In Brooklyn, a stoop is not just a noun, but also a verb. To “stoop” something is colloquially understood to mean the act of setting something out on a stoop, or sidewalk, with the intention of giving it away for free. These items sometimes have signs on them. (Faye’s scooter came to us via a stoop and a child-penned sign urging us to make it ours.) Other times, it’s the context that makes it clear something is up for grabs. (Just yesterday we spotted another scooter, one size up from the one Silas has been using, stooped by a generous neighbor among a small pile of other castoffs. Also scooped: two tennis rackets.)
And as some of you probably remember, it’s not just well-loved children’s sporting gear that I like to take home given the chance. Since moving into my first apartment, I’ve made curbside rescues of everything from a dining table to a chifferobe to flower pots and paperback books. Even more often, I’ve said goodbye to things. Cycling out my own books, or crates, or tables, for someone else to enjoy.
To give and receive via stoops is facet of city life that I cherish, but it doesn’t always work perfectly. And in a spot without a ton of foot traffic, sometimes it’s just plain impossible.
Joining a Buy Nothing Group is a solution worth a try. Are you familiar with the Buy Nothing Project? One of my favorite neighbors told me about a local group a few years ago, but I’d resisted joining, feeling like an old-fashioned stooping habit was good enough for me. But last week, after seeing a neighbor leave a particularly abundant cache of stoop treasures behind, I decided to join my local group.
In Buy Nothing Groups, which are hosted through Facebook, neighbors alert each other to items (or skills!) they have to give away, or that they are in need of! The biggest rule is that everything is given freely—members aren’t allowed to buy or trade or sell. (See the full mission and principles.) For my part, I’ve found it especially useful for rehoming items that I’ve been hesitant to pass along via the stoop. A little human interaction goes a long way. Soft goods like rugs or pillows, for instance, might be met with skepticism on a stoop, but when handed off person to person they’re readily welcomed. Recently, James accidentally bought a truly unholy quantity of birdseed. We were afraid that leaving what we couldn’t use on the stoop would mean it getting spilled or trashed, but a quick post to the neighborhood Buy Nothing group, and it was claimed within minutes.
More than just a way to get rid of things, the Buy Nothing Project is the digital answer to putting a silent call out to the universe. Except, even better, the call goes directly to your neighbors. Instead of taking a stroll on a Sunday and wistfully hoping you might come across a wooden fruit crate, you can make your ask directly of your local community instead.
In the past week I’ve seen a neighbor seeking newborn diapers enough to last through one more week of needing them. I saw someone else looking for (and receiving!) a few scoops of potting soil. Someone else borrowed a tablecloth and another person borrowed a cooler. IT’S ALL SO ENCOURAGING, ISN’T IT?
For the curious:
+ Everything you need to know about the Buy Nothing Project
+ The full list of existing Buy Nothing groups, worldwide.