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Garage Sale and Second Hand Home Decorating

by Tiffany in A Green Home

If you take a look at most any interior decorating book, magazine, or website you usually come away rather discouraged at the amount of money that it takes to achieve the look you want your home to have. It seems that anything resembling that glossy magazine photo is going to cost some serious green. But quite frankly there is a simple and effective method for attaining the look that you want without spending a fortune; all it takes is a solid knowledge of the style you have in mind, an empty car trunk, and a free Saturday morning for yard sales, thrifting, and time to pick up some Craigslist booty.

I do not happen to have the desire to turn my house into a magazine photo. There is nothing wrong with that but it just isn’t my thing. I like simple decor that screams “a family lives here” not “I have an interior decorator”. Plus my tastes are eclectic… I like farmhouse decor, modern, retro, bohemian, and new age and I am not afraid to mix, LOL. Either way you decide to go though… second hand shopping can get the job done. Garage and yard sales particularly are a great source for second hand items, but don’t overlook second hand shops and thrift stores as well as moving or estate sales or auctions that you can find advertised in your local newspaper. In fact, you never know where you are going to find awesome second hand objects and sometimes friends, neighbors and family will be more than willing to give you items they are looking to get rid of or that have been taking up much-needed storage space for years.

Avoidance Issues – There are plenty of people who shy away from decorating their homes with second hand furnishings or decorations because they somehow feel that purchasing something second hand will somehow give them a negative reputation; that somehow people looking at an object will know that it was purchased second hand. Success means having the money to buy the best and buy it brand new right? Whatever…

There are still others who won’t consider second hand decorating for reasons that range from quality to safety, but for those who can get past their aversion to having something in their home that once belonged to (or was used by) someone else, the benefits of decorating your home with second hand items is fairly self-explanatory.

The Benefits of Second Hand Decorating

The primary reason to purchase second hand furnishings and decorations is fairly obvious; price. Buying second hand items almost always costs less than it would to purchase the item new (unless you’re dealing with an antique – in which case all bets are off). Not only can you save yourself a great deal of money, you can also find high quality, even unique, one-of-a-kind items at a fraction of the cost they would cost you in a regular store. Items that would normally cost you hundreds of dollars can be had for a bargain; especially if the individual selling them is anxious to be rid of them. When we moved into our current house almost a year ago we had no kitchen table. Our previous one (which we had since we got married) bit the dust in the move. Anyway I knew I wanted either a farmhouse table or a vintage table from the 50s/60s. The farmhouse tables were over $800 used and the vintage ones were hard to find. I saw new vintage-style tables like I wanted for around $500 but I had serious doubts if the quality would be the same. So I waited almost a year but eventually I got what I wanted at an estate auction and the cost could not be beat… ready for it… $1.00. Yes, I said one dollar! It is a retro/vintage kitchen table set from the 60s I would say. I LOVE it!!!

This baby is metal and sturdy as heck. The color combo is brown/beige/mustard which also pleases me. But the table will match many different cushion colors so someday I might redo the cushions to mint and butter yellow. Some of the chair fabric is ripped or otherwise I wouldn’t even bother. It also fits the space better. Who was I trying to fool thinking a  farmhouse table would even fit there or look good? I am not Martha Stewart and I don’t have a farmhouse near a vineyard. I live in a rented duplex that kisses the outskirts of a large city. This table is me… simple, practical, no frills.

A few weeks back we got a white leather recliner from a sale for $5. We got it home and quickly realized why it had been sold so cheap. The cushion from inside was disintegrating and throwing up everywhere. Every morning it looked like someone had thrown popcorn all over the place. So, we freecycled that one and found another the same day via Craigslist for $15. It is even better suited to us and our brown couch… olive green, cushy, and cloth covered. The lady who sold it to us also gave us a nice metal filing cabinet and sold us two large dressers for $5. An older find is this old time school desk that was only $3 and serves as a homeschool nook for us:

I LOVE second hand stuff!

One of the least recognized benefits of purchasing items second hand is in knowing that what you are purchasing has already ‘proved’ itself. If the item is still usable and looks good after having been used for a length of time, chances are that it will serve you will and not wear out or fall apart as so many ‘new’ things tend to do fairly quickly after being purchased.

For art work we have purchased second hand of course but since I take pictures I like to hang my own art. To make that cheaper I use Group deal sites like Groupon and MamaSource and get them half price. When you refer friends you get credit too and all three of the canvas photos on my family room wall were FREE. I like that price!

It really isn’t hard to decorate your home, even if you are on a shoestring budget, it just takes a little creativity and a willingness to consider purchasing items from places you normally might not consider buying them, but by thinking outside of the box you can make your home into a truly original work of art.

  • Free-Ranging Mama

    I love it!  I love it love it love it.  This is exactly how I feel about home decorating.  You can make a house feel like a home quickly by adding antique or vintage wooden pieces which you can find by “treasure hunting” as my family calls it.  They complete a house and turn it into a home.  I have an antique dining table and chairs in a warm maple.  The table is from my parents (I grew up around that table since our house was small and the kitchen was the gathering place).  I found chairs that “match” (same wood and era, not quite same color) on craigslist.  I will refinish it all some day when the kids are older and stop beating up my furniture.  I have a gorgeous antique buffet in a warm red wood that came from my sister.  Nothing makes a statement and a home more than well-loved and mix and matched antiques!  Reusing (second, ahead of recycling) and saving money at the same time.  How much greener can you get!  Thanks for sharing.   I am going to share this on my facebook page.

  • Deb

    Wonderful article!  More people are living this way, and I am doing this, also.  For me, it is an ethical issue, also, because I feel that we cannot simply continue to buy new things and throw them away eventually.   Reuse and repurpose….I feel better about myself and my home when I practice these principles!  Many people complain about not being able to afford things…well, how much more one can afford when one reuses and repurposes…this leaves more money for those fixed expenses and more expensive vacations or entertainment…of schooling!  Thanks for such a great article!

  • I love looking at garage sales. It’s how I figure we’ll get a lot of decorating done whenever we get to own our own place. Right now we keep things simple because we rent and hope to move closer to family someday, so buying things even at a garage sale means more stuff to move or sell later on.

  • Lizzie @ Infectious Chatter

    love it! some of my favorite house decor finds were second had great deals. not only does it look good but you feel good about it too :)

  • Zach

     i like the “green at home mom” tag stephanie (it’s an important idea – home parents are not staying, they are actively doing quite a lot, and the green thing too).

    this is great stuff but a lot and difficult to follow. has some great green and home dec plans that are visual and really break it down. you can share that info there and see what else is available. any other ideas are welcome too. thanks naturemoms!

  • Fourhappyhoskins

    Love the article! It’s exactly how I have shopped for years. Thank you for posting the picture of the old school desk. My grandparents were teachers in the 60’s and acquired a desk exactly like yours which has now been in our family about 50 years. I am now inspired to pull it out of storage and set up a homework station for my 3rd grader. It will go great next to my 100 year old rocking chair. Thanks for the ideas!

  • Anonymous

    I love home decorating with pre-loved things! It gives a home so much more character, plus half the new stuff you can buy at Pier1 these days costs and arm and a leg and already looks “worn”, I’d rather get authentically “worn” thank you very much! I love your pictures of the kiddos too, you are very talented! 

  • Anonymous

    Plus when you’re trying to live a life of voluntary simplicity (which I think you’ve mentioned before) this fits right in! 

  • Greenbeautygirl

    Great finds!  You can get so many great ideas with second hand shopping.