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Memberships On 'Buy Nothing' Facebook Groups Explode Nationwide

THE WOODLANDS, Texas (CBS) -- For many people, decluttering is a popular way to mark the beginning of a new year. But instead of tossing or donating unwanted items, a growing number of Americans are first offering them to their neighbors for free. It's part of the Buy Nothing Project, and memberships are exploding nationwide.

CBS This Morning's Janet Shamilian went to The Woodlands, Texas to find out how this movement is offering far more than just giveaways.

Jordan Cheatham is stopping at a neighbor's home to drop off a fondue pot she's never used.

The mom of three found a taker for it on her local Buy Nothing Facebook group she helps run. In the last six months, she's given "clothes, shoes, books and dishes."

And even a couple of pieces of furniture.

People post photos of what they're giving away on a neighborhood Buy Nothing Facebook group or through the Buy Nothing app.

Members can also ask for something they need. Everything is donated with no strings attached -- trading, bartering, buying or selling is not allowed.

Friends Liesel Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller started the Buy Nothing movement in 2013.

"I think we originally were thinking, OK, we can all offer up what we'd like to give in this hyperlocal gift economy and try to solve that question of do we have too much in our homes? Can we share our bounty?" Clark said.

They didn't realize then, what's apparent now. It's about more than decluttering and economic need.

"I've made so many probably lasting friendships and just from this group," Cheatham said.

But, perhaps the most important gifts came when her daughter was born in October 2020.

Cheatham had to have an emergency C-section. She posted a desperate plea in her Buy Nothing group. "Formula? Baby is not doing well on breast milk," the post said.

The response overwhelmed her.

"When I got home, my front porch and inside was full of formula, I had like two or three months' worth of supply from at least 15 people," Cheatham said. "It really shows that, you know, you're never alone."

Buy Nothing has spread to almost 7,000 communities across more than 40 countries. The pandemic fueled a spike in membership, more than 1.5 million people joined and the number taking part in Buy Nothing groups now tops give million worldwide.

"Ironically, here we were isolated, but we were coming to know our neighbors," Clark said.

With record inflation and the stresses of the pandemic, Buy Nothing became, for some, a financial and emotional lifeline.

"It brings more joy to yourself, helping others," Cheatham said.

To learn more about the Buy Nothing Project, click here.

CBS This Morning's Janet Shamlian contributed to this report. 

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