Share, swap, donate!

From “giveboxes” to “free shops” – Getting a fair “share” of happiness

A few weeks ago I came home with a brand new looking wooden pepper mill, something I’ve been longing to have in my kitchen for a long time. The best thing about it: An unknown person “gave” it to me – I happened to spot it in a so-called “givebox”. Never heard of “giveboxes”? Or public book shelves? Or “free shops”? Here’s the full story of different sharing ideas and projects in my city. No matter if you want to get rid of old things, help others or you just want to “downsize” a bit in general, there are plenty of great initiatives out there!

thanks to givebox Düsseldorf I'm the proud owner of a kick-ass peppermill now

thanks to givebox Düsseldorf I’m the proud owner of a kick-ass pepper mill now

Please give – “giveboxes” in Düsseldorf

A little while ago some people in Düsseldorf came up with the brilliant idea of setting up little boxes in the city where everyone can leave things they don’t need anymore, but that are still perfectly fine. Everyone that happens to go past one of these boxes can in return take something out of them. You would expecpt a lot of trash in there, but that’s absolutely not the case. Last time I went there I didn’t only find a professional restaurant pepper mill, but also two flower pots that were badly needed. In return I left a handbag there I had never really used. The idea of a “givebox” is based on sharing things. However, that doesn’t mean you are obliged to leaving something there when you take something out. It’s a great way of sharing things you don’t need or want anymore, but someone else might desperately look for and of downsizing a bit and consuming less. I also like the fact that – similar to things you find on flee markets – you find things with history. Here and on the givebox Düsseldorf Facebook page you can find more information on all the “giveboxes” in Düsseldorf. Maybe you know something similar in your city?

"Givebox" at Kirchplatz in Düsseldorf

“givebox” at Kirchplatz in Düsseldorf

... and its contents

… and its contents

Adopting lonely novels – Public book shelves

From pepper mills to handbags, although there might not be any restrictions to what you can leave in a “givebox” (except trash and harmful things of course), there are a few particular places that work better for books – public book shelves or book cases (=öffentliche Bücherregale). I’ve seen them in almost every bigger city in Germany. They often either consist of a book shelf in a covered place or a closed cupboard, so that they are protected from rain. Although you often find stuff bizarre stuff like “Latest trends in dental technology 1973”, trashy romantic novels or travel guides from Soviet era times, I did stumble upon one or the other really good read. If you don’t look for a particular book, I think it’s a great way of getting something new to read without going to the library. Also I do think there are books with such a great and important message that they shouldn’t be kept in someone’s book shelf for the rest of their time, but be given to other people so that the message can spread. Although it always hurts me a bit to give away a really great book, I think you have to feed public book shelves with high-quality reads from time to time, otherwise the system doesn’t work. Here’s a list of all the public book cases in Germany, Austria and Luxemburg.

One of the public book cases in Düsseldorf

One of the public book cases in Düsseldorf

100% discount on everything – ”free shops”

Instead of leaving your old things in public book shelfs or “giveboxes” you can also take them to “free shops” (“Umsonstläden”). The idea behind it is very similar: Whatever you don’t need anymore might be just the thing someone else is looking for. I went to the Umsonstladen in Düsseldorf two weeks ago and I was amazed by how much they could fit into a small room. It was absolutely packed with useful things. From household items, clothes, DVDs or toys they just seem to have about everything there. I brought a few things and – once again, I seem to have a never-ending demand for them – came back with two flower pots for my balcony garden. Maybe you’ve got something similar in your city? If you do, why don’t you post a link in the comments section?

Share & care online

Last but not least there is of course also an online version of all this. I find the “Düsseldorf share & care” group on Facebook quite useful, it’s a very active and fun community. You can post a picture of your things and either offer them as a present or swap it for something else. I know that there are a lot of similar groups on Facebook. If there is none in your area, why don’t you start one!?

After giving you a little overview about different sharing projects in Düsseldorf, I would love to know about your city, area or country. Do you have similar projects, initiatives and ideas in your area or would you like to start a sharing project? Post them in the comment section below or on the ingloriousplastics Facebook page.



  1. Thanks to this article I was finally able to donate some clothes that were lying un-used for months. As a foreigner who’s German vocabulary consists of a dozen or so words I had to depend on the results thrown up by search engines. I half-expected to fill out a few forms before being allowed to give away the clothes *smiles*
    Instead all it took was a 10 minute walk to the nearest Givebox. Once I reached there and started fumbling with the cloth hangers, an old lady appeared and starting going through the stuff in the box. While adding what I had brought along to the clothes already on the hanger, I noticed that she had started picking up some of them from the other side. After an embarrassed minute or two, I finally offered the whole lot to her and she happily accepted them. All in all it was a quick and pleasant experience.
    Thanks again for your very helpful article. I hope others have benefited from it too; and keep doing so in the future.
    Happy holidays!

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