Whether you are looking for clothes or furniture for your home, buying second hand can unearth some real treasures, and for half of the original price. It’s no wonder that thrift store and flea market bargain hunting has become a popular pastime. Although markets can be a fun way to spruce up your home, the task can seem daunting. Where do you even start? What items are worth snapping up and what should you steer clear of?
But second hand shopping doesn’t need to be a stressful experience. Once you know what you are looking for and what items you should avoid like the plague, it can be a super fun and original way to do up your home while saving money. Here is a list of the top things to buy and what you’re probably better off buying new.
Keep your eyes peeled for:
Children’s clothes – Thrift stores and flea markets can be a great way to find second hand children’s clothes in near to perfect condition. At the rate your little one grows, it seems criminal to buy these first hand all of the time. Buying them used can save you a lot of money and is better for the environment.
Make sure that you don’t buy any important items here though, like bicycle helmets and car seats, these things are best bought brand new.
Children’s toys – Similarly, thrift stores and markets can be a great place to find ‘nearly new’ children’s toys. If you are buying second hand though, please beware of what kind of toys you are buying, items such as teddy bears are probably better off being bought new. Toys that are fabric may carry bacteria that could be dangerous for your little one.
Furniture – This is perhaps one of the most important items to keep your eyes peeled for when shopping second hand. Some great pieces can be found at your local flea market or online. Even if you stumble upon something that is close to what you were looking for, don’t despair, you can always upcycle! There are countless ways to turn shabby-looking furniture to beautifully unique pieces for your home. For some upcycling and DIY inspiration, check out these creative blogs for ideas.
Even children’s furniture can be remade through a little bit of upcycling. Why not transform a weathered desk into a cute dressing table? The opportunities are endless.
Steer clear of:
Bed sheets and pillowcases – This one is pretty obvious, but needs to be clarified nonetheless. Bed sheets and pillowcases are a huge no-no when buying second hand. These are definitely something you should buy fresh everytime, even if you are thinking to upcycle them into new cushions or a pretty throw. Unfortunately, bed bugs can latch onto fabrics like this and enter your home without you even knowing. Try to steer clear of these and buy them fresh.
Mattresses – The same goes here. Although they can be pretty expensive brand new, mattresses are definitely something worth splashing out on. This is mainly for the same reasons as above – mattresses should only ever really be bought brand new or at least second hand if you know where it has come from. If not then you may leave your home open to a bed bug infestation and nobody has time for that!
Furniture with fabric – This one can also be tricky. And I bet you’ve guessed why. For the reasons I have discussed above. Bed bugs can live nearly undetected within the depths of your newly bought couch, waiting to emerge at night time. If you do wish to buy a piece that has fabric on it, make sure you investigate the condition of the fabric and know what you are getting yourself into. Another idea could be to remove the fabric promptly and relay new fabric where needed. This can be an amazing way to upcycle your new buy too.
So what are the signs of a good buy?
If you see an item (mainly furniture) that you like, always check the label. It’s good to know where this piece of furniture has come from and what make it is. This way you can decide if it’s something worth investing in or taking the time to upcycle. Older, good quality brands are better for sturdy furniture, rather than the more common brands like ikea or walmart furniture that might be knocking about. The materials used may be flimsy and less durable than an older, solid oak item. Just be careful with what you wish to invest your money in. Does it look like it will fall apart in a second? What material is it made from? How are the joints looking?
Try to see past what it looks like now. Envision what it will look like when you’re through with it. Ask yourself, does this piece have potential?
Don’t shy away from DIY – if the item in question has only minimal work to be done on it, like a few scratches, then why not try doing it yourself. Sometimes it can only take an hour or two and it is so worthwhile.
Make sure you know what you’re buying – take the time to investigate your next potential buy. Have a look inside the draws and sit in the chair to see if it’s comfortable and something you want to add to your home.
If an item needs to be fixed, please consider the overall costs of buying it and fixing it together. It’s so easy to be caught up in the light price tag, before you think about how much the overall cost will be.
Consider giving your fabric furniture a facelift. The threat of bed bugs can make you think twice about buying furniture with fabric on it. But get it reupholstered and it should be as good as new.
How sturdy is the piece? This especially goes for couches and wardrobes. Is it made from strong materials and does it have sturdy connections? Or is it made with a wire mesh and less durable materials? Because this won’t last too long and probably isn’t worth it.
And finally, always shop with measurements at the ready. This way you will know automatically if your item is worth buying and where it may go in your home.
Second hand shopping is an amazing way to shop smart, save money, get unique pieces and help the environment all at the same time. There really is something satisfying about finding a unique piece of furniture or revitalising a tatty-looking item to brighten your home. Your local thrift shops and flea markets are some of the best places to find second hand, sustainable items.
Though some people may believe that newer is always better, that really isn’t the case. Retro, antique items, especially with clothes and furniture, are made with sturdier materials and are constructed in a better way that enables them to last for years.
Building a sustainable home can be a lengthy process, but it is definitely worth it.
By Hollie Jones
Hollie is a freelance writer and lifestyle blogger from New Jersey. She is passionate about interior design, DIY, upcycling and living an organic and healthy lifestyle.