What to do with all that stuff

When it comes time to pack your bags and leave, figuring out how to get rid of all that stuff that just won’t fit in your suitcase can be tough. So internationals sell, swap and donate.

On a spring-like afternoon in mid-January, Mirela Coehlo from Brazil, bikes up to the international student house at Moestraat 16 to buy a yoga mat from Ryan Isaac Wibowo from Taiwan. In the arched breezeway of the brick building, Coehlo, just beginning her time in Groningen, unfurls the rolled-up black mat with a red trim, double checking that it comes as advertised.

luggageWibowo – a student on the way out – posted it on For Sale In Groningen For Everyone, a Facebookpage with more than 3500 members. It is currently the biggest public page, but it is one of more than 30  pages (many of them niche) for selling items in Groningen.

Kiril Nikolov, an international business and economics student from Bulgaria, had the idea to provide one central sales site born out of his own frustration when the largest page became private. ‘I thought: Alright. Now it’s time to start my own’, he says.

 ‘One guy was selling a gasmask’

He and co-founder Aleks Bozhino began working in earnest two months ago and premiered www.forsalegroningen.nl on January 15 – the site had 236 postings in its first week. It is sorted into student-friendly subcategories including housing, bikes, and text books, and all of the listings are in English so as to reach a broader audience.

On a much wintrier evening last week, Nikolov was bouncing like a pinball between locations in the city, negotiating new business partnerships and following up on sales. The most expensive listing so far is a home theater system for €400, and the weirdest? ‘One guy was selling a gas mask. I think someone bought it for a costume’, Nikolov says hopefully.

Stop the dump

ESN secretary Freddie Spandauw says that For Sale Groningen is not the only group dedicated to helping students part with their belongings: ESN started their own program last year called Stop the Dump. ‘We put boxes in all the international houses where students can put their stuff which they aren’t going to take home. We give what we collect to the Red Cross, which gives it out to the needy’, he explains.

Stop the Dump / Photo ESNWhile Stop the Dump will be held at the end of January, it will only be in the Winschoterdiep student house. Wibowo, the mat seller at the Moestraat, still thinks there is too much of a gap between the outgoing and incoming students. He sees a missed opportunity for ESN to simultaneously help students who are leaving to sell their items as well as to provide a shop for arriving students. ‘It could be like a Mamamini for international students.’

Swapping with money

ESN President Mike Kolman says that they lack the time and space to do anything like that. The recently-founded Social Erasmus Commission oversees Stop the Dump and similar charitable work, but ESN is a non-profit organization itself, making it impossible to handle sales. ‘International students usually aren’t exactly poor, and the goal of Stop the Dump is to make a contribution to the poorest people in the city’, Kolman adds.

While swapping or bartering is also a popular approach with several dedicated Facebook groups, it’s just impractical for global undergrads. ‘It’s really hard to take my stuff back to Asia. I’m only looking for money. It’s easier than arranging an exchange. I don’t know anyone who’s tried to swap their stuff – they swap it with money’, Wibowo says.

Too much stuff? Check this out!

On Facebook:
  • Donation: Stop the Dump: at the Winschoterdiep student house (Winschoterdiep O.Z. 46) during the last week of January and the beginning of February
  • Mamamini: a second-hand store that accepts donations of furniture, clothing and other household goods with three locations in Groningen: – Damsterdiep 307 – Helperoostsingel 15-29 – Noorderbinnensingel 100
Swapping or giving away