From Iceland — Inside Iceland's Museum Of Excess

Inside Iceland’s Museum Of Excess

Published January 22, 2024

Inside Iceland’s Museum Of Excess
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Second-hand store Góði Hirðirinn expands into bigger territory

For the seasoned thrifter, second-hand store Góði Hirðirinn needs no introduction. Originating in the 1990s, Góði Hirðirinn is the commercial outlet of municipal-owned waste management company Sorpa bs. Having previously operated brick and mortar storefronts on Fellsmúli and Hverfisgata, the trusty reseller relocated to a bigger warehouse in April of 2023.

1200 tonnes of second-hand goodness

Góði Hirðirinn now calls the sprawling warehouse that once served as Reykjavík’s box factory home, which had been earmarked for demolition. “The most valuable thing in Góði Hirðirinn is the building itself. It’s an important environmental issue not to demolish a building, so we’re very proud of participating in saving it,” explains Góði Hirðinn project manager Freyr Eyjólfsson.

We are first and foremost a circular centre. That’s the heart of everything we do.

With more room to maneuver, the market’s scope of operations has been able to increase. Since their reopening at Köllunarklettsvegur, 1200 tonnes of resalable items have passed through the facility. “Ten years ago, most of those 1200 tonnes would’ve been dumped in a landfill,” Freyr claims.

Photo by Art Bicnick

“This operation is an environmental project. Think about the environmental effects of burying 1200 tonnes of good product and needing to produce them again somewhere abroad and transport them to the country.”

Those 1200 tonnes Góði Hirðirinn receives is only a fraction of the amount that goes through Sorpa’s donation containers. “Sorpa receives about 600 tonnes per day,” Freyr explains. “We receive about 7-10 tonnes per day, and manage to sell approximately 70% of what comes in.”

A modern-day national museum

There is a museum-like feeling to entering Góði Hirðirinn, augmented by antique furniture and the kitschy bric-à-bracs placed on numerous shelves. In between lie remnants of whatever fad Icelandic society went through at the time — imagine foot massage machines, sous-vide pots, and, the most recent bandwagon the country leapt on, air-fryers.

Photo by Art Bicnick

A modest floor section displays DVD. “Take a look at this,” says Freyr, turning his attention to shelves of Friends season collections and Blu-Ray discs. “The amount of DVDs. I remember being a student, I spent a lot of my money buying DVDs. And then all of a sudden, it’s useless. Junk,” he sighs.

“That’s why Góði is a national museum of excess. It’s a reminder of the impenetrable consumerism and purchases that were a fad a certain year and everyone needed to have, and subsequently got rid of two years later.”

With the astonishing amount of salvageable materials sent to Góði Hirðirinn, a portion of the items end up broken once they arrive. That doesn’t deter the store from selling them.

“Sometimes, furniture may be slightly broken. We fix it up,” says Freyr. “We also receive quite a number of electronics, such as washing machines and fridges. These products sometimes require fixing, which we do in our electrical workshop.”

Community-forward thinking

In Freyr’s opinion, Góði Hirðirinn acts like a second-hand market square, with peddlers, collectors and haberdashers making use of the available goods. Despite the odd second-hand savant, a core clientele include low-income individuals, displaced people and those simply trying to score a good deal. Recently, residents of Grindavík have been offered items free of charge.

Photo by Art Bicnick

“Although I don’t have any data, my feeling is that this group of people is increasing. The inflation and increasing housing cost is really affecting people.”

This community-forward thinking led to the designation of a special community zone within the shop, called Kassinn. “[This is] a space where anything can happen,” Freyr says. “Concerts, events, happenings, courses, meetings.”

“Góði Hirðirinn isn’t just people working at Sorpa or in the shop. Góði Hirðirinn is a huge community of people who come in and repair things. We are first and foremost a circular centre. That’s the heart of everything we do. Use the resources more efficiently, use the material and items longer, so they’re kept within the cycle.”

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