Free Things Box

An entry in the recent Instructables Green Design Contest caught my eye:


Photo courtesy of IamWe via

This simple little stroke of genius

(and generosity)

is just the sort of gesture we can all accomplish with just a dash of creativity and community spirit.

It’s called a Free Things Box.

The box’s inventor, a Dutch fellow named Berto, designed his freebie box to be placed in a person’s front yard or in a central location within a neighborhood.

What goes in it?

Small items that are no longer wanted by their owners but are still useful.

Think books, tools, toys, DVDs, garden seeds, fabric scraps, knick-knacks, etc.

“You can arrange with residents of the street that they can also put freebies in the box,” says Berto. “More people become aware to keep things out of the trash and from the landfill.”

Neighbors can add or take anything they want as long as they follow these simple rules:

  1. The box is only open during daytime hours.
  2. Take only things you can use.
  3. Take one thing at a time.

In Berto’s video (below), he shows how to make a sturdy weatherproof (and vandalism proof) box, complete with a “window for a quick look.”

Do you think this would work in your neighborhood? I’m definitely getting a box going here at the farm.

  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    What a cool idea! It is a clever way to get unused items that still have use into the hands of someone else. Would it work here in my neighborhood? I am not sure at all what people would think or if it would encourage vandalism. I would hate to see it all covered in graffiti or ugly paint two days after it went up. However, in the country at the end of a road that leads to your house, there would be a buffer and people would have to make an effort to stop. Perhaps that would lead to only those stopping who intended to use the stand properly. Let us know how it works out for you. I am curious!

    • MaryJane says:

      Well, mine is going to be an old wooden milk crate that I place by the back door of our work facility:) It’ll be a staff box for the most part. I was in the food co-op yesterday and noticed a new hand-written sign on the lost & found box by the door. It said, “Take it only if it’s yours!” I guess it’s turned into a freebie box of sorts. We really don’t have people walking by at the farm but I think it will be a big hit for those of us who inhabit the MJF compound on a daily basis. I’ll grab something Winnie might like when I head out to rendezvous with you! Now, off to milk my cows in exactly 5 minutes!

      • Winnie Nielsen says:

        Your idea and location does sound like the perfect spot to try this idea out. This way you are interfacing with people who are already sort of “cleared” to be on your property. My guess is that it will catch on and be useful and successful. And if by some small chance you spy a certain freebie with my name on it, bring it on when we finally meet up in July in Coeur d’Alene! Whoop!!

  2. sidonia schumann says:

    Also, the time honored way if setting out free things on the greenway or curbside, especially the evening before trash collection day, is a wonderful and heartfelt kind of giving.

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