I am unashamedly addicted to Craigslist. While my peers spend hours a day on Facebook or Twitter, I browse every section of Craigslist.

I have seen goats, mustang parts, plastic grocery bags, cat-stained mattresses, fireplace ashes, and moth-eaten clothing posted in color photos, accompanied by poorly written ad copy and strange, Craigslist-exclusive abbreviations.

Craigslist and I have an ongoing relationship. One fateful September day, I was feeling a little downtrodden about my financial situation, and decided to do something to remedy it.

I was very cautious of the site, especially after the stories of the Craigslist killer and the many scams involved with posting on the classified ad host. I set up a separate e-mail account under a fake name, and set my signature to say simply, “Sincerely, Meg.”

I posted an ad, almost as a joke. The title of the ad read: “I do everything – $10 an hour.” My roommate laughed, and called me crazy, as she often does. As you can imagine, I received a variety of responses.

Some requests about what I would do for $10 an hour were a little risqué, I must admit. Others were pretty generic. A woman asked if I would watch her kids during the day. A couple wanted to know if I had experience in geriatric care, and could I help out with his mother as a live-in worker? I politely declined.

Then a man e-mailed me about cleaning his house. It seemed promising enough. So like the risk-taker I am, I ventured out in my big blue Ford to his big brick house. He wasn’t there when I knocked on the door, but his four boys – all under age 10 – were. The oldest let me in and showed me around.

Dad got home, informed me that he and his family would be gone for the weekend. Get done what you can, he told me. He plopped the house keys in my hand, loaded their suitcases in his Suburban, and was off before I could tell him my last name.

Good thing I’m an honest, moral person. I spent 30 hours that weekend cleaning the filthiest house I’ve ever seen in my life. Mouse tracks, left near stuffed animals whose insides had apparently been removed for rodent nests. Half-eaten lollipops stuck to the hardwood floor. Dust so thick over everything, you’d think no one had lived there in 800 years.

And so many toys… I never knew it was possible to stuff 10 trash bags of food leftovers and coins and remote controls and clothes and toys into one thoroughly abused sectional couch. It sounds hyperbolic, I know, but it’s the truth.

In two days, Dirty Family returned to a cleaner, healthier home, and I left with $300 cash in my pocket. To a college student, that’s a lot of money. Groceries for three months. A year’s worth of dates at the dollar movie. And at least 150 cups of black coffee at any local coffee shop with great ambiance.

That was my experience losing my Craigslist virginity. Since then, I deal on Craigslist consistently. I sell DVDs, clean homes, babysit, do yard work, and carry out lots of other profitable exchanges.

More than the money I make (which has been about $1,000 so far), I get to meet people I would never have known existed if it wasn’t for Craigslist.

I met a single mom with more kids than would fit in the car she had to borrow from a friend to come meet me in the Walmart parking lot. She wanted a digital camera to take photos of her children, but she didn’t have any money, so I traded her my old one for a good chili pot.

I met a public relations director for a paper company who asked me to bag some leaves in her yard, and then invited me in for homemade potato soup and conversation about her kids and career.

So even though some may berate you, Craigslist, with accusations of scams and disappointment, I thank you for the profit and adventures you bring me.

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