Foundational Ideas

The following are posts created by Buy Nothing volunteers and freely made available to you for your use in your local gift economy. For copying the text of these posts, please refer to the following Google Doc:

Buy Nothing Blocks post


Welcome! You may have noticed that this community is a little bit different from what you might be used to on social media. Here are a few tips to help get you started:

* This is a gift economy, everything is free and people are not asking where to buy things. Please no referrals or links to businesses. Don’t offer to trade or barter.

* The best way to jump into this gift economy is to start giving! This is a great way to introduce yourself and generate some goodwill.

* You can choose to give your gifts to whomever you choose, for whatever reason. You may choose someone randomly, or in a more creative way. It is nice to leave your offers open for a period of time so that everyone gets a chance to see them and express interest, rather than first-come, first served. But if you need something gone quickly, it’s ok to give to the first person who would love your gift. 

* Please don’t message people asking for them to give you a certain item. This community operates on public communication. Use personal messages to exchange pick-up information. 

* Don’t be discouraged if you are not picked to receive an item you really want! You are free to post your own requests at any time. You’ll get best results if you introduce yourself and explain how the item you are seeking will enhance your life. 

* There is no need to delete your posts in this community, and for various reasons the community finds it useful for posts to remain up. The posts become our community’s history, and document our giving and asking footprint, showing how much we’ve shared and how much we’ve diverted from landfills and incinerators.

* We love posts of gratitude! It makes everyone feel good to see that people appreciate the gifts they receive.

* Have fun and get to know others in your community!!

Image description: Children’s letter blocks laid on a counter, spelling out the words Buy Nothing. Other letter blocks surround the words
Image credit – an admin long ago in an admin group

Give, Ask & Gratitude posts

Gentle Reminder : The Buy Nothing Project encourages posts that are of things freely Given, Asks with no trades in return, and expressions of Gratitude. Please do not post referrals, community notices, or any gift cash value information. Refine your posts if you need to (use the edit feature) and stick with us! Together we can promote a Gift Economy mindset where we all come from abundance and share with abandon.

Image description: A pair of reading glasses set on a piece of paper. The paper shows part of the Buy Nothing Project’s Fine Print with the type of posts we offer: GIVE, ASK, & GRATITUDE

Image credit: Shelley Schwinn

Kids in sombrero post

A picture is worth a thousand words, yes? If I were offering up these sombreros, I’d post this picture from my son’s last birthday to get your attention. And I know that posting an image along with your give or ask will sweeten the “deal.” Try it, you’ll see!

Liesl Clark

Co-Founder, The Buy Nothing Project

Image description: Two young kids with sombreros on their heads and faces covered in whipped cream. They are sitting in a restaurant booth with plates of food in front of them.
Image credit: Liesl Clark

Let it Simmer – 1

The Buy Nothing Project is unlike any other experiment you may have participated in. Our goal is not to *get stuff*, *give stuff*, and *get rid of stuff* as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Our goal is to provide a space for neighbors to get to know each other, and to minimize our impact on the environment by passing along our usable (and sometimes not so usable) items in the process.

You are probably used to some other “free” sites, or other more consumer-based apps or groups, where the “early bird gets the worm”. On these sites, you will often see comments like “First!” and “Next!” to indicate someone’s “place in line”.

We do things differently here.

Givers: Post any item you would like to give or lend freely. We’d love to see you let your post “simmer” for a bit before choosing a recipient, whenever you can. This way, more neighbors can see your post, and you might get to meet a new friend!

Need something gone quickly? If you have a deadline for your item, please mention that in your posts. The more details you include, the less likely you are to have miscommunications.

Recipients: If you see something you’d like to receive, add a comment to the offer, and then wait. If there is a particular reason you would like this item – maybe you have a matching set, maybe it would make a great gift for your mother, maybe you’ve been looking for exactly this thing for some time – let the giver know. These types of details make it easier for givers to choose a recipient.

Once an item has been given, members are free to edit their posts to let people know. We encourage you to leave your posts up whenever possible. Our posts become our shared narrative, and it helps in many ways to have a written, public history of what has happened between people here.

Image description: A clump of tall pine trees coming out of a rocky tip of a hill. It is night and the stars have been captured using time lapse so that they appear to be making dashed line circles in the sky. 
Image credit: eberhard grossgasteiger on Unsplash

Let it simmer – 2

For best results, let your post simmer for a while, it will be worth the wait!

A general reminder: Communication and patience are some of the most important aspects of giving and receiving through the Buy Nothing Project.

