Simple Saturday – Complete the Circle

A Simple Saturday Post by Cindy

The thrift store has been quite the topic of conversation this week, hasn’t it? Today I want to look at it from another perspective – completing the circle. If you only donate to the thrift store, and never shop there, you are not completing the circle. Now, for those of you who already like to shop in thrift stores, this is not permission to run out and purchase willy-nilly “because Cindy says it’s a good idea.” No, no, no! The idea behind my list is to give you an idea of all the really great stuff there is available in this world that you can purchase used, without calling on the earth’s resources to manufacture new, and you’ll save yourself a lot of money in the process, as well. Here is a partial list of non-new items in my house, and where I acquired them. As Colleen said earlier this week, I always look to buy used first.

  • 90% of my clothing, 80% of my husband’s clothing, and almost 100% of the children’s clothing are second hand, except for their school uniforms, which are a mixture of new and used, depending on what’s available in the uniform closet. (Thrift stores, EBay, and my youngest gets hand-me-downs from her sister and from her sister’s friend.)
  • Both girls’ bedroom sets, including dressers, beds, and nightstands. (Craigslist)
  • Three upholstered chairs, sofa, love seat, coffee table, and living room art. (Craigslist, thrift store, purchased from neighbor)
  • Tile for kitchen backsplash (never used). (Craigslist)
  • 16 foot sliding door (never used). (Craigslist)
  • Two Anderson sliding glass doors (never used). (Craigslist.)
  • A truckload of wood, now the ceiling of my screen porch. (Craigslist)
  • Two bathroom sinks with faucets. (Craigslist)
  • Wooden desk. (Garage sale)
  • Swing set. (Handed down from neighbor.)
  • Porch chairs. (Found during bulky trash pick up.)
  • Kitchen light fixture. (Habitat Restore, which sells new and used building materials)
  • Window for stairwell. (Habitat Restore.)
  • Rug, sofa, and side table. (Furniture consignment store.)
  • Dining room table. (Top and legs purchased separately at Habitat Restore and assembled by my husband.)
  • Dining room chairs. (Craigslist.)
  • Silver jewelry. (EBay)

There’s more, but that’s enough of a sampling. Nearly every piece of clothing and piece of furniture in this house was purchased second hand. The terrific find of the 16 foot door saved me almost $4000 over the cost of the same door new. I have lived lighter on the environment by purchasing used and second-hand goods, some of which were no longer in their factory container but were, in fact, still new.

It’s important to complete the circle, but remember, you don’t have to do your part and the part of four other people, as well. If shopping at garage sales or thrift stores is a temptation for you, shop with a list, or avoid those stores all together until you are able to control your impulses. Follow this list to make wise buying decisions (starting with “Do I need this item”) and then complete the circle by purchasing used.



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  1. Cindy, you got me. I bought completely useless things secondhand this week. 🙁
    Or rather: some of which I already own an overabundance.

    That’s why I’m sitting here, pulling random things out of cupboards in order to declutter at least as much as I purchased. Oh, well…

    • Naughty girl Sanna, 😉 it sounds like you are just making work for yourself. Mind you, trading your secondhand items for other secondhand items especially clothes is a way to keep things interesting without adding to the supply and demand of new products. I sometimes pick a clothing item up at the thrift store and take something old back the following week just to add a little interest to my wardrobe. These occasions are rare though because I am fussy and it isn’t always easy to get things in my size that aren’t suited to a much younger age group.

    • Oh no. Wrong direction! I helped my friend Holly clean out her closet last year, and she had a crazy abundance of khaki colored capris. She kept a couple and we got rid of the rest. Next time we went to the thrift store, she started reaching for more khaki capris! It’s like a groove that you must jump out of! Good job at least minimizing some other items.

  2. Cindy, that’s impressive. I have to admit that I donate much more than I purchase from the charity shop. I recommend trying antique stores, too, when you need something. I needed a cheese grater and found one at an antique store. It wasn’t an antique, just used (and much cheaper than a new one).

    • I have some antique furniture, although most of was from a family member. I haven’t looked for smaller, practical items at antique stores. My experience says that if there’s a bit of rust on it and it’s “vintage” they charge twice as much as new!

  3. CIndy, this is a great post. I think too many times we start out looking at regular stores and only go to thrifts once we see the cost of new. For me, if I can’t get it cheaper I won’t get it. I can’t afford to for one thing but I also have a “thing” about buying new. Tomorrow I am going to pick up a dresser that is used and free. I plan to paint it and put it in my bathroom. I have needed something in there for a year and a half but refused to pay more than $20 for what I got. Now I am getting it free. The couch we had when we moved here I got free 22 years ago when someone in a big mansion decided they no longer wanted their 6 month old custom made couch. Two years ago we gave it to a friend’s son because we no longer needed such a long couch. We already had another couch that the previous owners of our house had left here. So we got another free couch. I love stuff like that.

