Madison Park resident Allison Fly walks her condo unit, pointing to the many pieces of furniture and decor she proudly didn’t pay for. But she gives as good as she gets.
Fly is a local administrator for the newly sprouted Buy Nothing Madison Park group, which connects neighbors looking to give belongings a new home or searching for an item someone may be able to offer in their own backyard.
The Buy Nothing Project was started by two friends on Bainbridge Island as a hyperlocal gift economy, and there are now has Facebook groups around the globe.
Fly got hooked on Buy Nothing while living in Poulsbo.
“I’ve always been somebody who felt like they had too much stuff,” she said.
The Buy Nothing Madison Park group grew out of the popular Capitol Hill group and launched on Nov. 30, creating a more localized connection for neighbors looking to add or subtract items in their homes.
“Now that we’re hyperlocal, we can all walk to pick up our gifts,” Fly said.
People have to apply to join the Facebook group and also live within the coverage area. After they’re approved, they can post pictures of the items they want to give away and also request things they may need or want to borrow, such as a sewing machine or photo projector. People are encouraged to let their posts marinate for a while, though it’s not uncommon for neighbors to chime in quickly for hot-ticket items.
“People are allowed to choose whoever they want for whatever reason,” Fly said about picking a gift recipient.
Fly leaves a lot of her gifts on her porch for Buy Nothing neighbors to pick up, but said she enjoys meeting people in person.
“The whole idea is to get people out meeting each other, so when we see each other out and about, we can greet each other,” she said.
People can also offer gifts of service.
Fly is a professional nanny. If a client has paid for service, but cancels, she’ll sometimes offer free babysitting during that time slot.
“I’m not a budget nanny, which is why I moved to Madison Park this summer,” she said.
Buy Nothing groups also ensure the items people want to see find a renewed purpose with someone else don’t end up in a landfill after being sorted by a thrift store and never making it to a shelf.
“Secondhand” author Adam Minter found only one third of thrift store items are sold, and in a recent NPR interview noted that non-boutique items coming into Goodwill donation centers often end up being dumped.
Fly’s condo is now decked out for the holidays, all with secondhand decorations.
“I didn’t buy a thing,” she said, “and my place looks like a Christmas box exploded in it.”
Fly’s cat, Lillie — a Buy Nothing gift she received when someone needed to rehouse the feline — wasn’t too excited about the decorations at first.
People wanting to set up their own Buy Nothing groups receive support from the nonprofit behind it, which provides online training to get people started. Fly shares administrator responsibilities with Althea Jones, and Michele Kaspar is the moderator for the Buy Nothing Madison Park group. Elaine Jones is in charge of handling membership requests.
“There’s so much behind the scenes,” Fly said. “There’s so much support, not just in Seattle, but across the state.”
There are also Buy Nothing groups in Madison Valley, Leschi, Madrona, Steven/Miller and beyond, all with their own coverage areas.