Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Buy Nothing Groups Celebrate “Gifting” Culture

Map showing local Buy Nothing groups in the Buzz readership area. Click to see a larger interactive version, where you can find links to each specific group.


Stuff.  We’ve all got it.  We all need it.  And sometimes we also need to either get rid of some of it…or get more of it.  But along with everything else these days, the getting and getting rid of stuff has become harder during the pandemic.  And even with vaccines and business reopenings giving us hope for a return to something a bit closer to normal later this year, many people are still reluctant to shop in stores.  Many charities are still not accepting donations.  And even yard sales – normally an almost sacred weekend sport in LA – are still nearly non-existent.

But there is one “stuff” solution that has gained a lot of steam over the past year – both internationally and in our local neighborhoods.  It’s called the “Buy Nothing” movement – a network of hyper-local, neighborhood-based organizations, accessed via Facebook, through which neighbors offer up items they no longer need or want to other neighbors…or request and claim items other neighbors are giving away.

It’s all free, with no strings attached.  And it’s growing fast.

According to the Buy Nothing website, “As of February 2021 the Buy Nothing Project has at least 3 million participants in 44 countries, with over 5,500 groups led by more than 11,300 volunteers, and our rules are translated into 16 languages.”  And, yes, many of those groups are local to our Los Angeles – and Buzz area – neighborhoods.

The main rules to participate in Buy Nothing are that you must live in the geographic area covered by your group, and that there is no charge for items given or received (not even direct trades are allowed).  Just simple giving and receiving among neighbors.  And not only does it work…but participants say they are finding an unexpected joy in what’s becoming known as the “gifting” culture. In other words, as it turns out, not only is getting free stuff fun…but giving  things away and making other people happy is surprisingly fulfilling.

Carmen Alatorre moved to Los Angeles in 2014, and a couple of years later a friend told her about the Mid-Wilshire Buy Nothing group, which serves neighbors in the area from Pico to 3rd St., between Crenshaw and Crescent Heights.  At the time, the group had no moderator, so Alatorre volunteered for the position.  (Local group moderators receive four weeks of training from a more regional Buy Nothing coordinator before officially assuming duty with their own groups.)  Since then, she has both moderated the Mid-Wilshire group and participated as an enthusiastic donor and recipient, a job that has become particularly fulfilling during the difficult pandemic months, when Buy Nothing has also helped bring neighbors together in new ways.

“I love giving joy,” Alatorre told the Buzz.  “I think it’s much more than giving stuff away.  We’ve been able to connect without seeing each other…in all this madness.”

Alatorre said the best part for her is the sense of community the group creates, among very diverse participants. “The best thing is the relationships,” she said. “How we get to know our neighbors is the most amazing thing.”

Alatorre said her favorite Buy Nothing posts are not the item offers or requests, but what are known as “gratitude posts,” in which a recipient of an item posts a photo and/or story of how they’ve put something they claimed to good use and are enjoying its benefits.  It’s what helps everyone realize that what they’re doing is not just getting rid of stuff…but “giving joy.”  “We all help,” she said.  “It’s fun.”

Lisa T., a Sycamore Square resident and also a member of the Mid-Wilshire Buy Nothing group, which now has more than 1,200 members, said she first heard about Buy Nothing from the Happier in Hollywood podcast last year, which talked about both the practical side of the groups, and how they also help to forge a sense of community.  “I liked the idea of buying less and sharing more,” T. said.  And since she first got involved, she said, “I try to offer something to give every week or so. After I do a big closet purge of my clothes and pick out the clothes my son has outgrown, I list more items. It feels great to get rid of toys and books and know that they’re going to a home where they’ll be enjoyed.”

While clothes, books, and toys are always popular items offered and claimed, T. also pointed out that food items are popular as well. “We were able to give yeast to a number of home bakers early in the pandemic because my husband’s in-laws sent a huge bag from the mid-West,” she said. “That felt great to share, knowing how much stress relief baking gives me. I hope it helped other folks cope with anxiety as well. Or at least was tasty and made their homes smell good.”