    • Wow. You have really economized Deb J! I feel like there’s a huge abundance of stuff – really good stuff – available and for sale in this world, and why not take advantage of that?

  4. Most of the furniture and decor in our home is 2nd hand. I used to buy clothes at garage sales, but I got tired of churning through so many clothes because they didn’t fit or the kids didn’t like them, etc. I would have to go drop everything off at the thrift store that didn’t work and just got tired of it. So, now I go and try things on and make sure they fit and that I like them before I buy anything. I can’t do that at most of the 2nd hand places here in town, so I buy some of my clothes new. I like getting just what I need and like not having to take so much to the thrift store. Even though I got them at cheaper prices 2nds hand, I feel like it is a waste of money if I am having to churn through them and donate them because they didn’t work. Any ideas?

    • I guess I am lucky but all the thrift stores that sell clothes in my area have fitting rooms. I even have one that accepts returns within a week of purchase (very convenient when you buy for other family members like kids). Where are you located?

      • My favorite thrift store does not have a changing room, just a mirror. So I wear my skin-tight long underwear, strip down to it, and try things on. Some people give me a ‘look’ but most don’t turn a hair, and I have seen others do the same.
        It is an attitude thing, but well worth getting used to. Even at $1.50 for a shirt, I can’t afford for it not to fit just right.
        The only tricky part is keeping track of my purse while I am shifting clothes- it is good to have a friend or child with you. Or extra cleavage space to tuck just your wallet into.

        • I have shopped at a couple of places that don’t have dressing rooms – one of htem doesn’t even have a mirror! (This shop is only fun to go to with a girlfriend, and she acts as a mirror.) I wear a tight t-shirt and snug leggings over a lose, elastic waist skirt. I pull pants or shorts up under my skirt and then pull off the skirt. Shirts go on over the t-shirt I’m wearing. In general, I’ve been successful buying second-hand clothes for the children without going wrong, but my eldest is getting more a figure now, and I’m starting to see that everything labeled in her size will not fit her. I am less and less likely to buy without her accompanying me.

  5. I am a loyal thrift store patron, both for donating and buying. And often what I have bought returns there for another benefit to the charity once I am done with it! (Especially kids clothes).
    Not only clothes and small appliances, but also some very good quality linens at amazing prices! Thick cotton bed linens at $1.99/piece for example.
    95% of my kitchen utensils are 2nd hand and awesome quality for about 79 cents each.
    I have learned it is best to know in advance what brands and materials will last after hearty use/washing before heading out shopping second hand.
    It’s easier on my kids too. With the NEW clothes I am a little uptight about keeping them “nice”, but with the 2nd hand clothes they get to play, eat and crawl around on the floor without mommy’s anxious critisism.
    Oh ya and ALL our cars/trucks over my lifetime have been used, and some of our bicycles too.

    • Good for you Creative Me. I bought my van used on Ebay, after the local dealerships wouldn’t give me the time of day because of the amount I wanted to spend. My luck was just fine on Ebay, though.

  6. For a while there I was purchasing quite a lot at my local thrift store, mostly clothing and housewears. But now I’m more aware of clutter and letting go of what I’m not actually using/wearing. The good thing is if I only paid the thrift store price it’s much easier to let go!! This seems to have helped me let go of the full price purchase mistakes also. Now I’m more careful in the thrift – I stop and think do I really need this?

    • Hi Northmoon,
      this is your first comment and we thank you for it. A very warm welcome to you from 365 Less Things. Clutter is clutter no matter where it comes from or what you pay for it. I used to love to do the garage sales but like you, even though the stuff was cheap for the most part it was just clutter in the end that had to be dealt with. Mind you there were also many items that I bought that saved me buying new and were very well used.

      • I tend to be rather hard on my clothes, and I’m always much more relaxed about a stain if I know I paid $5 for the shirt not $25.

  7. That’s a great way to look at it and I totally agree with you. I’m sitting in our family room, looking around. Couch – bought new, two chairs – thrifted, cushion in dining room chair – Goodwill, bookcase – Goodwill, lamp – antique store (but a good buy). The rest of the house is pretty similar.