When posting, please remember that not everyone has access to the app at all hours. In order to find the perfect recipient for your gift, it’s best to let your post “simmer” for a little while. This is especially true of highly desired household items like beds, furniture and small appliances. Waiting at least 3-6 hours gives more people the opportunity to ask for the item you are offering and helps your community see what items are especially wanted or needed. This can inspire more giving from others, which magnifies the positive impact of your own gift. 

Image description: Pot sitting on top of a gas stove with steam condensing on the glass lid. 
Image credit: Oleg Magni from Pexels

Flash Give


It is always, always up to the giver to choose how long to wait before choosing a recipient. It can be nice to let it “simmer” for a few hours or even more so that more people can see your post and express their interest in the gift.

It may take a while for you to get used to this new way of thinking. Be patient with yourself and your neighbors.

Need something gone quickly? If you have a deadline for your item, please mention that in your posts. The more details you include, the less likely you are to have miscommunications.

Image description: cheetah running full out against a brown grassy plain. Front legs are pointed towards the rear and back legs are jumping forward.
Image credit: DrZoltan from Pixabay 

Watercolor Paint Box

Not every gift needs to be material. Do you have a knack for something and want to share it with your neighbors? Is there something you’d like to be taught?

Post what you’d like help with, what you’d like to learn, or what you are willing to teach. Your time and talents are equally valuable as material gifts and mean so much to your community!

  • Liesl Clark, Buy Nothing Project Co-Founder
Image description: an opened watercolor box with a paintbrush dipping into the white color. The words “A gift of self could be your talent” are added around the paint brush
Image credit: Cleo Clark-Athans

We’re all in this together

You know the saying that it takes a village to raise a child? If we take a minute to examine the meaning behind that saying, we’ll better understand what we’re doing here at Buy Nothing.

That’s because what we’re creating here at Buy Nothing is the same kind of “village” as in the saying.

So, what kind of village are we working towards? It’s a place where folks know each other through their day to day interactions. Everyone has a sense of belonging to the village. They share a common set of values and are able to articulate those values. Everyone in the village takes ownership for gently guiding everyone towards those values. Folks help each other out and share with each other.

That’s what we’re working towards.

Image description: Fifteen people standing in a group, facing inward, with their hands piled on top of each other in the middle. 
Image credit: Liesl Clark

We’re all in this together – #2

We’re all in this dance together 🙂

We all share in the responsibility to keep this community space one that is welcoming to all. We would be grateful to seasoned members in assisting and guiding the community, commenting kindly on posts that are outside the rules. This is the next step in the gift economy model, to have everyone act as gentle guides to the others in the community. In a gift economy, our gifts are of equal value, so is our importance to the community.

If you’re absolutely unable to find polite and gracious words to say something to someone whose comment is outside of the Buy Nothing Project’s guidelines, then please report the post. Thank you! and welcome to all of our new participants! 🙂

Image description: Crowd of people standing with their hands in the air at a music concert. Stage lights shining at the crowd coloring it red. Word Community written above the stage. 
Image credit: Free-Photos from Pixabay 

When Things Go Wrong

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things don’t go quite the way we had hoped. We may experience miscommunication, confusion, or even harsh words said or written in the heat of the moment. People make mistakes, sometimes with innocent motives, and sometimes with other intentions. These sorts of things are all a part of what it means to be human, and to interact in communities.

If you are experiencing any of these issues with fellow community members here, we’d like to encourage you to keep a few things in mind:

First – We all participate in this gift economy at our own risk. We all accept this risk when we post in the community.

Second – We are all neighbors. Any of us could bump into one another anywhere around the neighborhood. It is in everyone’s best interest for us to do whatever we can to get along.

Third – We are all adults. As adults, we hope that we are all able to communicate in a mature and reasonable way, with empathy. We use the Community Commitment (for BuyNothing app) or Community Agreement (all other platforms) as our guide: 

Image description: Two teapots and four mugs in colors of orange, red, brown and green sit in the foreground. The background is blurred white.
Image credit: milkyway4567 from Pixabay 



If you’re a reseller, we ask that you let people know that any time you plan to resell a gift you receive here. People are welcome to do what they want with the gifts they’re given, but it’s important for our community to be based on trust, and that requires honesty. If one person is receiving gifts and reselling them, this community’s members would probably like to know.

Please consider these words from co-Founder Rebecca Rockefeller :

“Hi, all – I’d love to address your concerns about resellers. Here’s what we’ve had to say on this issue:

We won’t be making any rules against reselling, for a variety of reasons.

First of all, it would be impossible to enforce such a rule and it would require all of us to be suspicious of everyone else. That sort of mindset is going to prevent a sustainable gift economy from forming.

