I recently posted a video showing the process of moving into our new house and trying to furnish and decorate it as sustainably as we could. One way we did this was getting as much as possible secondhand, and overall we were very successful!
Getting furniture and home decor secondhand is not only a lot better for the environment because you are making use of things that already exist, but it can also save you a TON of money. We managed to furnish and outfit our entire house for just over $5000 CAD (although this budget also includes the few pieces we ended up getting new which together was over $2000, so we did most of the furnishing for just $3000!).
It does take more time and planning to find what you’re looking for secondhand (as opposed to just doing a massive Ikea haul) but you can also get some really unique pieces and I think it’s a much more fun and creative process hunting down those pre-loved treasures and styling them in your space.
Tips for creating a sustainably stylish home with secondhand pieces:
1. Get inspired
Starting with inspiration images can be extremely useful because it gives you some direction for your search and ideas for the kind of space you’re looking to create and style you want. Pinterest is a great place to find and collect inspiration images (you can check out my interior design board here 🙂), save everything you like and then narrow it down to the design elements, colours, types of items, etc. you most want in your home.
I also find creating a moodboard helpful for each room and I continue to update the board and adapt it as I acquire the various pieces.
2. Have a (flexible) plan
Creating a list of what you need/want for your space will make your hunt a lot easier, and it also feels really good checking the items off! However try to not be too rigid with what you’re looking for – for example “wooden table” is a good thing to plan for, but if you have your heart set on one very specific style of wooden table then your hunt will likely be challenging or end in disappointment.
I also loved using a home layout program to plan what furniture we needed and since I was able to measure the rooms pretty accurately before we moved in, I could also double check how the items would fit in our space when we were thinking of purchasing something.
3. Be patient
It can take time to find the real treasures so check back regularly. Some sites also offer options where you can get a notification if new listings are added that match your search terms – take advantage of this, it’s a great way to save time. 🙂
Keep in mind that once the perfect piece pops up you’ll definitely want to move on it quickly though!
4. Ask questions
When contacting sellers try to get as much info as possible, especially regarding anything that might be a deal-breaker for you. Don’t waste time going to pick it up only to find out it’s not what you wanted.
I always ask about the condition, depending on the item I might ask how long they’ve had it, and what brand it is (and then do some research into the price and quality of the brand/product) and I also want to know the dimensions to make sure it will fit in our space.
5. Haggle (if you want to)
Once you have the information you want, you can try to haggle/barter if that’s something you’re interested in doing.
If the item is a little more than I’d like to pay, I’ll ask if the seller is open to an amount closer to my planned budget. Be fair and don’t go too low though, a “low ball” offer might be turned down completely. You can also wait to see the item and barter in person – especially if something isn’t what you expected or as advertised, try offering a lower price.
6. Be safe when meeting people
It’s good to meet in a public location, however buying furniture typically means going to someone’s house so in that case always bring someone with you, plus they can also help carry!
7. Check for quality & cleanliness
Give the piece an inspection to make sure it’s what you want and as advertised. If something isn’t what you expected don’t be afraid to walk away, or you can also haggle for a lower price if you’re still interested.
Look for signs of good quality so you know the piece is going to last and not break right away, and check for any stains, dirt, etc. – just like you’d check for with secondhand clothing!
Also consider how the item can be cleaned, many pieces just need a wipe or wash but it can get trickier with fabric furniture – it’s helpful to look for items with removable covers. I’ve also gotten questions about concerns with fabric furniture and things like bed bugs; personally I only try to by fabric furniture that is very gently used or “like new”. We also always inspect it thoroughly and if you’re concerned you might also want to consider renting a steam cleaner.
Don’t forget that most things can be DIY’d and customized to your needs. For example lots of furniture can be painted, so if you find a piece you love but the colour isn’t right you can probably paint it!
There’s endless inspiration for projects on Pinterest and in particular I always like to check out Ikea hacks since you can typically find a lot of Ikea furniture for sale secondhand and there are some really unique ideas of ways to customize it or make totally new pieces.
9. You can likely re-sell it
If you buy things new they will almost always depreciate in value. However one of the big benefits to buying things secondhand is if it happens to not work out or you decide you want to change things up, there’s a good chance you can re-sell it and get your money back (or if you got a good deal maybe even make a little extra!).
Knowing that I can re-sell a piece for probably close to what I paid makes it a lot easier to make a decision, whereas if I’m buying something new, I need to make sure it’s the right piece for the space and we’re going to have it for years. This can sometimes be very difficult to plan and commit to, so I really like the flexibility and lack of guilt you get with secondhand and knowing you won’t lose a lot of money re-selling pieces that might not work.
Where to buy secondhand furniture, decor & home goods
- Facebook Marketplace
- Buy/Sell and Classified sites – depending where you live there are different ones that will be more popular in your area
- Local thrift and resale stores
- Garage and yard sales
- Freecycle and Buy Nothing groups
- Flea markets
- On the streets – in some cities you can find great pieces that people leave out on certain days to give away
- Friends and family – ask them to let you know if they’re planning on getting rid of anything
- The previous owner/tenant – we’ve often found when moving that there are certain items the previous occupant might want to leave or get rid of. Let them know that you might be interested in certain things and they might sell or give them to you.
Many of these are also great ways to sell secondhand furniture if you’re looking to get rid of things or update pieces!
I’d love to know if you have any other tips for furnishing your home with secondhand pieces.. Also, check out the video to see the process of furnishing our new house!