Saturday, July 20, 2024

This new group is bringing neighbors in Williamsburg closer — by buying ‘nothing’

The new Buy Nothing Project Williamsburg group is a place where neighbors can help each other out by sharing items and skills. (WYDaily/courtesy of Pixabay)
The new Buy Nothing Project Williamsburg group is a place where neighbors can help each other out by sharing items and skills. (WYDaily/courtesy of Pixabay)

A new group has come to Williamsburg that will bring neighbors closer together by cleaning out their closets.

“I’ve been trying to look at my own consumption habits and living more minimalist,” said Anna Swynford. “When you start giving things away, you realize there is someone out there who probably needs it.”

Swynford is the creator of the new Buy Nothing Project Williamsburg group. The Buy Nothing Project is an international movement that encourages people to connect through hyper-local gift economies, according to the movement’s website.

The idea, Swynford said, is that if you need a cup of sugar, you ask your neighbor instead going out and buying more. But this is on a larger scale and through social media.

When Swynford went to visit family in Seattle, she heard of the group and saw how her mother had enjoyed it. She realized there wasn’t one in Williamsburg, so she decided to be the one to start her own small movement.

“What made me do it was that saying, ‘be the change you wish to see,’” she said. 

But Swynford couldn’t start the Buy Nothing Williamsburg Facebook page just because she wanted to. She had to go through a two-week training process in which she watched modules that taught her about moderating the group, how to create boundaries and enforce the rules.

The purpose of the group is not for people to advertise or earn a profit from the items they post. It is to share resources within a community and so if people don’t comply, Swynford will regulate them.

“I think the people who join this kind of group are in on the vision for it,” she said. “It’s about giving freely.”

Since starting the group on Facebook a week ago, 110 members have already joined and Swynford said she’s already given some items to people. She said this type of interaction is different than selling and buying something like you would with the local Trash and Treasure Facebook groups, where people can sell items like an online yard sale.

Instead, when a person participates in the Buy Nothing group, typically they form a connection with the neighbor as opposed to just participating in an exchange of goods.

And that’s one of the main goals of the group, she said—to connect neighbors with each other.

“I think partly there are ways that our society can feel more fragmented and this is one way to combat that,” Swynford said. “To get back to the sense that we are all neighbors and in this together.”

So far, the impact has even reached Swynford’s 5-year-old daughter who watches her mother give away items their family no longer needs.

“At first she didn’t understand, but now she’ll start to look at things and say ‘I don’t need this anymore, I think we can give it away,’” Swynford said.

The Buy Nothing Project only allows a group to cover an area no larger than 20,000 people, Swynford said, so she had to limit it only to people who live southwest of Route 199 and between News Road and the Colonial Parkway.

To make sure it is consistent, she said people have to enter the crossroads of their street when they join the group.

She said she hopes people out of that range who are interested will be inspired to start their own group.

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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