Yesterday I cleared out my shed in a flourish of spring excitement, and decided that my spare bed base (which occupied most of it) would be best going to a new home. I had bought a new wooden bed frame during the winter, and this one had been ousted to the brick outbuilding. It needed the spiderwebs dusting off, but otherwise it was in really good condition, and I decided that rather than sell it, I’d gift it to my local community.
Marketplace is a very handy part of the Facebook infrastructure where you can buy and sell with people in your local area. It’s a bit like Craigslist, or Gumtree. You post something, people message you, you arrange for it to be collected by them, and they pay you when they come round. Sometimes people offer stuff for free, and one of my favourite things is gifting stuff to people in that way.
My ex-husband would’ve put everything he no longer needed up for sale, and it wouldn’t have budged from our house unless someone bought it. His grumpy, miserly approach to everything drove me crazy. We had a pair of bedside lamps worth £5 sitting about for a couple of years because no one wanted to buy them. He refused to give them away. He was not a poor man, either.
I am a minimalist, and having extra stuff around depresses me. I see it as stagnant pools of energy sitting about, slowly dragging you into their vortices. I like to keep things moving, so if I’m not using it, out it goes.
I don’t have a lot of money, but gestures between people are often worth a lot more than cash. A useful item converted into a kindness will be worth even more to the person who recieves it.
I will occasionally sell things if they’re specific items that have held their high value, such as my motorcycle leathers, which I currently have for sale, (because I do need to eat!) but as often as I can I give things away.
I used to take them to the thrift shop in the town, but after being greeted by miserable shop workers time and time again, who would just take my things with hardly a smile, I stopped doing it. It didn’t make me feel good, and I think you should take these things where you can get them.
So today I take photos of the bed base, and I list it on Facebook Marketplace — free to whoever can collect. First come, first served!
Within a couple of hours, and after a brief message exchange, a guy turns up in an SUV to collect it. He is instantly friendly and chatty. I help him load the parts into the vehicle, which involves some negotiation of space and seating arrangements.
His daughter is in the front seat, and she turns round and shyly looks at me. I wave to her. She smiles and waves back, then disappears again in front of the seat back.
The guy tells me the bed is for his mother, who lives an hour or so away. She wants it for her spare bedroom, so she can have the family to stay more often. They’ve been sleeping on a mattress on the floor when they visit, but “now they can sleep in a proper bed!”
He asks about my tattoos. I am so heavily tattooed that they often come up in conversation, though not always in a respectful sense. He says he loves them, but his job means he can’t have them: “It’s a dream.”
We finally get the parts into the vehicle, and very politely thank each other. I comment on the beautiful sunny morning, and he wishes me a pleasant day. He lifts a hand in a wave as he drives off, and his daughter’s face follows me until they disappear. I go back into the house.
We’ll almost certainly never see each other again. It was a tiny interaction in both of our lives, shared with another person who had been out there all this time, living their life, and will continue to do so again now. It was nothing particularly notable, just a simple friendly exchange. Our lives had come together for ten short minutes, then parted and resumed as normal.
But a piece of me had gone off with him. Not just a piece of furniture, but a connection, and some humanity. And despite it being free for him to take, he left me with a fuller heart, a happy feeling to start my day, a reminder that my tattoos are someone else’s ‘dream’ (when abuse is often what I get), and now I pass the warmth on, with this story.
I’ve had so many nourishing interactions this way. A lady with a tiny black spaniel puppy that took my old dog’s toys, a young couple who took my futon for their new house, and the lady who took some shoes I’d never worn to wear to her daughter’s wedding.
One young woman who stopped by a year or two ago had gone via McDonalds for an iced coffee, and she had got me one too. I opened the door to her holding it out to me, smiling widely and saying ‘I got you this!’
I have never forgotten her, even though I have long forgotten what she came to collect. I can still see her smiling, open face. It was wonderful, not just because of the ‘random act of kindness’, but the bravery it takes to do something like that for someone you’ve never met, not knowing how they will react, or whether your intentions will be well received, but doing it anyway. That, to me, is true altruism.
Sure, there have occasionally been people who have been troublesome, have not turned up, or they’ve been unfriendly, but they have been very few. Most people have been wonderful, and they’ve made my day each time.
I think back to my ex, sitting there waiting for his £5 lamps to be bought. Maybe they’re still sitting there now, whereas I am not.
It is so empowering to give things away, no matter how small. Don’t ever think you won’t get anything in return. The more you give, the more you are saying to yourself that you are rich enough to give, and the richer you become.
Follow Zoë on Twitter: @zoeklux