Starting a Free Store is easy and fun! Variously thrilling and/or threatening to the uninitiated!
The following are step-by-step suggestions. They are ONLY suggestions. Free Stores are autonomous zones — rhizomatic, ever-expanding — giving capitalism a run for their money.
1- Finding a Location
Factors to consider are traffic flow, weather condition, population, and convenience – particularly yours. Chose a place where you frequent at least every few days in your regular routine. If not your Free Store may become a burden.
The location is an important decision. In some ways it determines whether it will succeed, what will be exchanged, who and how many people will use it.
Whether you seek permission from the authorities who has claims over your location is entirely up to you. If you ask they may become confused, upset, and say no. Or they might become interested and become a part of the project.
We prefer not asking permission. Because a) it means that the Free Store explicitly refuses to acknowledge the State's authority over land – public OR private; b) because then a true Autonomus Zone is created.
If you choose this option, be prepared that your Free Store may be rudely disrupted. If it does do not be discouraged. It is easy to start another Free Store. Also in our experience, the 'disruption' stage can often result in inspiring exactly the opposite – namely a community of outraged supporters.
In any case, resistance is delicious.
2- Marking the Free Store Zone
Once the location is determined, you will need to somehow define the space of the store. The most obvious is by creating an actual display unit that clearly demarcates the perimeter of your store. It can be an existing piece of furniture or one you bring. A shelf, a table, a cart, a corner of a room, etc.
It is important that your 'shoppers' know where your Free Store begins and ends. Claim your Anti-Capitalism Zone in some way. Expand your zone later as needed.
In our experience, clear signage is VERY important. With a clear sign, almost anything can become a Free Store. (maybe even the White House)
Suggested Language for Free Store Sign:
- Free Store An Anti-Capitalism Project
- Everything Here is Free.
- Take, Leave, Whatever…
Have fun with your signs. Change them often if you can. Delight your shoppers with your wit. Inspire them with the Great Potential of Free Exchange.
4- Stockpiling the Free Stuff
It takes a while to get people used to the idea of a Free Store. (Because we are only exposed to non-free Stores)
Be prepared to be the only one stocking the Free Store for at least a couple of weeks. You will need to figure out how to get enough Free Things to last til others contribute.
Ideas for Stockpiling:
- look in trash cans
- clean up your office and home
- tell your friends to clean up their offices and homes
- clean up strangers' offices and homes
- go to garage sales when they close and offer to take everything they have not been able to sell. Tell them about the Free Store
5- Open your Free Store
• Be Creative with your Signage
• Be Patient
• Be Observant and Respond Creatively to the Unexpected
• Never be Defensive
• Don't Try to Control Everything
• Trust Life
• Inspire Others to set up Free Stores