“Stooping,” the art of finding and repurposing used furniture has long been a thing in New York but new Instagram accounts highlighting found items have revived enthusiasm in recent years and expanded its reach globally.
I grew up in the Land of Stoops: Park Slope, Brooklyn. The neighborhood on the weekends is — and has been as long as I can remember — basically one massive stoop sale. People leave clothing, furniture, books, record players, even toilets out on their stoops and against fences for passersby to take for free. This is true for many other neighborhoods as well, of course, but I’m partial to my childhood dwelling. Just the other night in Bed Stuy, while walking with my friend who had been complaining about needing to buy cutlery for her new apartment, we passed a box full of it, all in pristine condition. She scooped it up and took it with us to the bar under her arm.
Excitingly, stooping has taken on a new modality and gone digital in recent years. In NYC, used furniture accounts have been trending including the ever-growing Stooping NYC and the burgeoning Curbalert NYC. During the pandemic, stooping accounts have also popped up in other major cities. Stooping Toronto has amassed over 17k followers and Stooping Amsterdam and Stooping LA got their starts.
Recently, I spoke with the admins of the OG and largest New York-based Stooping account, Stooping NYC, over the phone. They wish to remain anonymous, but they are a local, engaged couple who both have full-time jobs outside of running the account. Yet, they manage to consistently post and vet hundreds of DMs a day (they say on an average week day they receive 300-500). The day we spoke was a “great stooping day,” for them, replete with many velvet couches, a red hot tv console, and a taxidermied peacock. The joy they get from running the account felt palpable.
The account owners told me they don’t have a meticulous strategy but take turns responding to DMs and posting submitted pictures of items to their account throughout the day. Their role, as they see it, is not to center themselves as curators but instead, to point a positive, joyful, artistic community in the right direction. “I think the concept of stooping, thrifting, all of that: we by no means created that, right? In so many ways we've gamified it,” Stooping NYC said. “We turned it into a real life scavenger hunt.”
Sometimes the responsibility of running the account becomes interpersonal and they’re asked to play matchmaker. One time, a man and woman arrived at the same TV console. The man deferred to the woman but offered to help her carry it home. “He helped bring it into her house and then left and she didn't get his name and number,” Stooping NYC said. “Then was making public pleas on her IG story tagging us being like, ‘Please find the hot doctor who helped me carry my TV stand a few blocks.’” Unfortunately, the hot doctor remains elusive.
Another perk: running (and following) the account and accounts like them comes with a satisfying glimpse into how people live. “It's nice for someone to see the piece of furniture that was once on the curb have a second life,” Stooping NYC said. “But also because there's so many different ways to live in New York and we're all a little bit nosy. There's a voyeuristic quality to not just being able to see the piece but also to be able to be like, ‘ohh, that person's apartment is great! Or ‘nice hardwood floors.’ People are like ‘wow, that's nice exposed brick.’
There’s even a faction of the stooping community that they refer to as “super stoopers” — those who communicate with them most frequently and are most committed to the sport. The group consists of up-cyclers, DIY artists, re-upholsterers, and even dumpster divers.
One constant binds all of these stoopers however: Everyone is in it for the thrill of the epic find.
“Just last week, there was a story of two girls who went to NYU who had been sitting on an orange velvety couch we posted on the street for 4 hours trying to figure out a way to get it home,” Stooping NYC said. “Neither one of them would get off it because they were worried someone else was going to take it.”