of DIY projects and flipped furniture for a time. This hobby ended me with a garage full of clutter.
I had to force myself to stop picking up project pieces. Ironically this situation is what ended up being a big part of what led me to becoming a professional declutterer.
Be mindful of what you receive as even free things can end up costing you your space and peace.
Now you know what a Buy Nothing group is!
Now that you know what a Buy Nothing group is, why not try joining your local one? It’s a great way to give, receive, and build community.
Are you part of a Buy Nothing group? What’s your experience been? Please share it in the comments section!
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We have a local “acts of kindness” Facebook group which works in a similar way. It’s so lovely to pass on things that are of no use to me – today someone is collecting a set of unused face paints from me after they requested some for world book day; last week someone asked for some Union Jack fancy dress and I had a hat that I’d bought back in 2012 for one of my kids to wear during the Queen’s diamond jubilee. Both things I’d rediscovered this year but were sitting waiting for charity shops to reopen. At the moment I am leaving things outside when I know collection is going to take place to reduce contact but I really look forward to actually meeting people again.
For the last 7 years a local low income school has had a Holiday Store where the students are able to earn points with which to “buy” gifts for the adults in their lives. The gifts are donations, from the community, of gently used items for adult men and women. No clothing is allowed. Over the last 3 years I have requested donated items from BN in our neighborhood and have delivered 17 loads of items to the school. The items include gift wrap, ribbon, small boxes and tape with which to wrap all the gifts(as many as 2000). Th students ate blessed to live in such a generous city.
I enjoyed your information on the Buy Nothing groups. I am a member of our local group – which just ‘sprouted’ into 3 separate groups due to such a high membership in the original group. There has been much concern about going to smaller ‘sprouts’ but it is working well. I have more given than received (which has been such a blessing). Just this week a ‘bag of shoes’ was listed as between sizes 8.5 and 9. I responded. Yesterday I took the shoes to one of my husband’s employees who was ecstatic to get the multiple shoes for herself, her daughter and her granddaughter. (there’s much more to the story as to why she needed the shoes & was truly grateful for them). When my 12 year old grandson decided he would downsize his stuffed animal collection (of wonderful zoo and museum purchased animals), several families benefitted by his generosity. I love when someone gives away furniture and then the recipient posts a picture of the item in use at their home (and gratitude expressed). I have to confess though that one day I listed several gifts & my husband claimed them! Those items had been sitting in plain sight for him for quite some time… but he didn’t realize his ‘need’ until they were ready for departure. (we have both laughed at this!)
I love this, Jan! Thanks for sharing.
I LOVE my local Buy Nothing Facebook site. It has been a big help to me when I have been torn with sending an item out of my home which has the “guilt” of it going to the anonymous donation centre. Entirely selfish on my part but I feel much more at ease when an item is requested because the person actually wants it and can make use of it. I highly recommend this initiative. Thanks for sharing the history of how they got started Julianna.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Heather and that you’re having such a good experience with Buy Nothing 🙂
THANK YOU! Loved the idea and joined my local group, but was clueless on how it ran, the terms, etc. Your article helped so much!
I’m so glad this was helpful for you, Patti!
I’ve recently joined one to give things away on Facebook , I never ask as we’re in a fortunate position and I know other people would require these items more. The thing that makes me really uncomfortable though is the way that people seem to need to grovel for items, some people like to state that they’ll give the item to the most deserving person which requires people to disclose their personal story as to why the need the item- it seems like a humiliating way to treat another person.
I always just give the item to the first person who requests it to avoid putting others through this.
Yes, I’ve seen that at times too, Lisa. I would often just randomly choose who got the item or I would ask a silly unrelated question to decide who to gift it to.
I worry that some users of the site are those people who run everyday garage sales in the summer. I really want to donate some items to people who will cherish them. I am clearing my house out during my last years on this earth, because my sons have no interest or knowledge of what is of value or collectable. They say they will just throw it all in a dumpster.
I belong to a volunteer Canadian group of ladies called Northumberland Helping Hands that also diverts items from landfills to those who need them. Some items are from donations or our homes, while others are things made by members and their friends. Puzzles and colouring books went to nursing homes, crocheted or knitted blankets went to Humane Society for pets, clean mayo or peanut butter jars went to local food banks or the Salvation Army for downsizing pet kibble, flour etc. Some things are taken out of the region, for the Ukraine for example or disasters or need in other countries. We try very hard to find places that need our things, whether small local businesses that could use tissue paper for wrapping or a local person that needed a donated walker after surgery. During the pandemic, we still continued delivering and making things, bagging and dating the comfort dolls to first responders, for example, for a couple weeks’ isolation at least before giving them out to kids at accidents or fires. By the way, I was given , by porch drop-off, 3 bags of yarn from a heavy smoker that passed and ended up giving it back. It turned out the donator later left the open bags on her porch all summer, by which time the smell had gone, and she donated it to a store that supports victims of crime from their sales. We are still not meeting due to the comfort level of many very elderly members but during the pandemic, our group provided something to do: deliveries by very few masked members but creations of masks, gowns and scrub bags to hospital workers, comfort dolls and twiddle muffs also to nursing homes, little colourful dresses for girls in Africa matched with new donated panties… It was and is so nice to know we are diverting things from the landfill to those who need them and it has kept us sane during the last 2 difficult years. I really like the idea of your group too.
I love Buy Nothing groups and have been in and out several in the last few years. I remember someone mentioning that once a group gets to 1000-1200 members, it’s time to split it to make it more “hyper-local” if it isn’t already. The group I have tried to join three times (in three weeks) has 1500 members and am wondering if the admins don’t want to split and/or add members. What can a prospective member do about that? I’m not in any other BN groups and answered the questions in full…
I would try messaging the admins to see if you can find out what’s going on. It may be that they don’t have enough admins who have the time to spend on it. Managing larger groups can be a lot of work and it’s all volunteer based. If you’re interested, you could also consider offering to help admin a spin-off group.