If you’re a homeowner or just a human being in the United States, there’s a very good chance you’ve got a bunch of – how do I put this delicately – CRAP, that you really don’t need occupying space in your abode. You know the old saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, it’s true (the old saying applies to women too, by the way). Wait, that sounds bad. I just mean “One woman’s trash can be another woman’s treasure”, not “One man’s woman is another man’s treasure.” While I haven’t actually given away excrement, I’m pretty sure I could given the right strategy, photo, and description. I have given away some seemingly less than worthless things, some of which I will list in all their splendor for your entertainment. I’ll also share junk-tested, proven techniques for maximizing your success. My secret weapon in giving away things we no longer need, things that you would normally expect to pay someone to take away: the Craigslist free category.
Whether you’re doing a remodel and have old, surplus, or scrap material left over, or you just want to clear out some space in your home or garage, giving things away can be truly liberating. People are often surprised by what I’ve said I have given away on Craigslist. “But no one will want my XYZ” is a refrain I hear frequently. Oh yes they will, don’t underestimate the needs and wants of those around you. Following are a few of my more entertaining success stories:
Little People Door
We did some demo on a room in our house that had a weird high threshold you had to step over in a doorway. Because the threshold was about a foot over the ground, the door was really short. I started this giveaway with a weak description. Realizing poor salesmanship was killing my giveaway, I stepped things up a bit to this (from my actual ad): “Free short wood door with glass . . . feel like you’re 8 feet tall!”
I posted this door for free about a week ago and it’s still here. Obviously it needs a better Craigslist description, so here it is: Hurry over for the most awesome free door deal you’ve seen this morning! While a standard 2 foot 8 inches wide, it’s only about 6 foot tall, making you look like a giant when you step through the doorway! It’s also great for deterring scary tall people from the room you use it on. Who wants to hang out with people over 6′ tall anyway? Painted in the most amazing white paint you’ve ever seen on a free door with glass. Glass insert great for exhibitionists! Hinges are INCLUDED! Amazing given the price of metal and commodities these days. The door knob is included too! This deal just keeps getting better. By “minor termite damage” in the original ad, I actually meant “wonderfully slight distressing” applied to the lower door corner. Perfect for the vertically challenged, or for a utility shed, etc. Includes hand-crafted “Free” sign taped to glass! What an incredible deal! Opportunities like this only come by once in a lifetime. Take advantage! And since this door was on the free page for a week and no one snatched it up, there’s a good chance you can get it if you come by now!
Sure enough a nice couple came by to pick of the door the morning the revised ad posted.
We’ve all got a stash of lumber scraps that we were convinced we were going to use in various future projects. Like the slots that occasionally hit in Vegas, we’re rewarded with a rush on those rare occasions we actually pull wood from the scrap pile and use it. Sweet intermittent reinforcement! While I endorse keeping a small scrap pile, sometimes these piles take on a life of their own. From 2x, 4x, paneling, plywood, sound board, and random cutoffs, I’ve given away about every wood except bamboo. If you have a pile of wood threatening to take over your shop, here’s your chance to reclaim some territory.
Unless your Brangelina, adoption can be a real hassle. If you’ve got spawn that are simply too much hassle to care for, Craigslist is here for you. Actually, before you go this route, consider some professional help. I assumed this probably violates Craigslist terms of service, but I didn’t see advertising children excluded in this list of prohibited ads. Even if you’re not giving away your children, you may want to look through the list so you don’t accidentally advertise body parts, silencers, blood, stolen goods, etc. But seriously, keep your kids.
Not unlike the door for the vertically challenged, I thought giving away a pile of dirt might be my undoing. I tried for weeks to give away a perfectly acceptable pile of dirt. Haunted by the thought of meeting failure on Craigslist with something I couldn’t give away, I had to step up my game. In this case I decided the original photo of my pile of dirt just wasn’t flattering enough. Photos are a critical component of your craigslist sales process (free or not), so make sure your photos are well composed and have good lighting. After more than two weeks languishing on the free section, a fresh, more flattering photo of my pile of dirt had someone pull up with a shovel to load their truck the next day. Photos matter!
