A couple of years ago I moved into a new home.  With a freshly-acquired mortgage, I didn’t have much left over to furnish the place.  So I began to hunt for bargains online and in secondhand stores.  What started out as a necessity for inexpensive, quality belongings, soon turned into a bit of a game.  Could I furnish my entire condo in used items?

It turns out that the answer is yes!  With the exception of my bed, television and dining room chairs (already acquired) I outfitted my entire home in secondhand stuff.  And it was really easy!

Secondhand items in my home include all of my furniture, dishes, pots & pans and any appliances that didn’t come with the place: toaster oven, air popper, panini press, toaster etc. They include decorative pillows, blankets and bedding.  They even include my pets, both of which are rescue animals.

Sourcing my belongings secondhand saved me a lot of money in those first few months.  I also discovered that vintage furniture is often of better quality than the new stuff, and as a result, I now own a lot of solid wood pieces.  But most importantly, I prevented all of these items from entering the landfill.

We waste a lot.  We waste a lot of really great stuff that does not need to be thrown away.  Everything we get rid of not only sits in the landfill taking up space, but it also uses a lot of energy to be created, from the materials and finishes used in manufacturing, to the construction and transportation required to get it to market and then to it’s final destination.  Have you ever given any consideration to the carbon footprint of the average couch? Furniture has a life cycle that impacts the environment and our health.

Here are the components of a sofa:

  • Wood
  • Foam (most commonly) or other cushion filling
  • Fabric
  • Miscellaneous:
    • Glue
    • Varnish/paint
    • Metal springs
    • Thread
    • Jute webbing
    • Twine

Each one of these items needs to be manufactured separately and then transported to the factory that actually makes the couch. And approximately 90% of furniture is now made overseas, where there are fewer restrictions regarding air and water pollution, labour, and responsible forest management, according to The Economist.

So by purchasing all of my belongings secondhand, I’ve kept a lot of stuff out of the landfill.  But I’ve also stopped all of the new things I’d have likely bought instead, from being made in the first place.

Value Village, the Salvation Army, and online garage sale sites are great places to find what you need secondhand, and at an affordable price.  While people love to complain about the prices at Value Village, they’re still much less expensive than buying things new, and more importantly, you’re helping keep perfectly good stuff out of the landfill.  Value Village is also an excellent place to donate your gently-used items instead of throwing them away, because they tend to take more than smaller used stores.

Furnishing my home with used stuff has been a lot of fun, and even though I can easily afford to buy everything new, I’ve decided to keep hunting through secondhand stores instead.  What’s resulted, is that I have a truly uniquely furnished home with many one-of-a-kind pieces, and many items come with a good story.

My kitchen island is hand-made right here in Victoria by a furniture builder who created this one especially for his son’s small condo kitchen.  Turns out it was apparently the last thing he ever built.

The ottoman in my living room was well-loved for years by a couple of teachers who, during a move, forgot it up north and had it shipped back by “hitchhiking” it with various friends until it landed in Victoria.

My computer desk was a side-of-the-road find in Tofino.  With a new coat of a paint and a the addition of a vintage knob from the ReStore, it now looks great!

The swag light above my kitchen table sits on a bracket that I made from driftwood that I (illegally, yes) salvaged from Island View Beach.  The woman who sold me the lamp was so sad to see it go that I sent her pictures of it after the fact to show her it had found a good home.

So, the next time you’re in need of a new piece of furniture, house-hold item or decoration, stop.  Before you head to Urban Barn or Homesense to buy something new, check out your local online garage sale or secondhand store first.  You might just find what you’re looking for.  And not only will it be less expensive and possibly of better quality, but you’ll have kept one item out of the landfill, and one less item from being made.

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