Blame it on the unseasonably warm temperatures.
You're suffering from an early case of spring fever, and with the fever, you've got the urge to purge.
Your home, that is. But before you haul your one-time treasures to the curb, you may want to consider Michelle Munson of Rock Island and Carrie Mortz of Davenport, two Quad-Cities sisters who refuse to throw it all away.
Ms. Munson moderates Q-C Illinois Freecycle (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/QCIllinoisFreecycle/), a Yahoo! group she started in February 2004. Ms. Mortz moderates Q-C Iowa Freecycle (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/qciowafreecycle/), which she started in June 2005.
These Freecyle communities -- and hundreds more like them throughout the world -- create an online forum where people swap stuff for free. Absolutely no money changes hands, and moderators are not compensated for the hours they spend watching the groups.
The first Freecyle site was created by Deron Beal in Tucson, Ariz.
The rules for Freecycling are few and simple. Everything must be free; posts must be relevant to Freecycling (no political views or spam is allowed); and people who post items can choose to whom they give stuff.
Most Freecycle transactions end with the receiver picking up the item. The sites' rule used to be "first come, first served," but that has changed, Ms. Munson said. "If someone gives you the creeps, they don't want you to have to tell that person where you live."
What kinds of items are given away?
"There's a lot of desks, beds, couches, love seats -- everything. Literally, if you can go to the want ads and find it, you can find it on Freecycle for free," Ms. Munson said.
"Any appliances, clothes, TVs, VCRs, computers -- mostly it's a lot of big things. ... Everything goes real quick," Ms. Mortz said.
Since the sites began, there have been few complaints, the sisters agreed.
"I've never had anyone say, `I went to pick this up, and it was junk.' People are really grateful," Ms. Mortz said.
The strangest recent posts at the sites included a request for a wedding dress and offers for a Luke Skywalker Pez candy dispenser, a Sony Surround Sound receiver, and several computer printers.
"People even post parts for their cars," Ms. Munson said.
Most items, though, are useful cast-offs from around the house.
"Recently, I actually got a washer and dryer," her sister said. "They work perfectly fine. The washer is newer; the dryer is a little bit older."
Yet she reminds that the give-and-take nature of the site ultimately depends on givers. "We really want the offers," she said.
That's why Freecycling can be a good addition to a spring-cleaning routine.
"It's easier to clean out your house, because my big thing is I don't want to drive it somewhere," she said. And high gas prices and time restraints make it hard for some people to drop off unwanted items at secondhand stores.
Knowing that her stuff goes to someone who needs it -- and perhaps couldn't pay for it, even at second-hand prices -- makes her feel good.
"I just feel it's better to give to other people," she said.
Tips for Freecycling
--|Since the goal of Freecycling is to help reduce waste, don't offer anything that amounts to waste on a Freecycle site. Only offer things that another person could find useful.
--|Only offer things that are yours.
--|Don't offer things you've left on the curb for municipal pickup. You must arrange a pickup with the person who wants what you're offering via Freecycle.
--|The Web sites are at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/QCIllinoisFreecycle/ and http://groups.yahoo.com/group/qciowafreecycle/.
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