30/01/2017
With My Stuff = Your Stuff.

Words by

Eliza Sholly

You would be hard-pressed to find someone on social media that isn’t familiar with the concept of a Facebook buy/sell group.

Not only do they provide another avenue to make a lil’ cash off your unwanted purchases, they also encourage communities of sustainable shoppers.

Behind these groups, however, is a team of people that volunteer hours of their own time each day, to ensure the smooth operation of their platforms. For the four-person team behind My Stuff = Your Stuff, Jacinta Nést shines as the hero.

My Stuff = Your Stuff exists for local Melbournites to buy and sell quality secondhand goods. MSYS (as it's affectionately known) is all about lessening the landfill, promoting positive vibes and being a lush community of sharing for all.  

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? But with over 31,000 members and over 10,000 items currently listed for sale, for Jacinta it's far from. The team spends a collective 6-8 hours per day bumping, scrolling, deleting, banning and responding, with Jackie contributing a personal 1-4 hours per day herself.

After many office discussions around why a person would volunteer so much of their time for nothing, we thought we'd just ask.

(We also did the same with HIGH END admin Brooke Marks. You can read that here.)

Alright, SO. From the outside, being an admin seems like a pretty thankless task. You’re forever dealing with other people’s issues and complaints. Is it as thankless as it seems? Why do you do it? What do you get out of it?

It can’t be about what you get in return. It has to be selfless and sacrificial. You have to be prepared as an admin to juggle the sweetest of thanks from one member, while having attitude hurled at you by another. You have to be prepared to check your inbox, others and filtered messages whenever you get a chance, because while you might be dealing with seven issues and mediating between buyer/seller dramas already, someone else needs your assistance too. And that is just part of the ‘job description’ so to speak – you have to be prepared to stretch yourself and be patient and gracious, even if the words ‘Thank You’ go unseen and unheard.

As an Admin, I believe you need to focus on the experience you’re providing, the platform you’re offering and the interactions you’re housing. We’re currently sitting at around 31,000 members – that’s nothing when you consider Melbourne’s population of 5.2 million.

However, MSYS has grown organically, without promotion, without fancy designs or catchy advertising campaigns, and I’m really proud of what it has become. I admin because I think helping 31,000ish people the way that we do every day is a privilege, not an obligation, and because I know that we are building more than just a group. It’s a real Melbourne-vibe community, and people love it!

Sounds legit. But is there also some hidden benefit for Facebook group admins that no one tells us about?

If there is, no one is telling me about them either… haha.

How much time do you dedicate to admin-ing per day?

Anywhere between 1-4 hours per day. Collectively as a team (Bon, Dan and Em), I would say they also spend around 6-8 hours per day combined. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I have high expectations of the team I have working with me, and for what’s required to be an admin/moderator for MSYS, because it’s a big responsibility. They’re incredible and they keep me sane. They’re such a dream team!

Where do you admin from?

I’m always admin-ing. I admin from home, work, public transport, the park – it’s probably easier to just say everywhere.

What’s your day job?

I’m a teacher.

Do you ever feel like being an admin hinders your performance at work?

Very rarely, because I believe you should always prioritise honouring your employer before you honour your own personal endeavours and escapades. However breaks and planning time often turns into eat, rest, plan and admin time. My position isn’t a desk-based job, so I intentionally sought out two team members to assist with the everyday admin duties that DO work desk-based jobs. It means that in the hours when I am less available, they’re generally working from their desks with the group open, and are overseeing things.

What’s the hardest part about being an admin?

Finding a balance between ‘me time’ and ‘admin time’. Plus, making sure that I find time to switch off and recuperate. I always tell my team that if they ever need to take a break, they can. We try to alternate having time away from the group so that everyone feels rested and no one gets burned out. It can be likened to when you take holidays from work.

Best part about being an admin?

Knowing you're providing an avenue for people to buy and sell things with ease, in a safe community of local and like-minded people, who are interested in a secondhand lifestyle, rather than a consumerist ‘buy it brand new’ lifestyle. We’re reducing landfill with every sale of a pre-owned piece, and I love that.

