Lisa Jones gives Theo Labrecque a set of muffin tins Tuesday at Labrecque’s home in Lewiston. Jones helps with a Buy Nothing group out of Lewiston and gives away items that she no longer needs. Jones said that she has been dropping off items at Labrecque’s home for about a year. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

Every now and then, I help my wife lug random stuff to the carport. A bureau here, an old TV there, or some random item I don’t recognize and won’t miss. 

These things are plunked down in their designated spot and the next time I go out there, everything is gone. It’s like magic. 

I had no idea I was part of a movement. 

And you better believe that the Buy Nothing craze is a bona fide movement. Around the country, millions of people are either giving or receiving needed items in a way that eliminates the need for corporate middlemen. There are at least four dozen such groups in Maine alone, including even in the smallest of towns.

Check the Facebook listings in your area and chances are good — near 100% really — that you’ll find a “No Buy” group where people are vigorously exchanging goods in a way that is simplicity itself. 

Need something? Ask your local No Buy group. 


Got stuff to give away? List it in the group and find that clutter gone by the end of day. 

I talked to one lady who was able to clear out more than a ton of unwanted items in just three months by giving it all away piece by piece. What this woman no longer needed, perfect strangers were happy to take it of her hands. 

“It was glorious,” the lady tells me. 

Items posted in the Auburn Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Facebook

Glorious pretty well describes both the philosophy and mechanics of the Buy Nothing movement, of which the “no buy” groups are an offshoot. But don’t take it from me; the members of the Lewiston Buy Nothing Facebook group were happy to provide insights into the workings of the movement. 

“Basically, it’s recycling by offering up items you no longer want or need that are still usable to other members of the group,” says Lise Fontaine Lothrop of Lewiston. “Alternately, members can ask if other members have something they no longer want (or would be willing to lend) when they are in need. Far better that having it go in a landfill. Waste not, want not.” 

“A lot of people use this page for legitimate needs and I think it’s great when those needs get met,” says Beth Hanson, “but I also love it when a random thing taking up space in someone’s house ends up being something someone else can put to good use. How cool is it when things work out so perfectly?” 


“Sometimes you just need help with needs like toilet paper or shampoo and you may not be able to get those things at like a food pantry,” says Ashli Frost. “It gives people another resource.” 

“Helping others and getting the help needed is a blessing, especially when someone is down and out,” offers Teshia A. Cote. “I’ve been helped by some pretty nice people and I also have helped others who are afraid to ask for the help. . . . I know it makes me feel good on the inside knowing what I wanted to get rid of made someone smile, and it also makes me feel good that there is good people that care.” 

“There are so many different dynamics in play,” says Stacy Williams. “I like the idea that it ultimately reduces waste. Things that might otherwise go into the trash can continue to be used, and a lot of times enrich someone’s life. 

“Then you have those who are really in need,” Williams continues. “They can reach out to ask the group for help with things that they might have on hand. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Helping one another, the gift of giving, reducing waste.” 

Williams is quick to point out that the buy nothing mentality is not about needs alone. 

Items posted in the Lewiston Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Facebook



“Asking for things that you want is just as acceptable,” she says. “It might be in someone’s Goodwill pile or getting ready for the dump. Why buy new?” 

Likewise, Lisa Jones, one of the administrators of the Lewiston group, stresses that Buy Nothing is not a charity.  

“It’s about reducing waste and building connections within the community,” she says. 

And yet, it’s hard to discount how many people with legitimate needs have been helped out of rough spots by the group. 

“I am a disabled single mother in Lewiston,” says Venita Tashlitsky, “currently going to school full time for communications and educational studies. I’ve lived in three different states and I have seen drastic economic changes happening in all of them. Between rising housing and food costs, basic necessities are getting harder to come by. Embracing the ideas of bartering and trade, asking for help without shame, and giving freely, we are creating solutions and bonding with our community at the same time.” 

Those bonds and connections come into play in spectacular fashion when members of the group hear about others who have fallen on hard times due to catastrophe or just the general hardships of life. 


Courtney Michaud of Lewiston got to see that power of group altruism first hand after her family lost their home to fire in January. 

While the embers were still smoldering from that fire, an administrator of the Buy Nothing Lewiston group made a post to let other members know of Michaud’s troubles. The response was immediate. Group members gathered up clothes, toys, books, tables, air mattresses and other items to help the family through the crisis. 

Items left out by Lisa Jones of Lewiston for another member of the No Buy Facebook group. Submitted photo

“We had some people donate food, and even money because we were staying with my twin brother and his family for a short while after, so they wanted to make sure that we had our daily needs met,” Michaud says. “It’s so heartwarming, and people have been so kind to us during our time of need. . . . This group really helped a lot. So now we try to make it a mission of when we have extra food or items, we post them or even comment when people are looking for items. Because it’s a rough world out there and just great when people can get together and support each other.” 

Sherry Coulombe had always been both a giver and receiver of items through the group. Then, around Christmas, a big and nasty storm knocked out the internet connection to her family home for 11 days. 

All that Coulombe’s family had for entertainment was some holiday DVDs, but she had no machine on which to play them. She turned to the group for help. 

“One post on the page and I had one right away,” she says. “Getting that DVD player really saved our holiday.” 


Soon after, Coulombe gave away a king-sized bed platform and an antique table through the group. The pay-it-forward mentality of the group is so prevalent in the buy nothing community, it doesn’t need to be expressed. 

For some, the Buy Nothing Facebook page is about saving money — why pay for something if others are giving it away for free? 

“This page has helped me help my daughter, a single mom, get things she wouldn’t have the money for,” says Kathy Leblanc. “We definitely will pay it forward by keeping baby things nice so we can give to the next mom in need.” 

For some it’s about recycling. 

Items posted in the Lewiston Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Facebook

“I have gifted several things that would have ended up in the dump because I no longer had a need for them,” says Deana Cornelio Albert. “I’m grateful that they are serving a purpose and not just thrown away. . . . In our throw-away society, it’s nice to recycle and reuse.” 

For plenty, though, the buy nothing mentality is just plain common sense. The free exchange of goods by people who share a community is such a simple and ingrained idea, it shouldn’t require extensive explanation. 


It’s a concept that is being passed down, by some, to the next generation. 

“My son is 6 and we have been putting some of his old but hardly used toys on the group because it’s a good lesson for him,” says Frost. 

“My daughter turned 4 shortly before Christmas,” says Cora Latham, another member of the Lewiston group, “and although she struggled letting go of some stuff, she was very excited to be able to give toys and clothes to other kids who might not have much for Christmas. She said it made her happy to make sure other kids weren’t sad. 

“I love that these groups allow giving and receiving directly in your community,” Latham continues, “rather than trying to teach these lessons to little ones and then just dropping off at Goodwill or such.” 

In past years, people tended to unload their unwanted goods by bring them to charitable organizations such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army. 

And yet, that method is impersonal. One never knows who ended up with those donated goods. They don’t get to meet new people in the community or to hear their stories. 


Missy North-Drain uses the group to give away kids’ clothing when her own children grow out of them. 

“I prefer giving it directly to families instead of giving it to the Goodwill,” she says. 

Lisa Jones gives Isi Roman a used weight-training set that Jones did not need. Jones helps with a Buy Nothing group out of Lewiston and gives away items that she no longer needs. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal


Officially, the official Buy Nothing movement began in 2013 when two women, Rebecca Rockefeller and Liesl Clark, started the project as a 300-member Facebook group in the state of Washington. In interviews, Clark said her inspiration for the concept was time she had spent in Nepal where villages operated on “gift economies.” 

More can be read about that on the official movement page at 

After Rockefeller and Clark did their thing, the movement took off almost immediately, to the point where there are now estimated to be 6.5 million members in 7,500 “no buy” groups. There are at least four dozen groups in Maine. 


