The art of the stoop


@stoopingchicago | Instagram

This couch, located on 17th street in Pilsen, was stooped by one lucky follower of @stoopingchicago on instagram.

The phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” has officially rung true with the increasing prominence of stooping in the city of Chicago. While stooping, the act of scavenging for household furniture, has been around since people have kicked their unwanted home goods to the curb, the city has seen a recent increase in  the past two years. 

A likely factor to this increase is the introduction of an Instagram account that is dedicated to said hunt, known as @stoopingchicago. 

The page is run by Anna Voyles, a 26-year-old working in construction management. When she is not scouring the streets for stoops, as they are called, her Instagram consists of images of furniture and their location. Voyles would go stooping herself when the account first started.

“I didn’t have a lot of followers who would send me stuff, so for a long time the page was just stoops that I found,” Voyles said. 

Now that her page has grown, the posts consist mostly of items the community has found, receiving, on average,  about one submission a day.

“I’m a big walker,” said Voyles when asked about why she made the account. “I would often see items along my way, mostly in alleys, and knowing that I couldn’t take everything that was a decent piece of furniture was disappointing, and I didn’t know what to do about that.” 

Voyles compared the discontent to the same emotion that one feels when they are at an animal shelter. 

“You want to take them all home, but you know that you can’t,” she said. 

Voyles mentioned through laughter that she would always send photos of furniture to her friends, asking them if they might want it, and then decided it would be a good idea to start a stooping social media account. 

“I looked it up and saw that there were big accounts in New York City,” she said. “I just could not find one for Chicago, so I told myself, ‘Okay, I’m just going to make one.’” 

Voyles did so towards the end of 2020, and since its creation, the account has reached over 2000 followers.

While people of all ages can partake in stooping, there are many aspects that make it more desirable to people of younger ages. These individuals tend to have the time to not only go hunting for stoops, but they also have the time to lug furniture around after they have found it. They are also often moving into new places of residence for the first time, and because of this, they need to find something cheap to sit on. 

“I would 100 percent go stooping,” said Sophie Guastafurri, a junior at DePaul. “Because it’s kind of equivalent to thrifting furniture, and a lot of my furniture is thrifted. It’s also free, so you can’t beat that.”

Just as thrifting is popular with this demographic, the thrill that comes from finding a pair of vintage corduroys is akin to the pride that one gets when their friends gawk at the chaise lounge they just placed in their living room.

Ollin Culbert Mendoza, also a DePaul student, had his moment of pride when he found a couch while on a walk in an alleyway. 

“I was a little south of campus going to my friend’s house,” Mendoza said. “And I saw a couch, but at first I wasn’t going to take it. My roommate later told me that he wanted a chair that was next to it, so when I went back to go help him carry it I realized it was pretty cool and decided I wanted the couch.” 

Mendoza described it as a blue loveseat with wooden framing and made it sound unique to any piece of furniture that he could possibly get online. He got it to school with the help of a friend who had a truck, but was so determined to get it into his dorm that he would have done anything.

“I would have found someone on the subway to help me carry it,” he said.

Even if one does not find something that they like when they go stooping, the simple pleasure of an outing with friends always makes it enjoyable. Whether it is the company that one does it with, or the people that share the attractive furniture with others, there is certainly a sense of community that comes with stooping. 

“I think people just need something to do,” said Voyles. “Stooping is something that is cheap and easy… I get a lot of people contacting me on my account asking me about it and how they can start. It’s certainly flourishing on social media, and it’s nice to see it pop up in new towns.”