I’ve noticed the existence of many ‘wegeefwinkellen‘ in Amsterdam – free stores!
A free store is a simple space, attended by an individual or group, where a wide variety of stuff — clothing, dishes, books, toys, outerwear — is available to take, for free. You can also drop off your unneeded things at a free store, but you don’t have to. There is no exchange necessary at the free store. In this way, free stores are effective mechanisms for the redistribution of the abundance of stuff in the world.
I love the concept of the free store. It has the same principles as the Really Really Free Markets in Halifax, Toronto, and I’m sure many other cities around the world, that I wrote about last summer. I noted in that post that, to make a real impact on the way we engage with our cities — the city as a social gathering place and not solely a market place — a city needs permanent infrastructure to host free markets.
Well readers, Amsterdam’s wegeefwinkellen are just that. Permanent free stores – solid, reliable places for the free exchange and redistribution of the abundance of things in the world.
Most of the free stores I’ve experienced in Amsterdam have been related to some sort of broader social project. Most commonly, they are in squats, or former squats. There’s one at the bottom of my staircase in the former-squat I’m currently staying at.
My favourite free store however, hands down, is a little wood structure at the gate of the Buurt Boerderij – the Neighbourhood Farm in Westerpark, in Amsterdam’s west. The Buurt-Boerderij is a lovely urban farm, surrounded by industrial, residential, rural, green and commercial cityscapes. Its medium size fields are planted in rows and grazed by goats. There is a cafe and bar in the farm house, with a large patio that stretches toward the fields and onto the land, where small groupings of tables and chairs invite endless hangs.
Hangs, at the Buurt Boerderij
The Buurt-Boerderij, from what I can piece together, is run in conjunction with a therepeutic mental-health centre. The residents of the centre, which sits beside the farm house, tend to the farm’s gardens, animals, and kitchen. They also attend and organize the free store: a lovely little, well-maintained place, that always offers something, if you need it.