Living second hand furniture

Published on August 19th, 2013 | by Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

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Buying Second-Hand Online: Better for your Wallet & the Planet

room designed around second hand furniture

Buying second-hand products as a means to saving money and resources is kind of a no-brainer: gently used items will always cost you less, and you’re making more efficient use of the materials and energy that went into creating them. Generally, the trade-off for these savings has been the time needed to sort through items at local thrift stores, garage sales, and/or flea markets, and the limitation of stocks at those venues. Online auctions and sales sites, however, massively expand the potential of second-hand shopping: the whole world’s stock of used goods (or, at least, those things people are choosing to sell) are available on your laptop or tablet. Many of these are geographically tailored to your city or country. If you’re ‘down under’, for example, you can peruse quicksales.com.au, an Australian online auction and sales site.

While you may not want to buy every kind of product after someone else has used it first, it makes great sense for a number of classes of products, including:

Clothing: The fashion industry has taught us (some of us very well) that apparel goes in and out of style. As such, you can find great bargains on last year’s latest thing, or simple, timeless clothing. Of course, you can also seek out vintage pieces that create a totally unique look.

Furnishings: As with clothing, style’s often the thing with furniture… even if you plan to keep pieces for years. Some throw pillows or slip covers can help you “dress up” a great piece of used furniture.

Decorative Items: Of course, you can dress up the furnishings you already have with some well-chosen (and cheap) second- hand decorative pieces. Unique figurines and knick-knacks, vintage window dressings, candle holders, bookends… the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Craft supplies: There are always leftover materials from sewing, quilting, and other crafty projects (or from those projects planned but never undertaken), so you may be able to find just the right buttons, fabric, yarn, etc. from another crafter’s stash.

Electronics: Yeah, I know – a used computer, tablet, or phone may seem like a headache waiting to happen. But with a little due diligence, and a willingness to go for “good enough for what I need” rather than “all the bells and whistles,” you can have the electronics you want for much less than retail.

Do Your Homework

thrift store outfitSome might find it little intimidating doing business with with online sellers: how do you know you’re going to get the product you paid for in a timely fashion (or at all)? You do have to do a little more digging here… although a reputable auction/sales site will make this part of your experience much easier.

Check a Seller’s Reputation: Does a vendor send products promptly? Are those products what buyers expect from photos and descriptions? You may feel much more secure by sticking to sellers that have received positive reviews from past customers. If you’re willing to give a newer seller a try, help the rest of the community out by giving an honest review of your experience.

Know Policies for Returns and Dispute Resolutions: a reputable site will make such policies easy to find, and get back to you quickly on questions and concerns.

Got your own tips or tricks for making the most of second-hand shopping opportunities online?  Do share…!

This post was supported by quicksales, an Australian online auction and sales site.

Image credits: Felipe Neves via photopin cc; Jem Hologram. via photopin cc



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About the Author

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog. You can keep up with all of his writing at Facebook, and at



  • http://www.LaurasLastDitch.Etsy.com Laura’s Last Ditch–Vintage Kitchenwares

    However self-serving this may sound, vintage kitchenwares are an excellent thing to buy online. My mom and grandma still use things in their kitchens that they got as wedding gifts, but almost everything we received was broken or worn out after just a decade or so. When you buy great quality vintage kitchenwares, you’ll probably never have to replace them, which saves time, money, and resources. It’s also possible to find things–like deep fryers, waffle irons, and electric frying pans–that don’t have harmful Teflon, whereas almost all modern version do.

    • http://sustainablog.org Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

      Good pitch, Laura! ;-)

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