Feature photo courtesy of @stoopingams
Rosco Kalis is turning one person’s trash into another person’s treasure
I am going to tell you what I wish someone had told me before moving to Amsterdam: It is a beautiful city with a rich history, where people like to eat their fries with mayonnaise. But you see those tightly tucked townhouses, towering over the canals? You will never get to live in one.
Having gone through three apartments since I started at Bobblehaus a mere year ago, I can tell you that, each move somehow gets harder, experience be damned. While the price and competition go up, the square footage goes down. It took me an arm and a leg fighting for a place to call my own, all whilst also costing me my other arm and leg. But at last, for my battered little torso: a closet-sized room to call my own.
While I was lucky enough that my place came fully furnished and my landlord and I see eye-to-eye in style, most apartments in Amsterdam come bare-boned, with exposed drywall and concrete floors to match.
Sometimes you’re lucky and the last tenant sells you their old furnishings at a discount, but other times you’re left with the choice of turning your apartment into an IKEA showroom.
You know what IKEA furniture I’m talking about, everyone has them in their first apartment: the MALM dresser, the NEIDEN bed, and the LACK coffee table (bonus points if your friends use the edges to open beer bottles). It is no surprise that they are all amongst the cheapest options in the perspective categories, furnishing a place is expensive, and it all adds up.
But what if you could do it for free?
When COVID-19 broke free in Amsterdam, many fled the city, leaving behind empty (at last) apartments and plenty of furniture. For those who were housebound and reliant on the internet, where everything is either out of stock or delayed, their hands are tied. So why not seek out answers from the streets?
Well, that is why 23-year-old Rosco Kalis took the matter into his own hands.
“Last year, I visited my friend Jenny in New York… it was my first time in New York, and I loved it. While there, she introduced me to the @stoopingnyc account, which posts ‘stooped’ items around NYC. I thought it was really cool and I started following their posts closely. When I returned to Amsterdam, I tried to find similar Instagram accounts, but I couldn't find any. So then I decided to start one myself.”
Kalis founded the Amsterdam reprisal, @stoopingams, and full disclosure, it is my current favorite account on Instagram (however, @depressingfridgepoems is a close second). Plus, not to brag, but I’d like to believe that I too have an eye for roadside furniture. During my daily walks, I actively look for any stoop-worthy furniture to snap photos of and have successfully found a few gems myself in the past few weeks.
“I was planning to start @stoopingams before the pandemic, but when the pandemic started it felt kind of weird at first—to encourage people to go outside and pick up used stuff. So, after some hesitation, I decided to start the account later on in April. I think the pandemic has actually caused people to start changing up their homes and doing some redecorating. Which in turn, led to more people throwing out their old furniture. I think in that way the pandemic has had a positive (which is kind of weird to say that about a pandemic) effect on stooping, since there has been a higher turnover of furniture.”
I asked Kalis how his typical day behind @stoopingams looked like, considering the pandemic and all. Initially, the quest for content sat on his shoulders.
(One of Kalis’ favorite stoop finds)
“When it started out it was mainly me and my girlfriend walking and cycling around [Amsterdam] to find some cool stuff to post. After a while, some of our friends and family joined in and kept it going.”
(Another one of Kalis’ favorite stoop finds)
Quickly enough, @stoopingams garnered some attention on Instagram and currently sits at over a thousand followers and over a hundred submissions. It has since been featured in the Wall Street Journal.
“These days I don't go out specifically to find stuff and most of the posts are submitted by the @stoopingams community. On average, I probably get about a dozen submissions a week and I generally post them all. If the number of submissions grows, I'll probably have to start curating more, but at this stage, I want to encourage people to keep sending stuff so I post everything.”
While arguably it may be hard to pick a favorite amongst all the submissions on @stoopingams (my favorite is this red Victorian chair that I absolutely do not have room for), Kalis’ favorite comes with an equally beautiful story.
“There have been a lot of really cool items on the page. My favorites are always the more unique pieces (think colorful, wood, and vintage), but my all-time favorite has to be the coffee table with wheels that @alekspapez found in August.”
“What I loved about that submission is the full story [behind it]. It was already a beautiful (and unique) table, but then it was also really cool how someone sent me a live video of them rolling the table home, just a few hours later. That was just an overall success.”
“Ideally for stooping, a city should be compact, have a decent turnover of people coming in and moving out, and have a sort of artsy or alternative vibe to it. Amsterdam, like New York, definitely ticks those boxes.” Kalis adds, “Something unique about Amsterdam I think is that many people take their bicycles (or walk) around the city. Most times, people don't mind transporting large items on their bikes. So that makes it so people are always ready to pick up something they spot on the streets.”
(A stooping success by an Amsterdammer)
In closing, Kalis hopes people are taking away more than just furniture from @stoopingams.
“I hope people [become] more aware when [they’re] throwing out things. There’s so much stuff being thrown into the trash every day, and people should hold off buying new things for a bit longer. At the same time, I hope that when people do decide to get new furniture, that they consider buying second-hand instead of buying new.”
The next time you’re walking around Amsterdam and stumble across someone tossing out a set of dining chairs on the bike lane, don’t just nod your head and walk along, snap a photo, and send it to @stoopingams. It might just be perfect for someone else’s adorned four-seater.