Portland, OR

New Portland Page Aims to Connect People with Free Items They Can Use

Rose Bak

The "Buy Nothing" movement comes out of the pandemic to expand in Portland.

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Image by MoneyforCoffee from Pixabay

Portland has a long and proud history of sharing. Look at social media sites like Next Door and on any given day, among the complaints about homelessness and porch pirates, you'll see a sweeter side of the city.

"Does anyone want a crib"

"My kid wants roller skates. Does anyone have size five skates sitting around in their basement?"

Now a brand new subreddit page aims to bring neighbors together to help each other. The page creates a better connection between residents who are looking for free items and residents who are willing to let go of items they no longer need.

The "Buy Nothing Portland" page attracted thousands of followers in its first twenty-four hours. It has a simple premise:

Buy Nothing Portland encourages individuals to ask for what they need and offer what they can. Participate in the gifting economy and shared abundance...Give. Ask. Borrow. Lend. Share Gratitude. We are a Gift Economy movement.

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Photo courtesy of Buy Nothing Project

The Portland Buy Nothing group is based on a worldwide grassroots effort called "The Buy Nothing Project". The Buy Nothing Project has many iterations but they are all similar in that people who are looking for something, like baby clothes or an air conditioner, are connected to neighbors who are willing to pass along their own items at no cost.

Of course, "Buy Nothing" groups are not new to Portland. As early as 2013 Buy Nothing projects were popping up all over the county on Facebook and in other social media groups. Items were also exchanged through a popular website called "Freecycle" or the "for free" pages on Craislist.

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Photo by Riley Pitzen on Unsplash

But as a recent article in PDX Parent explained, what was once a robust "social experiment" became fraught and was forced to dramatically reduce over the last year. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed down the sharing economy as people became worried about transmitting the coronavirus through direct contact or live virus living on items that were exchanged.

Others have been burned by bad experiences on the various sites. The article explains:

Some members have very strong feelings about the good, the bad or the ugly of the social experiment, while most fall somewhere in the more neutral territory. Most agree that not picking up free items as agreed upon is the universal pet peeve. Buy Nothing groups seem to mirror our communities — our humanity, even. While there are, of course, limitations, loopholes and liars lurking among us both online and off, for the most part the Buy Nothing Project does indeed bring us together to support one another, making connections both big and small. Sometimes these online offers or requests change — and even save — lives, whether it’s a NICU wedding organized by strangers or a “Big Ask” for a car that ultimately leads a local group member to work and stable housing. As Ansel says, the things themselves are not the crux of the groups, but are the “vehicles for which we make neighborly connections.

The "Portland Buy Nothing" subreddit is part of a larger effort to bring the sharing economy back to Portland.

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Photo by Alonso Talbert on Unsplash

If you're interested in using the page to share or seek items, you should be aware that the organizers have very clear rules about exchanging items:

  • All items offered or requested must be legal according to national and local laws
  • Users are prohibited from using cruelty, harassment, hate speech, doxxing, stalking or intimidation are not allowed.
  • Since the project operates on trust, users are asked to build community and act with empathy and honesty.
  • Items exchanged are considered to be gifts, so no buying, selling, bartering, trading, or other money-making activities are allowed.

So what kinds of things are available on the Portland Buy Nothing page? A perusal of the page showed after twenty-four hours live showed users offering a variety of free items including a piano, a mobility scooter, a coffee table, baby clothes, and books, to name just a few things.

Meanwhile, there were requests for items ranging from kyaks, to dog beds, to live composting worms.

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Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

Before you shell out your hard-earned money to buy something or drop your unwanted items off at the Goodwill, you might check out the "Portland Buy Nothing" group and see if you can make a match. Happy sharing!

#portland #oregon #sharing #free

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at rosebakenterprises.com or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

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