Matt and I have been traveling a lot the past two months, we’ve had visitors off and on, and I started a new job at the beginning of October. Things have been happening. But we’ve been relatively calm and stationary this past week or so, which of course meant I got the fall cleanup bug. (Winter is coming, it’s time to clean up and get cozy!)
We sorted out our electronica stash, which included power strips from Switzerland (we left six years ago), old “dumb” mobile phones, strange connector cables and more. We put away our summer clothes and pulled out winter ones, weeding out a few we no longer wanted. Then off we went to Myrorna (Salvation Army) to drop it all off.
The sorting happened last weekend, and the dropping off on Saturday. Today, Sunday, I headed back to Myrorna in search of a side table. Matt’s been putting his beer glasses on the floor next to his chair, and I am prone to tipping them over. So a small table seemed like just the thing. Yet nothing in the cavernous cellar at the Ropsten Myrorna quite fit. The one side table that was closest to desirable had two drawers and a great aspect ratio — and cracked wood on the face of the drawers and water stains from glasses on its tabletop, all for 400 SEK (more than 50 bucks!).
So, that last visit to the secondhand store was slightly depressing. People have a lot of castoffs here. There are flea markets every summer, and junk stores everywhere (and few garage sales, considering there are also very few garages in town). Beautiful old wooden cupboards and antiques end up in these places, but a lot of it is not in good shape. (Same for the clothes, shoes, kitchenware, you name it.) Sometimes we wonder if the market here for used goods might be a bit inflated (at least if Myrorna is a measure of selling poor quality used goods for too much money in some cases!).
As I spilled out onto the rain-glistening street after Myrorna closed at 4 pm, I pondered where else I might go to find an appropriately small, ship-shape table at an affordable price. I’d already checked Åhléns, the local department store chain, and been disappointed in the selection. Granit (cheap, made in India) had no tables in the store I visited near Östermalm. But on the bus ride over to Ropsten (I had been too lazy to walk over in the rain, and time had been tight), I had caught a glimpse of what looked like a farmers’ market stand at the Norra Djürgården, tucked in among the new apartment buildings. But the signs on the side of the small hut had said “Pop-Up Återbruk,” which I finally figured out meant “reuse” or “recycling.”
I walked down the side of the Hjörthagen mountain and made my way to the two small container huts, where people were busy packing up. They too had closed at 4 pm. Still, I stopped to watch as they were packing up these cleverly designed shipping containers, with foldable awnings and shelving built in to the walls. I also noticed a few of the people were wearing vests emblazoned with Stockholm Vatten, the city’s water treatment utility. That was confusing. I grabbed a guy named Peter Nygren (I may be getting his name wrong) to ask what was happening.
Vatten, which is the city water company, is about to change its name from simply Vatten to Vatten och Avfall, or Water and Garbage, Peter told me. And to cut down on garbage, the company is experimenting with these reuse sites: People can drop off anything, and take anything for free. Freecycling!
Vatten had sponsored an architectural design competition, and then paired the winner with a local builder to create these clever portable stores. They’ll be popping up in neighborhoods around the city, Peter continued, and whatever doesn’t get taken, Vatten will deliver to Myrorna or Stadsmissionen to see if they can find a buyer for these freecycled goods. After a few weekend experiments, the company will crunch the numbers to see if the pop-up reuse centers were successful.
So far, the answer may be a cautious yes: Peter told me they watched items deposited on the shelves that they thought for sure no one would want, and yet someone would walk up and take them a few minutes later. And I myself walked off with a pretty wooden quilt hanger, which was in much better shape than the raggedy side table at Myrorna. And did I mention it was free?
I’m betting there are some interesting economic principles at play here — the feeling of giving must trigger some self-righteousness, perhaps as a kind of payment so that one might value getting something for free even more. Plus it allows us humans to gather things we might not normally have purchased with money.
Hmmm. I feel like I should alert the local business schools to this experiment. I also want to alert the architectural blogs and magazines: the designs for the shipping containers are so clever — snugly fitted and elegant, despite the industrial feel of the metal framework. So very cool!
I will have to keep my eyes open for future Pop-Up installations nearby. And in the meantime, Matt and I rearranged the livingroom so that he has a side table we already happen to own standing closer to his chair. Phew!