TLDR; consumerism = bad, shopping on amazon = bad, impulse buys/black friday = bad… the websites below = good!

Like a lot of people, I have concerns about capitalism and globalism in the ways that it has begun to reshape our world. I would say that my concerns are more or less average in their convictions and not necessarily more extreme or flamboyant in any particular way, but I’d like to think that my family and I have done a fair job at moving in a direction that addresses these concerns rather effectively. It is, nonetheless, far from great and will require constant improvements and adaptations as the enormous machine of a globalized economy gains momentum and strength, like the slow-moving boulder that it is. But rather than the nuance of our specific perspective and choices, failures and lessons; which is undoubtedly less interesting, I thought it could be of use to maybe highlight some of the solutions that I can recommend.

The concept behind finding and using these websites, of course, extends far beyond simply the avoidance of amazon and other larger companies, it includes a myriad of cascading choices, which we ‘aS cOnSuMeRs’ have in our hands as a way of demanding and creating change. It is a mindset and lifestyle choice that touches everything from actively seeking local entrepreneurs and businesses, as physical brick and mortar locations [the importance of which will surely become evident in the wake of the covid-related closures, if it is not already]. The surrender of our toxic, codependent relationship with free-shipping and free-returns and their incredible environmental impact, despite their deeply convenient and somehow gratifying allure. The decisive migration towards black-owned, queer-owed, minority-owned businesses. The detachment from traditional packaging ideals, also for the sake of the environment. The sacrifice of our obsession with ‘new’ instead of ‘lasting’ (e.g. repairable) things. And, most of all, the migration from the idea that just because we can now access almost anything imaginable, at any given moment of any particular day of every single year, does not mean we should. Fresh mangos in Hamburg during December?

The upcoming series of articles that will be published on this site will examine each of these arguments in depth but for now, the guide below will hopefully provide some with the opportunity to begin [or continue] the pursuit of a more value-oriented gifting experience during the holidays this year. And in this case, value does not refer to the price – but the value which we give to the material objects we are spending money on. This could mean spending a bit more in terms of money, to get something which has been thoughtfully crafted and will stand the test of time more efficiently than the cheaper alternatives. But it could also mean spending more in terms of time; encouraging ourselves to think through purchases and gift ideas to ensure we are giving a gift that will truly be appreciated and used. Isn’t it funny how a choice to value one decision turns into valuing many other decisions as well? Talk to loved ones, find out what they truly want and would find thoughtful and useful as a gift, make them happy through the receipt of this gift, but also by fostering and symbolizing a stronger relationship, having the gift exchanged.

There are a number of companies who are now marketing a ‘slow-shopping’ concept that deters us from making the impulse-driven purchases during black-Friday sales.  In cases where companies are able to disclose elements of their product line- be it ingredient lists, seeing behind the scenes of the production process, offering refill options or repairs, disclosing information about how they pay their employees at every step in the business, down to the inclusion of BIPOC and embracing symbols of body-positivity and gender expression in their choices of employees as well as in their marketing schemes in a non-virtue-signaling kind of way. These are all things which will increase the value of a product or gift – but only as much as we choose to value those ideals. And these take time to appreciate. They take education and niched knowledge that comes from having the ability to sacrifice a part of your day learning about why these things are important and how to become active in demanding them from our society.

I want to present companies that are not only alternatives to Amazon – this alone is not necessarily a golden ticket to supporting better companies (think Wayfair or Overstock) but are outspoken in their active role in assisting smaller indie brands and freelance artists and makers, or in secondhand sales.. promoting more sustainable shipping practices in addition to quality products, should you need to do some shopping. Below is my list of recommendations that I have used on more than one occasion and continue to use for personal items, home goods, art, books, furniture, clothing… pretty much everything except for food and drink items.

*Disclaimer* I am not sponsored, paid or in any way in contact or recognized by any of the following companies. I have simply used them on a number of occasions myself and would love to see them grow because I believe in what they are doing or the things that they are selling. I am only addressing the companies/websites here, and do not represent or want to promote any particular brands/affiliates that might be found therein.

ABE Books

What they sell:
Mostly books! Also magazines, fine art, textbooks, photographs, comics, maps, collectables, manuscripts, letters, etc.

What I know:
ABE is a website where you can buy used and/or new books. Limited editions, signed copies, rare versions, etc
Shipping: International

What I think:
I have ordered several books from this site, and so far have been absolutely happy with the books I’ve received. My father-in-law also runs a book store through this platform.

