Do You Want That? A Brief History of Giving Away Your Stuff

giving away your stuff

People have been giving away their stuff probably since they started to collect stuff in the first place.

Even when we were still living in caves there were probably some spare furs lying around that someone tried to give away (maybe they didn’t go with the particular shade of rocks).

Ok, maybe this didn’t apply to monkeys.

give away your stuff

Marie Kondo’s “keep only what sparks joy”-philosophy and minimalistic design being omnipresent today is adding to the trend of giving away your stuff.

How is everyone doing it?

marie kondo

Push it Onto Your Friends and Family

When I was a kid, the easiest way to give away an ugly sweater vest or an old lamp shade was to push it onto your friends and family.

Giving something away to those of you closest made sense: in the unlikely case of you changing your mind, your stuff wouldn’t be lost entirely.

giving away your stuff

The problem with books, clothes, pictures, and other stuff is that we automatically attach feelings to it.

We might neither like nor use the family china, but we remember this one christmas when our grandma was still alive and ate a large piece of pumpkin cheesecake with frosting (!)  from one of these plates.

We might not think about these plates for years, but when we are confronted with the question of giving them away they suddenly turn into sentimental items, capturing all our memories.

Giving stuff away to friends was like a safety net, making sure these things were still within our reach.

“We Could Do a Garage Sale!”

If you had unloaded enough stuff onto your friends and family, it was eventually time to branch out and hit a flea market or do a garage sale.

The problem with flea markets was that you often wound up buying more stuff than you would sell. After all, flea markets were also about the hope of finding this one old dusty landscape painting, which was actually a Casper David Friedrich.  I have no idea if this really ever happened though.

People in big cities who are too lazy to go to a flea market often just put all their stuff on the street.

And watch from their windows as their couch finds a new owner.

giving away your stuff

And Then Came Craigslist

On Craigslist, you could find a date for the night or a new chair (or both).

The site became so popular that people could browse for specific items and still find curiosities.

pope hat

Craigslist quickly turned into the sewer of the internet. Here, people could dump clothes, garbage, feelings.

It was not just about finding things, but also about losing them and getting them back.

Missed Connections

missed connections

Craigslist has become so popular since its start in 1995 that over 700 cities had Craigslist-sites in 2012. There are movies about Craigslist (“The Craigslist Killer”), Songs, and episodes of TV shows.

Swap Parties

At swap parties, you would, umm.. well, swap your own stuff with that from someone else.  Since I have never been to parties like this, I can only imagine what’s going on there.

swap party

Let Your Stuff Uber Away…

Today, giving away your stuff is a need that is recognized by companies. There are many more sites and apps similar to Craigslist out there.

Companies like Shpock or Bundlehub are all about making the process as quick and painless as possible.

You take a picture and then hope someone will be interested in your dough-crusted waffle maker and pick it up.

On Bundlhub, a startup from New York that is still in Beta, the process will become even easier. The company plans a door-to-door-delivery where someone picks your used stuff up from your doorstep and delivers it to whomever is interested. Your stuff basically Ubers away.


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