Random Metal Things
We all have them, and usually someone wants them. I’ve given away everything from the random parts from a chain-link fence seen here, to old electrical boxes, to a giant metal “lazy susan” that took up an entire seven foot tall closet. I swear with the right description and a solid photo I could get someone to come by and pick up a singular nail. There are actually quite a few “scrappers” that keep their eyes on Craigslist, so if they pick up your metal, you can bet it’s headed to the recycler.
Decrepit Rose Bushes
When we first moved into our home, it was surrounded by more than a dozen rose bushes. The roses were probably a couple or more decades old and looked pretty good. Well, they looked pretty good until we managed to neglect them to near-death. We actually did kill several. It was pretty sad. But rather than kill them all, we thought we’d dig them up and see if someone else might actually care for them. The same day we posted the ad, a guy pulled up and carted them all away. I like to imagine them in the hands of a world-class gardener, living a life full of sunshine and fresh breezes.
OK, so I haven’t actually given away or sold these (not on Craigslist anyway), but it is an entertaining topic. Craigslist took a lot of heat for their Adult Services offerings in the last year or so. Apparently some thought it was promoting the age-old tradition of prostitution, which of course would never happen without Craigslist. But if you’re looking for “adult entertainment” that you won’t regret in the morning, anonymously perusing the personals can be pretty entertaining in itself. Just don’t try giving away anything in this category, OK?
Corrugated Roof Pieces
One of my first acts of destruction on our house was to remove an section of corrugated plastic that formed an inverted “V” roof between our back door and garage. This was a case of getting too cute/specific with my description. I originally marketed this piece as a “great doghouse.” But apparently there’s a very limited market for really ugly improvised dog houses, even if they’re free. After finding no takers, I took the roof apart and simply described what it was; several pieces of four foot by two foot corrugated plastic and some 2x material. You guessed it, someone picked it up shortly thereafter.
Other Random Items I’ve Given Away
Odd-shaped plaster board cutoffs, rotted windows, scratched mirrors, a really cheap lava lamp, exterior door with 50 layers of paint on it, 18 bricks, circa 1960’s beat-up breaker box, a single plastic chair sketchily spray painted black, a 60’s shower enclosure, random pieces of chipped glass, and a ficus tree with almost no leaves left. That’s just the tip of the iceberg my friends!
A Few General Tips:
- If you post your phone number, put spaces and maybe a couple underscores in it otherwise number harvesters will sell your number to every seedy telemarketer imaginable.
- Use the anonymize email feature
- Consider setting up a free Craiglist account as it makes managing your ads much easier
- Refresh your ads regularly (currently you can refresh most ads every two days)
- Remove your ad as soon as you’re successful to save yourself some grief
- Minimize flakiness with strategies like “Only call if you are ready to pick up the item immediately”
- Be VERY clear in your descriptions to minimize obnoxious questions
- Include something like “If you’re reading this then it’s still available”. Scammers will send “is it still available” notes only to harvest your real email when you reply.
- Write appealing but accurate descriptons & take good photos!
Over the years, Craigslist has taken a few hits on safety issues. Sure enough, people have actually been murdered through Craigslist connections, and many, many more have been scammed. My personal take is that given how many zillions of transactions Craigslist has facilitated between strangers, the few instances of high profile crimes exaggerate the danger. Nonetheless, I think it’s wise to include a few words on safety (note this list is by no means comprehensive or exhaustive):
- Avoid transactions at night & set clear expectations of when someone is coming by
- Only give your address to someone you’ve talked with by phone
- If you’re selling something of value, consider meeting in a populated, well-lit, public place. For free stuff, I often leave it in my driveway and tell the person to simply pick it up
- If you get a bad vibe from someone, figure out a way to move on
- Treat people politely and with respect, even when they might be annoying or obnoxious (this one goes a long way to avoiding issues)
- Even if you don’t interact, be home when someone is coming by. Never tell someone you’re not home.
- If you’re placing a free item for pickup, place it where someone ventures onto your property as little as possible
I think one of the coolest things about giving stuff away on Craigslist comes from someone actually putting to good use something that likely would have gone to complete waste in a landfill somewhere. Do your household, the environment and someone else a favor and come up with a few things to giveaway on Craigslist this weekend. Ironically, you’ll find the “Free” category under the “For Sale” section. Just for kicks, if you giveaway anything particularly horrendous or entertaining, let us know in the comments below.