How I use… Freecycle/Freegle: gmail filters

How I use… Freecycle/Freegle: gmail filters

Freecycle is great but it can clog up your email. I think I've got the answer. Freecycle was set up in the US and is now over here in the UK. It's an attempt to reduce the amount of stuff that goes into landfills by making it possible for people to offer their old stuff up to local people who might want it instead of throwing it away.

It works using mailing groups. You sign up to your local group and get a torrent of emails from everyone offering or requesting stuff in your area. And you can post your offers and requests to the group too.

It's rather a lot of emails though and it can overwhelm your inbox. So what's the solution? Well you could opt to get the daily roundup email instead of the individual ones. But in this business information is key, and being the first to here about an offer makes a huge difference. And you still have to read through the roundup email to see if there's anything you want.

So here's my solution: gmail filters. You all use gmail right? Well if you don't, other email services offer similar filtering and you can always sign up to gmail just to use on freecycle and have the filtered email automatically forwarded to your main account. Anyway, the following guide is for gmail users...

How to set up gmail filters to only see the stuff you want on freecycle/freegle

The first thing to do is to sign up to the individual emails on your local freecycle/freegle group (or the several groups near you).

Then you want to automatically trash the emails that don't interest you. That's done in the filters section of gmail. To get there click "settings" in the top right corner then click the "filters" tab. Then click "Create a new filter". You'll then be presented with the following screen (click to enlarge):

How I use… Freecycle/Freegle: gmail filters

All the filtering in this particular case is done in the Subject box. So let's take a look at the subject line of a typical freecycle/freegle email:

[ealingfreecycle] OFFERED: Wardrobe

So you've got the name of the group in square brackets then whether it's offered or wanted and then the Item description.

So what do you actually type in the Subject box in the picture above? Well suppose you were only interested in hearing about bikes, nokias, cameras and office chairs and you've subscribed to 3 groups. Here's what you'd type, brackets and all:

(NameOfGroup1 OR NameOfGroup2 OR NameOfGroup3) AND ((-offered AND -offer) OR (-bike AND -bicycle AND -nokia AND -camera AND -"office chair"))

Replace NameOfGroup1 with the name of the mailing group as it appears in the email subject line. Likewise for NameOfGroup2 and NameOfGroup3.

Notice that if your item is more than one word you should put it in speech marks.

You can put as many items in the last set of brackets as you like and don't forget to include variations and abbreviations like "buggy", "pram" and "perambulator".

By way of example, here's my filter:

(KensingtonandChelseaFreecycle OR Freegle OR ealingfreecycle) AND ((-offered AND -offer) OR (-bike AND -bicycle AND -chair AND -"elixir of youth" AND -"one million pounds"))

Notice that here Freegle just calls it's groups Freegle. Or at least it does for the one I'm in.

You then click the "next step" button. Tick the box next to "delete it" (or "skip inbox" if you'd prefer to just archive the email) then click "create filter".

Now all your freecylce/freegle emails will be deleted unless they are offering something you want!

Here's the logic behind the search string if you're into that sort of thing

First off you want to make sure you're only dealing with emails coming from your freecycle/freegle lists so that's what the first set of brackets is all about. There are ORs between the group names because you want to flag emails coming from ANY of them.

Now this filter deletes emails so you need to make sure the rule fails when it's something you're interested in.

You're interested in things being offered so the next set of brackets says that to delete an email the subject has to NOT contain the word offer AND NOT contain the word offered. The minus signs in front of offer and offered mean NOT in a gmail filter (and a gmail search and google searches).

The same goes for the list of items in the last set of brackets. In there you're saying delete this email if it does NOT have bike in the subject AND does NOT have camera in the subject and so on.

Do you have any tips for using freecycle/freegle? Let me know in the comments.

Find out how to use gmail filters to get only the facebook notifications you care about.

Read about a little scam a found someone running on freecycle.

Happy hunting!

Tags: , , , , ,

  • matt

    Thanks! Saved me a bit of work figuring out the logic.

    • admin

      Cool. Glad it was helpful Matt.

  • matt

    Thanks! Saved me a bit of work figuring out the logic.

    • admin

      Cool. Glad it was helpful Matt.

  • Pingback: Interesting freecycle freebiejeebies scam and a dubious experiment | SHIFT_beep

  • trash nothing!

    I used to use the same strategy when I first subscribed to my local Freecycle groups but I got tired of tweaking the filters for every misspelling and trying to figure out which offers were still available.

    You might like the site I’ve created to automate filtering and categorizing of posts. It’s sort of a free webmail service to organize your freecycle groups. You can check it out at:

    It can work with any Freecycle group if you change your group email address to forward the emails (see )

  • Guest

    Thanks for the tip! Having your syntax to copy and paste is really helpful.