Zero Waste Wednesday: Don’t Be Afraid to Buy Used

Rob and I have theorized that there is enough stuff. They really could stop manufacturing anything for a couple of years, and we would all be all right. People replace their stuff so quickly and so frequently, that there is a lot of very nice stuff slated for the landfill.

So, now we have a frugal way to keep things out of the landfill. Whatever you are looking for, try to find it used first!

I know there is a stigma to buying used. Part of me thinks that this is deeply rooted in our consumer culture. If you’re ever seen “The Story of Stuff,” you could say that it’s because, in buying used, you’re not feeding the arrow enough. We are taught to consume conspicuously, and it if we don’t have fancy, name-brand things, we must be *gasp* poor or *double gasp* tightwads. It doesn’t matter who or what we harm in our consumption.

So, yes, buying used will help save the earth. But what about germs? All these people have touched those things. Think of all the people who slept on that couch. Ewww!

First of all, new items are hardly sterile. They still get touched. Germs are literally everywhere. That’s why we have immune systems! As far as the “eww” factor, a good shampooing will fix any furniture. Clothes get washed, and hard surfaces get bleached. Really, they will be fine!

OK, but aren’t used things in worse shape? That’s why people want new, right?

Yes, sometimes, but we have found many items that, with a little TLC, can shine as good as new. It does require more time, but it can be worth it in the end. When you buy something that was made before planned obsolescence was the norm, when items were supposed to actually last a year–and then some!–you’re really getting a higher quality product, even if it does require some sweat equity.

So, how do you get started? Here are some of our favorite places to look for used goods:

1. Thrift stores are a great place to start. These are great for dishes and other kitchen-wares, clothing, and toys. Some even have furniture (although it’s all about the hunt, it you want something that isn’t completely dated). The Salvation Army sends all of their donations to a central location, then redistributes them, so it’s really the luck of the draw what you find and where. Goodwill does not redistribute, so certain communities will have certain items. For example, I love shopping at a Goodwill in a college town, for clothing. They have very up-to-date, even trendy clothes. Goodwill, Salvation Army, and St. Vincent DePaul are non-profit, so they will probably have lower prices, and the money will go to good causes.

2. Now let me talked about the Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Technically, it is a non-profit thrift store, but it deserves its own category. If you’re going to do ANY project in your home, stop here first. You’ll find paint, building materials, fixtures, appliances, and furniture. Some is really dated, some is not, so it’s all about the hunt! One ReStore is not like another, so you might want to visit a few of them. Some also sell toys; we got an umbrella stroller for $5.

3. Next, check out independently owned resale shops. Some of these are very expensive; some are cheaper than thrift stores. Some have nice things; some have junk. We got our coffee grinder and table at a very artsy resale shop (I also got a nice pair of jeans there!). Once you find a store you like, go back every so often.

4. We got our fridge at a pawn shop. Usually these have good electronics, especially car stereos. Other than that, you never know what else you’ll find, so it is worth checking out!

5. Summer is rummage sale time. I posted about some of my tips for those here.

6. Craig’s List is great for larger items. We found our Volvo, our pop-up camper, our motor home, and Moonrakeron Craig’s List! You can also find very nice furniture, woodstoves, and appliances there. We found our stove on Craig’s List.

7. After that, it’s time for e-bay. I do a LOT of Christmas shopping there. There are plenty of new items, but used ones cost less. It’s buyer-beware though, since you are buying the item sight unseen. Don’t spend a lot of money if there is any chance the item isn’t in great shape. We got computer parts, books, and software on e-bay.

8. Finally, you might want to check out Freecycle. Some areas have a great one going, some do not. I tried it and was very disappointed with the one in our area. There were plenty of “in search of” posts, and few people offering anything. Still, I put up some items, and found that people wanted me to go above and beyond to deliver them. Silly, silly, silly. If it’s free, then the recipient should be responsible for picking it up at a time when the other person is available. But I have heard that it’s better in other areas.

So, enjoy living greener and more frugally. Happy hunting!

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