Also, knowing that MSYS helps some people earn the money they need to eat, pay rent or bills is pretty rewarding too. Finding a job isn’t easy for everyone.

What’s your relationship like with group members?

I think it’s excellent. I’m very present in the group. I post regularly with admin updates, comment on lush items and always respond to members. I’ve made some incredible connections and friends with people in the group, which now go beyond MSYS. One member did a car swap with me over the summer and let me use his bright yellow Lite-Ace Van to travel up The East Coast of Australia for free, all because he was appreciative of my help as Admin of MSYS (Shout out to Adrian)!

I've had a lot of experiences like this, where people have shown excessive kindness! We have a couple of sassy members who try to stir the pot occasionally, but overall they’re still excellent and regular buyers/sellers. We have a zero-bullying/troll policy, which helps keep things positive also.

Do you consider yourself semi-famous?

Well known, yes. Famous, no.

Be honest. Does some part of you secretly get off on the power your role accords?

No. If I am completely honest, it is often more of a burden than a blessing. Removing someone for breaking the rules isn’t about power, it’s about doing what is fair and right. It’s about following clearly presented and laid out rules – they’re set in place in order for the group to run well.

We’re one of the most ‘strict’ buy and sell groups when it comes to what is and isn’t allowed, but it's because of this that we're so popular and have such good quality items and people.

How do you deal with dodgy buyers/sellers? Is there a process?

MSYS has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to breaking the rules. We have a strike policy, where if a member causes a mild issue, such as not turning up for a planned pick-up of an item, they will receive a strike. Once a member has two strikes against their name, they’re removed.

However, for more serious issues not requiring legal intervention, a member is immediately banned for their behaviour. We provide relevant legal contact information and legal rights and options when relevant, such as contacting the local police or involving the small claims court (VCAT).

To this day, we have managed to sort all issues bar one, prior to the police or VCAT having to be involved. Generally, providing the legal informationor warning to those involved is enough to bring people to do the right thing.

Are there any ethical concerns?

We exist to lessen landfill and to save perfectly good furniture etc. from ending up being crushed into thousands of tiny shards of waste. Perhaps people look at MSYS and think: “Oh, it’s just another stupid buy and sell group.” But that’s not how we see it. MSYS is changing the way Melbourne thinks and acts regarding disposal. If an item doesn’t fit the standard of MSYS, we have other groups we point people to, who also have the same vision and ethical standards as we do. They can post their items there.

It’s not about being the biggest, the best or being the hero. It’s about making a difference. Melbourne recycles approximately 58% of the waste we generate and 42% goes to landfill. We can only hope that by continuing to grow the MSYS community, the percentage of recycled items in Melbourne will increase and the landfill percentage will decrease.

Any plans to turn MSYS into a business?

I’m in the process of working alongside a web developer to turn MSYS into its own app, as well as a website which will still connect and allow members to log in with Facebook. But it’s really just the bones right now, early stages, you know...

I’m also aiming at launching a MSYS market event, which will see us collaborate with some of our group members who own catering and function businesses, as well as promoting and providing a platform for many of the performers and artists within our group to share their talents, and even small businesses. Lets just say, I’m excited for what’s to come in the next year.

Anything else to add?

Due to the overwhelming interest in MSYS both Australia-wide and Internationally, as of August, we are now a ‘secret’ group on Facebook, to prevent the hundreds and hundreds of requests we were receiving daily (I’m talking 500+).

It’s important to note we are for good quality secondhand furniture and homewares, and every other hipster dreamy desire you could possibly think up. We see an abundance of record players, Danish and mid century furniture, art, plants, rugs, festival tickets, bikes, white goods, sewing machines and the list goes on. We don’t allow clothing, shoes, jewellery, cosmetics, toys, animals, drugs or alcohol.

All of the above aside - If you’re Melbourne based and keen to join – you will need a friend who is already in the group to add you (with 31,000 members, I’m sure you’ve probably got one.)

However, if you don’t have a friend in the group, come find me on Facebook, pop me a message and I’ll sneak you in somehow. 

Illustration by Twylamae.

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