In a matter of hours, Franklin Park's Brian Bagnall watched complete strangers walk off with nearly everything he owned.
Surprisingly, they had his blessing.
The 32-year-old west suburban author of a book on happiness gave away everything in his home except for some personal items in preparation for a move to a furnished home in Virginia. Instead of selling his furniture and other belongings, he chose to give them all away for free.
After placing an ad on Craigslist.com that read, "We're Moving and Giving Away Lots of Our Stuff for FREE," about 200 people showed up Saturday morning to Bagnall's three-bedroom ranch in the 3200 block of Dora Street, he said.
The "good stuff" – couches, beds and other "nice" furniture – went in about an hour, Bagnall said. After about two hours, the house was nearly vacant. Tools in the garage, glasses in the kitchen and even brooms and other cleaning products were gone.
"People were in the freezer taking food out," Bagnall said.
Half boxes of tissue and toilet paper were also cleared out. All that remained was a bed Bagnall instructed visitors not to take so he and his girlfriend would have a place to sleep in the coming days before returning to Virginia.
For the most part, the scene remained orderly, said Bagnall, who listed rules on the ad like no shoving and no lining up outside his door. "It wasn't Wal-Mart," he said, referring to Black Friday fights over merchandise.
Bagnall, who grew up near Park Ridge and graduated from Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, has lived in the home for about 14 years. He's moving to Virginia to be with his girlfriend, who helped come up with the idea of the giveaway.
The two often practice random acts of kindness like paying for the coffee of the next customer in line at Starbucks, Bagnall said. "We just do nice things. It's not always money related. There's such a lack of happiness in the world today. Anything we can do to help."
While visitors picked through his things, Bagnall milled about the house, he said, talking to people. Some were emotional, saying they were in need, he said. Others sent e-mails afterward thanking him.
As he watched his belongings dwindle, Bagnall said he had a thought. "I just kinda realized, it's just stuff."