By Erin Hassanzadeh
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MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (WCCO) — There’s a national movement that’s de-cluttering homes and saving money in the process. The chain of giving in one Twin Cities neighborhood is also building new connections with neighbors.
It all started with a simple idea. Give away what you don’t want, and ask for things you need. There are three types of posts — give, ask, and gratitude.
After moving from Brooklyn and realizing her neighborhood didn’t have a Buy Nothing online group, Sadie Struss started her neighborhood chapter. The group now has nearly 1,000 members who are saving money, cutting down on waste, and meeting their neighbors in the process.
“Let’s say you get a sewing machine and have no idea how it works, you could ask for a lesson,” Struss said. “I always say it’s the last good spot on the internet…Everyone, I think, is just looking for some type of connection.”
Struss’s little one wasn’t into one of their toys anymore, so it made its way to Maura Caldwell’s house.
“I was looking for a shape-sorting toy for her and she uses it in so many different ways,” Caldwell said.
In fact, just about everywhere you look, Caldwell’s house is dotted with treasures others gave away.
“This bunk bed came from a family on Buy Nothing,” she said. “This whole room was sort of pieced together for nothing.”
Caldwell posted in the group that she had a costume that her kids all wore; it went to a new owner. And this summer when Mirra Neiman’s garden exploded, she teamed up with her mom to can a bumper crop of tomatoes, with an ask and offer for the group.
“I need your jars, but also I will gift you sauce,” she said. “I would just walk outside my door in the morning and I would have jars on my front steps waiting.”
Meanwhile, Jaibei Kaiser’s 2-year-old is enjoying things that Neiman’s kids no longer did.
“There’s so many things you buy that are just very short-lived,” Kaiser said. “We’re new to Minnesota, and so its been a great way to meet neighbors.”
And one of those neighbors, JC Cross, took Kaiser up on an offer to clear out old party decorations.
“After the party I was like, ‘Maybe someone would want this balloon arch, I don’t know,’” Kaiser said.
Cross used it for his 6-year-old’s birthday party, carrying it back to his own house.
“We put it out back, and we had a couple bouncy castles, and it turned out to be a beautiful day in October,” Cross said. “People share stuff that I wouldn’t think would be shared…like empty rolls of toilet paper.”
For many, the group is a window into the lives of others, going through life’s seasons.
“It’s just too easy to live life alone,” Cross said. “Being part of something like this gives people an opportunity to connect and get to know one another and share life together.”
They’re collectively unearthing our basic, unifying humanity that was always just a house or two over.
“That’s been really wonderful, and it helps us all see each other as humans and as neighbors and connect in that way,” Kaiser said.
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