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Does Craigslist have good free stuff?

Sure, it's free, but is it really useable or worthwhile?

By Karen Datko Oct 9, 2009 12:43PM

This guest post comes from Buck Weber at The Buck List.


Can you really find good free stuff on Craigslist? To find an answer to that question, I decided to employ one of the oldest forms of scientific study: observation.


I randomly chose four cities from around the United States (Atlanta, Sacramento, Minneapolis and New York) and during a one-week period of time (Sept. 5-12. OK, eight days) I perused and wrote down what each city had to offer in its respective free sections on Craigslist every day.


What I found was sometimes amusing and somewhat telling of the value we place on our stuff, especially very heavy things.

What they all had in common
During my observations of all those free-stuff listings for a week, a commonality of offerings became apparent: If it’s big, heavy or dirty, and you can haul it, it’s yours! All four cities offered the following:

  • Furniture (every city offered floral printed sofas).
  • Dirt (or, more descriptively, “fill dirt”).
  • Firewood (lots of pine in Atlanta and Sacramento).
  • Sand.
  • Old TVs (LOTS of these, some up to 52 inches. Might be because of the digital switch).
  • Pianos and organs (working and nonworking).
  • Grills (gas and charcoal).
  • Scrap metal.
  • Working and (mostly) nonworking appliances. Usually refrigerators, washers and dryers, with an occasional leaky dishwasher.
  • Used carpet, sometimes with the padding.
  • Broken concrete/pavement.
  • Landscaping rocks.
  • Scrap wood and pallets.
  • Kitchen sinks and bathtubs.
  • Horse manure.
  • Exercise equipment (most of it in good working condition -- hmmm).

The carpet surprised me a little. I can understand the owner trying to give it away, but who would want carpet that for years was walked on, spilt upon and who knows what elsed upon until it finally had to be torn up? Another interesting find was the horse manure offered in every city.

The not so big, heavy and dirty stuff
As for not so big, heavy or dirty stuff, all four cities also offered the following:

  • Moving boxes.
  • Clothes (men’s, women’s, kids’, all seasons and all sizes. The frequency of clothes postings was second only to furniture).
  • Old computers and peripherals (if you want an entire eight-year-old computer, including monitor, printer, webcam and scanner, it’s all out there waiting for you).
  • Magazines.
  • Garage sale leftovers (something kind of sad about that).
  • VHS tapes.

Three out of four ain’t bad
I think if I had taken more than a week, the following stuff would have appeared in all four cities. Three out of the four cities offered:

  • Kids' bikes.
  • Doors (interior and exterior).
  • Filing cabinets.
  • Toys (usually stuffed animals).
  • Lawn mowers (usually broken).
  • Strollers.
  • Books.
  • Typewriters (very useful these days).

The other stuff
By city, here are the other items offered during that week. Kind of an interesting snapshot.

New York: Not surprisingly, New York City offered the most free stuff, and possibly the widest variety, including baby gerbils, lots of comedy club tickets, cookbooks, coffee mugs, records, a braille machine, 275-gallon tank, fish tank, wheel-balancer machine, comic books, AB Dick 11-by-17-inch printing press, and chocolate chip cookies being given away by a guy sitting on a green inflatable couch in Washington Square Park. Also offered was an electric hospital bed, Sheetrock, fire extinguishers, a safe, crutches, sewing machine, guinea pig cage, Ford bumper, office supplies, fish bait, ferrets, bumblebee gobies (fish), a cat, light table, flower window box, coal, CD jewel cases, wine glasses, cinder blocks, sparring gear, kittens, cement board, worms, hedges, pool heater and a cardboard fort.

Minneapolis: Our northern neighbors ran a close second to New Yorkers in the sheer amount of stuff offered for free. Of the four cities, they were far and away the worst spellers, too. I don’t know what that means, but it got annoying after a while. Offerings included baby-food jars, coffee creamer, perennial plants, silk flowers, pickup bed liner, duvet cover, basketball hoop, flower pots, remote-controlled tank, paver bricks, packing peanuts, wheelbarrow, sleeping bags, toilet, downspouts, soccer goal, Barbie dolls, ferret cages, golf clubs, doghouse, shingles, boat ladder, vinyl siding, knife block, water cooler, dog kennel, cats, bathroom vanity, beer bottle collection, fake plant, work bench, turtle sandbox, freezer-burned meat, AM car radio, used breast pump, railway ties, partial jug of crack filler, and a phone charger.

Sacramento: They also had an offer of freezer-burned meat, with the helpful suggestion of feeding it to your dog. Coming in third for amount of stuff, Sacramentians offered a softball mitt, plants, grape stake fencing, palm trees, fresh basil, cactus full of prickly pears, extra abalone, a puppy, woodstove, shelving, Agapanthus, 16mm film reels, working air conditioner, Yanni concert tickets, go-kart tires, pink bottle brush trees, fruit/veggie stands, doghouse, eight-track tapes, toilets, mulch, blinds, hot tubs, bubble eye (fish), more palm trees, gondola shelves, and a ceiling fan.

Atlanta: Besides offering the common stuff listed above, the folks in Atlanta did not have as much to offer as the others. Might have been an off week, or maybe they don’t collect junk down South. Or maybe they don’t give it away. If you were in the Atlanta area that week you could have picked up a tiki bar, fish tanks, trampoline, go-kart, ice cube trays, basketball goal, PVC pipe, sliding patio doors and baby formula.

To sum it all up
Of the common items listed above, all of the pianos and organs being offered for free was not so much of a surprise as a reminder that these are different times. Pianos used to be one of the prized possessions of a family, while now many consider them a heavy, useless burden. As for the other stuff, you just never know what you will find.

My answer to the question posed by the title is, yes, you can find good free stuff on Craigslist. And if you are looking for something specific, don’t watch the ads for a week, just use the search option.


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