Photo courtesy of Emily Lindberg

Community Free for All Sparks Joy

Do you know about the buy nothing project?

How can you get something you’ve been searching for, meet new neighbors, find connection with your community, all without spending a dime?! Meet your local Buy Nothing Project group!

Clear out your clutter

We all most likely have things around the house that are no longer "sparking joy" as Marie Kondo would say. Maybe it’s the clothes your kid has grown out of, or that set of dishes that always sits on the shelf unused. Maybe you tried to buy a new brand of tea for your family and they refuse to drink it.  Just because you can’t or won’t use these items doesn’t mean that someone in your community wouldn’t either. In my Buy Nothing Group of Western Lakewood, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is basically their motto. Community groups like this give people a way to clear out unwanted items in their homes while ensuring that these items get a new lease on life. 

There is certainly satisfaction in cleaning out unwanted items, but there's an extra boost for me knowing that item won't be finding its way to a landfill any time soon. By keeping these items out of the trash, we are all doing our part to protect the planet. When these groups started to form it was an effort to address one of the overlooked big R’s. We’ve all heard Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but Reuse can have much more meaning when it comes to sharing and reusing items across your whole community. Just because I won't be using something any more doesn't mean its life cycle is over. There isn't an expectation to give new and shiny items.

Give and receive

The group is a safe space for any member to reach out in search of something too. Oftentimes a neighbor has exactly what you are looking for and is more than willing to part with it. Could these items be sold at a yard sale or on craigslist? Maybe! But the purpose of these groups are not for their members to turn a profit. For my neighbors, sharing is caring! It’s all about giving a neighbor anything from a cup of sugar, to a pair of slippers, to a sunflower plant, and asking for nothing in return. 

I’ve personally given, and received items from Buy Nothing Groups in a few different cities. I don’t have a lot to give, and I don’t often ask for much in return, but every exchange that is made gives me that feel good vibe!

My surprising find

Recently, my husband ran his very first marathon. With most races still shut down due to covid, he pushed on with his training and decided he was going to run it all on his own in the Cleveland Metroparks Rocky River Reservation. This left me with the daunting task of being his mobile pit crew, water girl, and cheering section. Without all of the fanfare of a usual race, I knew I had to make it special (on a budget). I couldn't believe my luck, when scrolling through my BNG Facebook page to see a neighbor giving away a few gold foil balloons. 2 & 6! Exactly what I needed! We easily coordinated a pick up and with some tape and chopsticks these balloons made the perfect prop for celebrating his huge accomplishment. 

Community togetherness

The joy and satisfaction that people receive by being a part of these groups is totally unmatched by anything I’ve seen on the internet. I’ve seen people bring joy to others through small gifts, like the perfect trinket to add to their collection or a sturdy lawn chair to be able to enjoy their patio. I’ve seen my community come together to help its neediest of neighbors, rallying to provide clothing and food for the homeless and even offering acts of service to the less fortunate.

Online groups and social media can be dark places, filled with judgement, hate, and isolation. But from what I’ve seen, Buy Nothing groups are filled with gratitude, excitement, and togetherness. 

I encourage you to connect with your local Buy Nothing Group, and if your community doesn't already have one, find the resources to start your own chapter at

Story by
Liz Conway


Liz Conway