What I bought:
The Food of the Gods – Terrance Mkenna (14€); condition – new
The Doors of Perception – Aldous Huxley (11€); condition – like new
The Road to Wigan Pier – George Orwell (9€); condition – good
Malcolm X on Afro-American History – Malcolm X (11€); condition – like new
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Aleksander Solzheniettisyn (4€); condition – fair
Memories, Dreams, Reflections – Carl Jung (9€); condition – new
Go Tell It on the Mountain – James Baldwin (5€); condition – fair
Thoughts of a Fried Chicken Watermelon Woman – Karen Ford (7€); condition – like new

Etsy

What they sell:
Artwork, crafts, furniture and home goods, books, to clothing and art supplies. The products are uploaded by users themselves and almost unanimously moderated by the users themselves.

What I know:
Etsy is a fantastic website for finding incredible handmade or vintage items.
Shipping: International

What I think:
One of the best websites around for finding original artwork and for shopping vintage. Whenever I am looking for something rather specific, I always look on Etsy first!

What I bought:
Vintage Turkish rug: 115€
Brass model airplane: $30
Art print from MoggShop: 20€
Babouchen Moroccan slippers: 28€

Vinted (Kleiderkreisel) / Poshmark

What they sell (and buy):
Used (and new) clothing, shoes, accessories, small home items, skincare/make-up

What I know:
Kleiderkreisel (Germany) (recently purchased by and merged with Vinted [international]) and Poshmark (in the US) are highly successful secondhand clothing companies. Users can sell, trade and buy items uploaded by users. Used and new clothing and accessories are available.

Shipping: Vinted – Nationwide shipping from respective country’s website. Countries where Vinted is available: Germany (also ships to Austria and Switzerland), US, France, Germany, Poland, Czechia, Lithuania, Spain, Netherlands, Luxenbourg, UK.
Shipping: Poshmark – US only (to my knowledge)

What I think:
I have sold and bought nearly my entire wardrobe from these websites. From finding top brands in like-new conditions for incredible prices to scoring vintage items and being able to reuse the shipping materials and packaging (and it’s quite clear than many others who used the platform do the same!)

What I bought/sold:
I’ve bought just about everything from jewelry, sweaters, coats, shoes, bags… the outfit in the picture above is comprised of items entirely secondhand-bought from either Vinted/Poshmark, with the exception of the shoes.

Sweater: 5€
Top: 11€
Jeans: 10€
Leather backpack: 20€

Trouva

What they sell:
The main focus appears to be home goods, but clothing and gifts can also be found here.

What I know:
Trouva is a website/company which is similar in concept to Etsy, in that it offers products that are supplied by indie brands and individual makers. The website is designed like a home-goods shop, but each of the items listed will ship from individual makers, from wherever they might be based. You can also sort/filter by location so that you are shopping from stores in your area.
Shipping: International

What I think:
A friend of mine recently introduced me to this website and so far, I love it! I was especially excited to see, upon opening the boxes that there was not a single piece of plastic used in the packaging. My cat was particularly fond of this and gives Trouva 10/10

Plastic free packaging! Woo!

What I bought:
I accidentally broke a lampshade that I made, half-heartedly, from an already-broken lamp in our bedroom and ordered one from here, as well as a set of duvet covers.

Lampshade: 35€
Duvet cover (2): 55€ (98€ total)

eBay* / Craigslist*

What they sell:
A great place to find used (and sometimes new) or rare items. Bikes, cars, furniture, books, cats, dogs even houses can be listed for sale on this platform.

What I know:
eBay-kleinanzeigen (Germany) (eBay/Craigslist in the US) is pretty well known by most people at this point, but might be overlooked. The user experience is a bit different than some of these other websites, however, in that you must take on the responsibility yourself, when buying secondhand, and if the interaction is to occur in-person, to take necessary safety precautions and avoid scams.
Shipping: depedent upon seller

What I think:
We have personally had great experiences with eBay-kleinanzeigen, which, in Germany functions more like Craigslist does in the US. I have not personally used eBay, the original website, since… maybe the early 2000’s but I imagine it remains nonetheless similar.

What I bought:
We bought our sofa (45€!), my desk (for free!), tons of plants, and furniture from eBay since our relocation to Germany and it has definitely saved us a ton of money, in addition to being able to make this apartment feel like home, without having to buy brand-new, plastic wrapped, industrially-produced, found-in-every-home Ikea-type décor and furniture.

Yes, this is the sofa we got for 45€ !!! No it is not the nicest sofa ever made !!! Yes it is hella comfy !!!!!!! Biene also approves – 5 stars very naaice!

So, as you can see, there are options. There are actually a lot of options. It takes a bit of time to figure out what works for you, and time is something that, unfortunately all too many people have much too little of. But if nothing more, I hope this can plant a seed and can make you reconsider the way we approach gift-giving and shopping. And maybe one day when you search online for images of ‘Amazon fire’ you won’t see the image below. In fact, hopefully we won’t have to search for Amazon fire, at all.

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