Second of all, people need to be free to both give as they choose and do what they’d like with what they receive. That’s just how a gift economy works.

Thirdly, there are cases in which being able to resell an item may be what makes it possible for parents to feed kids who might otherwise go to bed hungry. In other words, sometimes people’s circumstances change and people find themselves doing things with their material objects that they might not want to do. We don’t view these instances of reselling as contrary to our gift economy mission. I’m guessing that’s not the sort of reselling most people would have an issue with, but it points out the reason that blanket rules don’t always serve as intended.

BUT here’s the flip-side:

Givers are always, ALWAYS free to give as they choose. If there is someone you’d rather not share your stuff with because you think they may be planning to resell it and you don’t like that idea, or for any other reason of your own, you don’t ever, EVER, have to give something to them.

If you discover that someone from this community is reselling things without making that clear when they request gifts, you can speak up about that. 

A gift economy functions best when it’s a network of connections formed between real-life neighbors who recognize and trust each other even when they’re not friends, and that requires honesty from each of us. Many people are happy to help their neighbors who make a living by reselling items, but everyone deserves to make that choice based on honest disclosure before gifts are given.”

~ Rebecca Rockefeller

Co-Founder, The Buy Nothing Project

Image description: A mirror made out of a framed window reflects back to the viewer a wooden staircase
Image credit: © Liesl Clark

Making new connections

The Buy Nothing Project offers people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.

But – What does this mean?

Remember when you were a kid and you moved to a new neighborhood, and you heard the very first knock on your brand new front door? So you followed your parent to that door and there was a neighbor standing there with a big plate of warm chocolate chip cookies? Okay, perhaps we didn’t all have the benefit of this type of neighborly love, but most of us have seen a similar scenario on a television show, at least.

Always keep in mind that the neighbor wasn’t standing at your door with a warm plate of chocolate chip cookies because they thought you needed cookies, or because they thought the children in the house were too thin. They were standing at the door with a warm plate of cookies because they wanted to meet their new neighbors; they wanted to get to know the people who just moved in; they wanted to introduce themselves.

Here in the Buy Nothing Project, we offer everyone the opportunity to knock on a neighbor’s door (literally or figuratively) with a warm plate of cookies, a chance to introduce themselves, a way to get to know one another. This is our primary goal. It’s really not about the “cookies”. It’s not about who has more or who has less, who needs more and who needs less, or the value of the gifts offered or received. We truly believe that the true wealth of our groups is the web of connections formed between real-life neighbors.

The cookies are just a bonus!

— Lissa Jagodnik 

Image description: Close-up of a bunch of chocolate chip cookies
Image credit:  Grayson Smith on Unsplash

Outside Referral

If you don’t have the item being requested, please resist the urge to comment, referring each other to outside resources. It is ok if you don’t have the item – not every request will be fulfilled.

The Buy Nothing Project is all about seeing what we can do with our own hearts, hands, time, and stuff, to share creatively, give and receive, with our real-life neighbors.

If we send each other outside of the group to fill requests, we’ll never know what we’re capable of within the group. When we resist the very kind-hearted and well-intentioned impulse to send someone to an outside charitable organization, government program, etc, we are giving this Buy Nothing Project model a chance to grow, develop, and strengthen our community. Thanks!

Image description – Feminine child with pale skin and long brown hair stands on the beach, feet in the shallow water, holding out hands filled with seashells. Black round glasses cover her eyes and she wears a bright pink sleeveless shirt with a hood.

Image credit – © Liesl Clark

Outside Resources

The Buy Nothing Project is all about Gives, Asks, and Gratitude being shared between real-life neighbors, person-to-person.

The traditional charity and community support paradigm tends to split people into “haves” and “have-nots,” and the two aren’t on equal footing. The Buy Nothing Project is not a charity, it’s a worldwide web of gift economies. Gift economies that are working well can subvert this traditional “have-have not” relationship. Everyone here is both a “have” with things to give away (whether those are tangible goods or gifts of self), and a “have not” with wants and needs that the community can help fulfill.

We ask people not to direct each other to outside resources to fulfill the requests that are posted. It’s a kindhearted impulse to refer someone to a local organization that might help them, but that’s not what we’re about. What we’re focused on here is helping each other whenever and however we can with our own hands, time, stuff, and presence. Our social experiment is about finding ways to strengthen connections between this group of neighbors through giving, receiving, and sharing creatively, person-to-person.

