With the exception of a couple of emergency bookcases (too many books!), all of the furniture in our home is second-hand. In Part 1 I considered why we’ve made the choice to source our furniture second-hand; Part 2 looks at how we’ve managed to do this, from a combination of free sources and some requiring us to spend a little money:
Friends: Our sofa suite, all our coffee tables and a chest of drawers all freed up space in friends’ rooms and garages. I have been so blessed and challenged by this culture of generosity.
Freecycle: this is a forum for people to give away their unwanted items to others within their local community by joining their local Freecycle group. There is sometimes an amusing disparity between what’s sought and what’s being donated (OFFERED: old car magazines; WANTED: a full set of garden furniture, including umbrella) but there are some gems to be found. Now that we have some outside space to get growing, I made use of Freecycle to pick up some hanging planters*.
Charity shops: these would always be my go-to for second-hand items because I like that charities benefit when I relieve their shelves of extremely affordable items. We’ve found some lovely furniture in the past (in particular the impulse purchase of a now beloved bureau in great condition). Shopping in charity shops requires both spontaneity (to grab what you like when you see it; it won’t be there tomorrow) and patience (to wait to find what you want). One of our bookshelves was the result of four months of hunting, but was the perfect size, shape and wood when I found it.
Gumtree: Like freecycle, but with money. Through Gumtree it’s possible to buy items, usually at a good price, from people locally. Keeping it within your community means that you don’t need to travel far to collect items, reducing the carbon emissions associated with transport. When we moved recently, I picked up two bedside lamps for £3 (some crafting confidence to cover the shades means disliking them isn’t an obstacle) but the real bargain was our glorious antique Victorian bed for just £35 and the borrowing of a van.
Ebay: My confession as a second-hand shopping veteran is that I have never bought anything on Ebay. In my ventures on there, I have felt it to be too vast, preferring the community focus of Freecycle and Gumtree for sharing items second-hand within your town or city. That being said, the husband recently bought this beautiful 1937 typewriter from Ebay and keeps talking about ‘how easy!’ it was to buy. A potentially dangerous development…I’ve written already about our choice to shop second-hand for sustainability reasons (in part 1), but I have found the benefits to extend far beyond that. Joining our local Freecycle and Gumtree communities we have met people it’s unlikely we would have encountered otherwise. We have heard about redecoration plans, jet lag from Asian adventures, met a two-week old baby and her tired yet smiling mother. These encounters are only meant to be brief, but they were delightful additions to the bargains we went home with.
Shopping second-hand means compromise sometimes, but more often I have found it introduces me to the pleasantly unexpected. I chose our bedside cabinets from Gumtree because they fitted reasonably well with the other dark wood vintage furniture in our bedroom. They just happened to have writing pads, something that would never have occurred to me to consider looking for. Turns out, they’re just what I need for my morning coffee. Without buying second-hand, I never would’ve known it.
What bargains have you found second-hand? Do you know of any other great sources out there?
*I have a small fear that I actually stole these from someone’s front garden. The donator and I arranged for me to pick up three planters from her front porch. When I arrived at the address, there were no planters on the porch. There were some on a shelf along the path though so, a little uncertain, I picked them up. When I got home I found there were more planters than expected… The lack of communications from the donator means I’m holding out for having avoided committing a theft. At least it adds to their story!
Today’s soundtrack: Marius Ziska // Home