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Gift Economy

by fancypants, March 20, 2012

If you know me, you know that I’m one of the biggest consumers ever. And I mean EVER. I shop, for everything. I love shopping. I was born with a genetic propensity for big spending. I’m the girl who buys one in every color, and last week spent an inordinate amount of time fixating on the perfect travel handbag. I had to text my dad from several stores (he’s my fashion council and the person I blame for my shopping gene) and he’d text back things like “you’ll never wear it”, or “it’s too horizontal for your frame”. The flip side – I have ever evolving taste. I’m way too trendy for my own good, and you can ask my personal domestic goddess Jamie how much she clears out of my house every season. But I really like to share the good stuff, and donate everything I don’t use. Frequently. The men at the ARC thrift store start cheering when they see my car.

I’ve recently read a couple of articles about bartering and free cycling. In fact, right now I’m reading One Red Paperclip – the story of Kyle MacDonald, who traded one red paperclip and ended up with a house. A 17 year old kid recently bartered an old cell phone all the way into a Porsche. Brilliant!

Trying to join Freecycle online isn’t quite a gift in itself, and I found the process a little tedious.¬†First have to join your city’s Yahoo group (I didn’t have a Yahoo profile, so had to create one), and then you receive an email that states, “THERE ARE QUESTIONS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS EMAIL. ANSWER THE QUESTIONS AFTER READING THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION, THEN EMAIL BACK WITHIN **3 DAYS**. Membership will not be approved unless the questions are answered. Did I swear that I’d abide by the rules. Um, yeah. Do you want my stuff or not? I’m just glad I didn’t have to learn a secret handshake!

Now that I’m subscribed, my daily digest emails are an enlightening view into what’s in other people’s homes. This week alone there was a hanging rope chair, a small dog bed, masonry bricks,a partially used roll of Angry Birds gift wrap (I’m seriously tempted), and a re-offer of the current Easter issue of “Living” magazine. What? Nobody wanted it the first time round? On Freecycle, you can list an “offer”, which is then “promised” and you an also post “wanted”. My very favorite so far was:
“Offer: weapons
I have a bunch of decorative weapons we are getting rid of. There are daggers, a spear and i think a sword. They mean a lot to us, they are pricey and collectible, but the baby gets into everything so they must go. All are in perfect to close to perfect shape. I don’t want anyone to turn around and sell them, i know that’s not allowed but still. So please include why you want them, what you will do with them etc. I will easily 24 hours to pick anyone.” – this person got 60 requests and now I’m distinctly uncomfortable about the spears being handed around Denver.

Taking the idea even further, there is a gentleman by the name of Daniel Suelo whose blog I have been following, who is living without money. He describes himself as: I’ve been totally without cents since Autumn of 2000 (except for a couple months in 2001). I don’t use or accept money or conscious barter – don’t take food stamps or other government dole. My philosophy is to use only what is freely given or discarded & what is already present & already running (whether or not I existed).

I think this completely fascinates me because I’m the absolute antithesis! And that interests me. I’m not going to eliminate money. That would like me becoming a breatharian. But I might give Freecycle a try. I do need a fishbowl. “Wanted”