And what are the best things T. has claimed from the group?

“I picked up a beaten up Adirondack chair and spent days sanding and repainting it. That was a great Covid project because it got me outdoors and away from a computer screen. It also helped me turn our balcony into a bit of a home office, at least for a few hours a day. Same with plants. We received some cuttings from neighbors and have been growing tomatoes and peppers in pots, which helps mark the passage of time. It took 5 months to get one small tomato, but the joy in watering the plants each day and seeing how they’re growing, was priceless.”

And T., too, appreciates the sense of the community it has fostered. “I feel like I have a better sense of my neighbors and the neighborhood,” she said. “95% of the time I walk or bike to pick up an item, so I’ve discovered streets or corners of my neighborhood that I’ve never been on. And also not wasting gas. You start to learn who is expecting a baby or who has an aged parent, so you keep your eyes out for items that might be helpful to them…In some ways, it feels like we have a (remote) village square.”

While some neighborhoods, like Mid-Wilshire, have had active Buy Nothing groups for years, and have seen them grow quickly during the pandemic year, other neighborhoods, which didn’t previously have Buy Nothing groups, have seen new ones pop up in the last few months. (Lots of recent media coverage, even in the LA Times not long ago, hasn’t hurt.)

One of the area’s newest Buy Nothing groups is the Hollwood (South/Larchmont) group, which covers the territory between (roughly) Wilshire and Santa Monica Blvds., from Western to Highland.  It’s still fairly small, with fewer than 200 members, but Buzz contributor Anne Wilner joined recently and reported that it was fun, indeed, to give away her first item.

“It was a great experience,” Wilner told us.  “A woman said she was in search of items for her 18-month-old daughter. I sent her a picture of items I thought she might like and she was thrilled. I dropped them off on her front door yesterday and she sent me a picture soon after of her daughter playing with the toys. She sent me a very sweet thank you note. So fun!!”

Almost no item is too small or too odd to be of use to someone else. This solid brass finial was snapped up by a neighbor for a craft project.

For the most of the last year, this reporter, too, has been an active Buy Nothing member and enthusiast.  Among the items I’ve given away have been a butcherblock cutting board, a pizza stone, a sheet for baby play yard, a Slip and Slide outdoor water play toy, skin care product samples, books, an abundance of home-grown avocados, a set of bunk bed frames, two comforters, random cleaning products, whole wheat flour…and even a single brass finial, which was immediately snapped up by a neighbor for a craft project.

Items I’ve received have included hangers for Christmas stockings, a carton of buttermilk (see my “gratitude post” below), several books, home grown chili peppers, calla lily rhizomes, a Google Chromecast, a VCR/DVD combo, a counter-top compost container, guavas, flannel sheets, a fabric steamer, a small antique mirror, and several large water bottles I needed for a community garden project.


“Gratitude post” to my local Buy Nothing group after receiving a carton of buttermilk my husband used to make some yummy waffles.


In general, you’ll find that items range from the tiny (the finial mentioned above) to the unexpectedly lavish (furniture, fully operational exercise bikes, flat-screen TVs, printers and more)…and things like diapers, baby formula, and/or medical equipment for those truly in need and temporarily unable to source them in other ways.

If you’d like start Buying Nothing, you can click on the map above to find a link to your local group on Facebook, and/or go to to find out more about the organization as a whole.   It’s a great way to build local connections and community, to give and receive as you are able and as you enjoy, and to help the planet while you’re at it by ramping up your reduce/reuse/recycle activity.

Finally, it’s also worth nothing that Buy Nothing groups are very private – only local residents can join each group, and only group members can see posts and activity – and the rules are strictly enforced.  Also, giving and receiving is very COVID-safe – most transactions are done through contact-free porch pickups, with either no contact or just a wave through a window or door between the giver and recipient.

So it’s a great way to give a little, get a little, create community, and spread joy…at a time when we all can definitely benefit from all of those things.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }