Are you familiar with the Freecycle Network? You can find your local group online at Freecycle.org. My local group is run on a Yahoo email list, and provided you follow the rules, anyone can join. I post or receive items virtually weekly.
I needed some really big containers for laundry-detergent storage and found someone giving some away via Freecycle (they previously held cola syrup for a manufacturing plant).
I was looking for some old empty spools and found a costume designer who was tossing a drawer full.
With three brown-baggers in the family, we’re always short on reusable plastic containers—but found a family in the midst of a move giving away an entire box of them.
Likewise, sometimes someone has fallen on hard times and the food bank doesn’t provide washing detergent—I’ll fill up someone’s detergent container with my home-made brew.
I’ll pass on formula and diaper coupons I don’t need, and when a piece of furniture or tricycle is outgrown, it gets “freecycled” on to another family who could use it.
This is a great way to find (or be rid of) children’s clothing, movies and books.
Etiquette says that you don’t ask for something unless it’s really needed (i.e “wanted: new laptop with DVD player” won’t fly) and that if you’ve received something, pay it forward by sending something back.
You can find a freecycle group local to your area using YahooGroups. I suggest “lurking” for a little while to get the idea of how the system works. This is also a great way to find appliances—as when someone upgrades they often post an ad something to the effect of “come get it if you want it.” Similarly, it can be a good way for canners to glean from otherwise untended fruit trees or gardens. Just today I saw a post for crab apples. “You pick.”
Better a crab apple than a road apple anytime.