morninglite

Everything you need to have a beautiful morning, sleepyhead.

Daily Lit: Where You Can Give It Away, in Berlin

on December 17, 2011

Last summer, Andreas Richter, a 28-year-old computer programmer who lives in Berlin, wanted to get rid of some stuff: clothes, DVDs, a set of drinking glasses. He didn’t want to throw out the items — still perfectly useful — but he also didn’t want to have to schedule pickups or use DHL for a couple of T-shirts. So instead, he got out his power tools and built a telephone-booth-sized structure that he called “Givebox” on his street in Mitte (Steinstrasse 37b). Since then, the project has taken on a more interactive aspect and has expanded to other locations and even other cities.

The concept behind the Givebox, which Mr. Richter’s girlfriend, Lena Issa, suggested they decorate with wallpaper, is that people leave and take items, anonymously and freely. The idea has gone viral, with enthusiasts adding three more locations in Berlin, as well as Giveboxes in cities like Vienna and Hamburg.

“It’s part of the zeitgeist,” Mr. Richter said. “We’re all confronted with all this bad economic news, that it’s getting harder to survive. But at the same time, it’s part of the zeitgeist to have a lot of stuff you don’t need. People are happy to get rid of things.”

The system works on trust, with surprisingly positive results. Enthusiastic neighbors tell stories of serendipitous finds — like a pair of perfectly fitting G-Star RAW jeans — as well as the satisfaction of seeing that what they left in the box, from a book of love poems to shoes to flower vases, has been snapped up.

“It’s such a wonderful idea,” said Cathrin Barthel, who was checking out the Givebox on Steinstrasse, where she said she had both left and found clothes — including the gray sweater she was wearing. “One of the best parts is that it gives you a chance to talk to your neighbors.”

Cited: New York Times

Sally McGrane

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