  8. I was taught shoes and underwear new all other clothes can be second hand. I buy from charity shops as much as possible. They have the convenience of being on the next street and not full of a heaving mass of humanity like the large stores are. (I hate shopping) I like the thought of the circle. I have certainly returned things to the same charity shop after we have used the goods, as long as they are in good condition. One drawback is you can’t think about the purchase for a while before you buy, and I think it is good to shop slowly as it were and avoid impulse purchases that turn out to be stuff in the cupboards.

    • Good for you Andrea. I rarely buy something that I wasn’t specifically looking for, except clothes, so not having to wait on a purchase hasn’t been a problem for me. There was one thing I walked away from and so regretted it that I was at the shop first thing the next morning to snap it up, though.

      Honest disclosure: I sometimes buy things that I know I can resell. In this case, I bought an item for $8.50 and resold it within the week for $50. I only do that, though, where there’s a substantial pay off, and when I feel very sure I will not have trouble re-selling the item.

      If I keep the receipt, I can return items to my favorite thrift store within 7 days, but only for a merchandise credit to be spent that day. I’ve rarely needed taken advantage of this policy.

  9. Great post Cindy, you are a secondhand shopping champion. Your house reno would have been a whole lot more expensive had you bought everything new. Well done.

  10. There was a time I was addicted to craiglist… It was very hard for me to resist buying really good deals, even though I did not really needed those. Now, I only search by keywords, this way I am not tempted. 🙂

    Most of my furniture is second hand and hardwood (beds, dressers, desks, bookshelves…) that I bought for almost nothing on craiglist. I had to learn the basics on how to refurbish wood though.

    • I’ve known a couple of folks addicted to buying for the bargain. It can be unbelievably cluttering and emotionally destructive. The phrase I use is that a $2 scarf that you won’t wear is still a $2 waste of money.

      My husband refinished a wooden desk that had been painted an heavy, ugly brown color. He bought it for $25 at a garage sale. Turns out it has the prettiest grain.

  11. I love that do ‘the part of four other people’ statement. Great post! I want a living room side table to use for my coffee cup/books (we have NO useable horizontal surfaces in our living room), but I haven’t bought anything yet because I want to look at the thrift stores first.

  12. Absolutely! One of the best things I’ve purchased for my home since I moved was a rocking chair I spotted while dropping off a donation at Goodwill. Someone had donated it not long before I got there and it hadn’t even made it inside yet. I asked about it and they said they’d see if they had room to put it out on the floor. By the time I drove around the building, parked and walked inside, not only had they priced it and put it out, but there was someone already sitting in it! You bet I grabbed the tag off as soon as she got up! $20 for a nice wooden rocker! Sometimes karma is instant. =)

    • Oh good for you. One of my friends once sold a large baby toy in the parking lot of a children’s consignment store that we always referred to as the “kiddy pawn shop.” Both woman did better than they would have if they’d transacted with the store.

  13. Wonderful post, Cindy. I already buy most of our clothes at the thrift store, but you inspire me to look on Craigslist for some of the other things we need.

  14. good post, cindy. funny how this is something present here at the moment. I am losing weight at the moment, my trousers are already far too big and my t-shirts are getting very wide too. I have 5 more kilos to go, and then I will get new clothes… Except for underwear, I will try to get all of the new clothes second-hand. First of all will it save me a huge amount of money, and second there is a new fancy oxfam shop near to my place…

    While reading the other comments, I was thinking about my home. While my bedroom is almost only IKEA (got that 7 years ago when I moved out) my livingroom is except for chairs and the dining table also totally second hand… Partly I bought it, partly its from my friends, and a lot is inherited from my grandmothers. Carpets are used ones my mum didnt need anymore, same goes for my kitchen… I like that.

  15. I would love to use Craigslist more but I have this feeling that I just don’t “get it”. Whenever I look I either don’t find anything that seems like what I am looking for or the information in the category is so vague that I would have to call too many listings. For example if I am looking for furniture most listings don’t contain dimensions, colors, materials etc. And I also have little idea where the person is located so I may not even be able get the item even if it is suitable. I know a lot of people use Craigslist successfully so I wonder what I am missing. I have not had any better luck trying to list things myself.

    • Don’t worry Delores, I don’t use craigslist at all. It just isn’t popular enough where I am. I have put a couple of things up for sale on a free to sell site related to ebay in Australia. So far no enquiries about those items but.

      If the sellers aren’t giving enough information on the listing it does make it hard to shop. Furniture particularly should have measurements.

    • craiglist is very active in my area. There are several pages of listings in each category, just for my city. I only click on listings which have a picture. First, it helps to see how the item really looks like, and second, people who take pictures are usually more serious about what they sell. However, it does take time to find exactly what I am looking for, usually a couple of months, sometimes less, sometimes more…

      I guess it really depends on where you live and how active the site is.