The concept has been growing in popularity in particular over the past few years as prices for just about everything soared. In an age of planned obsolescence more and more people are seeing the value — and even the necessity — of trading with their neighbors. 

“We are so swamped with stuff, and it’s not making our world a better place to live in,” says Lee Holman, a member of a Buy Nothing group in the Hartford-Buckfield area. “We have people with needs, and it feels great to help someone find the things they needed.” 

Reuse of goods, Holman says, is “the original, and most efficient and effective form of recycling.” 

Back here in the Twin Cities, the Buy Nothing group used to encompass both Lewiston and Auburn. It got so big the group split in two: one for people in Lewiston, one for those on the other side of the river. 

Lisa Jones and Sheri Lynn took over as administrators of the Lewiston group. Both believe in the concept of freely giving help to others, and receiving help in return, with all their hearts. 

Items left out by Lisa Jones of Lewiston for another member of the No Buy Facebook group. Submitted photo

“I believe that mutual aid is the way forward,” says Lynn, “and that we will only continue to see the power of the Buy Nothing movement grow and evolve as it fulfills needs and wants while also reducing consumption and waste.” 


The Auburn Buy Nothing group is managed by Laura Decato and Ilse Thompson. This group thrives as much as its sibling in Lewiston. 

And it’s the same philosophy at work. 

“Sharing is caring,” says Ellen Huling of the Auburn Buy Nothing group. “I think it’s a wonderful place to not just get rid of your clutter but give a helping hand or develop a sense of community and caring.” 

“One of the pleasant side effects of being in this group is the friendships that have been made while swapping and sharing,” says Tabby Crab, another member of the Auburn group. “It certainly feels better to sprinkle excess possessions among people who truly want and will use them than to dump the former treasures off at a thrift store.” 

“I love having a safe space to re-home items that I no longer need,” echoes Renee Brezovsky. “Better for the environment, and happy to help others when I am able. Conversely, I’ve found a couple of items I could use as well! Win win!” 

“I love the connections I’ve been able to make with people in my community,” says Jen Eugley of the Auburn group. “People who are starting a hobby that I don’t do anymore and I can pass along my tools and supplies; realizing we have a friend in common and passing along a hello; finding out somebody loves a certain type of collectible and messaging them when I find that one more thing that I missed when I was purging the first time; passing along things my kids have outgrown and knowing they’re going to be enjoyed again by kids a few stages behind them.” 


Items posted in the Lewiston Buy Nothing group on Facebook. Facebook


We could do this all day. The people engaged in the groups tend to love talking about it. They see their involvement in this vigorous system of giving and taking as healthy and beneficial in a wide range of ways — you really only need to browse your local buy nothing group to get an understanding of how it works and why it means so much to so many. 

In Auburn, here’s an artist in search of unneeded paint for a project. 

Below that, a woman is offering up for free a raised, wooden garden bed. And after that, a woman in need of a twin bed frame. 

In Lewiston at the same time, a bedridden woman is in search of sports bras for her daughter, a woman is giving away all of her fantasy books, and another is offering up a bunch of spider plants for free. 

There are people with new pets looking for litter boxes and parents unloading kids toys and clothing. 


As I browsed, I saw at least three free items I wouldn’t mind having and thought of about 10 things of my own I should probably just give away. 

Those longtime members of the group were right, as it turns out. The concept of the no buy groups is just so sensible and sane, it shouldn’t require explanation. 

If you need something, ask your neighbors. 

If you have something you no longer need, see if someone else can use it and make it happen. 

So simple. Who knew that the clutter that occupies so much of our space has value greater than the cost of the items themselves. Who knew that entire communities could be built, and friendships forged upon those piles? 

“I love that it’s an easy place to get help AND help others,” says Ashli Frost of the Lewiston group. “I love how some random thing that I haven’t used in four years can make someone’s whole week. It’s also nice in a difficult world to not feel so alone.”

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