Stooping to conquer

After four weeks or so, all my worldly goods have made it across the Atlantic, and are finally due to be delivered to our apartment tomorrow. To be honest. I’ve barely missed anything for the month that I’ve been separated from it. Which is slightly disturbing, given that I’ve shipped almost 34 years of possessions. Who could have known that I didn’t really need that remote controlled car with the leaked batteries, or that the fraying River Island t-shirt (circa 1987) was superfluous to requirements?

With two households now essentially being merged into one, we’ve spent the last few weekends going through the apartment to make decisions on whose stuff we keep and whose we get rid of. It’s kind of like having a divorce before the marriage, as we battle not over who gets to keep the kettle but whose kettle we get to keep. Sadly there seems little point in persuading the other one to take, say, Soon To Be Wife’s copy of ‘Frampton Comes Alive’ or my vinyl edition of Five Star’s seminal ‘Silk & Steel’.

As I’ve been taking the endless bags of rubbish down to street level, it’s struck me how many people don’t throw stuff away in this city. And it’s not that they hoard it forever, although some do. Instead, they just set up a stoop sale, and turn their trash into someone else’s trashtreasure.

(No, I have no idea why Americans feel the need to call their front steps a stoop either. Probably for the same reason we’re pretentious enough to call the eggplant an aubergine).

Not a Saturday can go by in the neighbourhood in which we live, without seeing someone sat outside their home, next to a wallpaper pasting table full of the detritus from years of collecting and keeping. If ever you need a porcelain figurine of a giraffe, a book on world accounting principles from 1993, or a frying pan with a makeshift handle fashioned from a bicycle tyre, may I suggest you start your search in Brooklyn one weekend?

The strange thing is, I’ve never once seen anybody buy something from one of these sales. Admittedly I’ve seen more aggressive sales patter from pacifist monks, but nevertheless you’d think that people wouldn’t waste a day peddling their wares if all they’re going to make from it is $2.37.

A more humanitarian approach seems to be the one that a few other people take, which is to leave anything that’s decent and usable (but surplus to requirements) outside your dwelling, and let someone who wants it to take it away for nothing. It’s kind of like a street version of Freecycle, without the website. I’d barely put a Light Tracer (sci-fi version of Etch-a-Sketch) and a Digimon game out this weekend, before one bloke appeared to ask whether the former came with batteries or the latter had all its pieces.

There’s something vaguely inspiring about people understanding that just because you don’t need something anymore doesn’t mean that’s true for everyone. At the same time, don’t expect to see me sitting outside the apartment selling my Beano comics any time soon.

I mean, have these people not heard of eBay?

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