  • Rebecca Rockefeller, Co-Founder, The Buy Nothing Project
Image description: Two young pale hands outstretched, each with one half of a tomato in it. One child is wearing a blue shirt and grey pants and the other child has a pink shirt and a green printed skirt. Green grass under their bare feet.
Image credit: Rebecca Rockefeller

Give, Ask, Gratitude

We have 3 kinds of posts in Buy Nothing; Give, Ask, and Gratitude. While it appears on the surface that it is the Gifts that make the wheel spin here, it is the Gratitude that keeps it turning.

Image description – A stem with seven pink heart shaped flowers is shown against a blurred dark background. The flowers have two pink round sides that make up a heart like shape and then a smaller white roughly circular shaped part that sits below that. 
Image credit – Pixabay

Ways To Pick Recipients:

Open Giving

We strongly believe that all giving should happen in the open, for everyone to see. Without this witnessing of who is receiving or even asking, the gift economy won’t operate in a healthy way where we understand what’s happening and who is a recipient of something. I mostly choose whom to give to based on whether they’ve received in the past. My rubric is giving to those who have not received before. It feels to me like the most fair way to keep the gift economy moving in a healthy direction so all members feel included.

If I didn’t know who was receiving from others, I couldn’t make an informed decision. When we all participants “look on” as the gift of a service or item is offered and then gratefully received, we all benefit, we all receive a little dopamine hit that inspires good will and paying it further forward the next time.

This openness allows each of us to participate vicariously in the joy of giving and receiving, and it also allows everyone to see where gifts are going, and with whom.

Public communication means there’s no secret pressuring or guilt-tripping going on, and things can truly be given freely. Use private messages only for personal details such as the sharing of addresses and coordinating pick-up.

~Liesl Clark, Co-Founder, The Buy Nothing Project

Image description – Dirt tracks for a car bisect a field of yellow tall grass. To the right is a forest of tall green pine trees, to the left in the far distance are blue mountains and the sky is covered by white and grey fluffy clouds
Image credit –  © Liesl Clark

Grumpy Hen

We encourage people to experiment with new ways of choosing stewards for their stuff and recipients of their acts of kindness. If people always give to the first to reply, a relatively small group of people will receive almost everything. First come, first served favors people with solid internet access who have a lot of time to spend here. To expand the circle of giving and receiving, to grow new connections between people, please give in a variety of ways.

You can pick a person you’ve never met, or someone who hasn’t been on the receiving end of a gift here. You can try a bit of a contest – Funniest joke or best haiku or most compelling story. You can have your grumpy hen peck a name, or draw one out of a hat yourself. You can use a random number generator online or come up with your own formula. You can (insert your idea here). And yes, you can go with first come, first served; we want everyone to know that it’s not at all what’s expected, it’s one of many options.

Image Description: A resting Rhode Island Red chicken with fluffed up feathers looks at the camera with a sly-eye.
Image Credit: Liesl Clark

Building Community

Much of the beauty of this group is the realization that you are interacting with real people with real needs, desires, worries, thoughts and feelings. You are not ordering from an online company or dealing with a customer service operator across the country or half-way around the world. These are your neighbors, your friends. Remember, the Buy Nothing Project mission is to get to know your neighbor, build friendships and strengthen community. You chose to be a part of something new with the goal to support one another while lessening the carbon footprint of buying stuff, by giving and receiving with a happy heart. Everyone who serves their community by creating a community, guiding others, creating resources and tools, everyone who helps bring the Buy Nothing Project to life, including the co-founders, is a volunteer, offering gifts of self to help build our worldwide Buy Nothing community. 

Liesl Clark, Co-Founder, The Buy Nothing Project

Image description – Six magnets sit on a white fabric printed with yellow and green flowers. The magnets read “think of others”, “scatter sunshine”, “give much”, “live simply”, “expect little” and “forget self”
Image credit – Jennifer Anderson LaRue

Living in the Gift

What do we do here? Gift economies flourish when we believe fundamentally that everyone has something to give. This shift in consciousness from scarcity to abundance can change the world. On this platform, our actions are Gives, Asks, and expressions of Gratitude. We believe everyone, no matter what your situation, has something to offer, even if it’s just your company.

Liesl Clark, Co-Founder, The Buy Nothing Project

Image description – A large dried leaf holds a white flower laid on top of two bright pink bougainvillea leaves on top of a green leaf laid on white fabric background. 
Image credit – © Liesl Clark

Gift Economy Lifestyle

This Buy Nothing Project gift economy group is not about a day, it is not about a season, it is a lifestyle. Give, share, ask, borrow, receive and build community every day!

Image description – Close up of fingers holding a fortune from a fortune cookie that says “If you continually give, you will continually have.”
Image credit – Shelley Schwinn