16 Things to Look for Used Before You Buy New

“While thrift shopping is a prime way to play treasure hunt and score unique finds, it has another remarkable advantage: It’s a great way to lighten your carbon footprint.”

Reader’s Digest

Thrifting and sourcing out second hand or new-to-us items has become a habit for my family. I love saving money, the thrill of the hunt and it doesn’t hurt that it doesn’t hurt the earth either. I have gotten to the point where I won’t buy anything new without checking for it used first. But it took a while for me to get there. The more I found what I needed used, the more I kept looking for second hand items. Whether you are an expert thrifter, an occasional thrifter or just getting used to the idea it is good to know that you are helping the planet by choosing used. If you’re curious about the benefits of thrifting, check out this awesome article by Reader’s Digest.

There are many options available for sourcing out second hand items, and it really depends on your location. Most towns and cities have local thrift shops, consignment stores or goodwill. If you are in North America there are plenty of online thrift options such as Poshmark and Thred up. Local second hand sites such as Kijiji, Ebay, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are another way to shop from your home. Garage sales are also an easy and fun way to thrift. Depending on your community there may also be local swaps and events organized where people can sell and trade used goods.

Here’s a quick list (in no particular order) of items I’ve come to find are easy to round up second hand. The next time you are in need of something, instead of heading straight to the store, please take a little bit of time and check out your local swap sites, thrift shops or consignment stores. You may just find exactly what you were looking for!

1. Furniture

Photo: Our basement couch bought of Facebook Marketplace for $400

According to Curbed, in 2015 it was estimated that 9.69 million tons of furniture were sent to landfill . Thankfully, we have local buy and sell sites to reduce the amount of furniture being thrown away. You can list your old furniture, and find some that’s new to you! Our home is almost entirely furnished second hand. There is the odd thing that we were given new, like my daughter’s crib, but otherwise we mostly sourced out used items. You would be shocked at the number of couches that are not only listed daily, but seem to sell just as quickly. Used furniture is a fast paced market with plenty of options and for a fraction of the price!

2. Clothing

Photo: Our daughter in a baby swap jacket and hand-me down pants chasing her dad in a thrifted vest

This is arguably the most important item to thrift. The fast fashion industry has an enormous impact on the environment. By simply abstaining from buying new and wearing the clothes you have for longer you are reducing your eco footprint. If you also choose to buy used, you reduce your footprint even more. According to the World Resources InstituteOne garbage truck of clothes is burned or sent to landfills every second!”. Where we shop for clothes has an enormous impact. Thrifting can take more time as a shirt isn’t handily offered in a variety of sizes and colours for quick convenient shopping. However, it does make finding the perfect top for you more rewarding and fun! If you’d like to know more about the environmental toll of the fast fashion industry, check out Heather’s Post “Just One Shirt“. Charlotte also wrote a post all about ways to reduce your closet’s environmental impact.

3. Camping Gear

Photo: A camping chair I picked up for my daughter from our town’s annual “treasure hunt” event

Camping gear isn’t a necessity of life but there are many families who enjoy getting outdoors and soaking up a little sunshine. Ours is one of them. I have come to find that many people sell their camping gear as a whole set. So if you are in need of several basics (ex. tent, sleeping bags, cooler, dishes, etc) someone is selling just that on a second hand site or at a garage sale near you. If you only need certain items such as a child’s camping chair or a cooking stove, these items are also very easy to find used too.

4. Books

Photo: Our daughter reading a thrifted book her aunty gifted her while we were there visiting

Books are meant to be shared and they never lose their purpose. This is why libraries exist all over the world. While we do use our local library frequently, it is nice to have some books at home to read over and over again. The thrift store is full of books, in all genres and for all ages. Its fun to browse the shelves, you never know what you might find.

5. Halloween Costumes

Photo: We thrifted this tiger outfit last year for $3 and will be re-donating it.

According to Recycle Nation,  “The U.S. generates about 25 billion pounds of textiles each year, or 82 pounds per U.S. resident… Halloween only adds to the problem”. I am NEVER going to buy my daughter a new Halloween costume. They are easily $20+ at the store and they are a one time use. Very few kids want to wear the same costume they wore the year before, and chances are if they have a younger sibling, they’ll want a unique costume too not their sibling’s old outfit. The good news is there are plenty to go around! Ask any of your friends with kids, they’ll likely have one to lend out. Or check out your thrift shops and local swap sites. They have a plethora. This goes for adult costumes too!

6. Toys

Photo: Our daughter playing with wooden block bought for $2 from a garage sale down the street

As a parent, it can feel like you are drowning in toys. Worse yet, most of the toys we buy our kids are only played with for a short while before they are onto the next. According to the Huffington Post “toys typically serve one role and can’t be repurposed” they also go on to say that the majority cannot be recycled. Which means buying new is contributing to this unsustainable industry as is throwing toys away. We have one toy rule: we don’t buy our daughter new toys. Used toys are EVERYWHERE. They are such an easy item to thrift, and incredibly inexpensive. The best part is, when your child is done with the doll or the blocks, you can re-donate them. Charlotte wrote an awesome post about what kind of toys to buy, how to organize your playroom and minimize your eco footprint, check it out!

7.Baby Gear

Photo: The stroller and highchair my grandparents bought from “Once Upon a Child” for our visit. They kept the stroller and donated the high-chair back afterwards.

Baby Gear is something that is only used a short while. Depending on the item it may only be used for a few months at most (ex. highchair, sensory mat, infant wrap). This also means it’s usually in fairly decent condition by the time a family is done with the item. If you are lucky, friends and colleagues will likely pass along items, but its unlikely you will be given everything you need. Before you register for new items, see if you can source them out second hand! We found a travel crib, highchair, and stroller all in gently used condition. You can also ask for used items, check out our post on an eco friendly baby shower.

8. Home Decor

Photo: Except for the books, all items pictured including the shelving unit are thrifted.

Home decor is quite trivial, especially from a minimalist stand point. However, some of us like to make our house a home. Home decor items are often expensive, especially for something that sits on a shelf. Thrift shops, and buy and sell sites are full of these items. Why? Because trends come and go with the seasons and “accessory” type items are the first to be replaced. Next time you are looking to redecorate check out some used options, you’ll save both money and the landfill!

9. Activity Booklets & Stickers

Photo: One thrifted sticker book and one activity book $1.25 each

I must admit, I will not buy my daughter a $20 sticker book. Stickers aren’t eco friendly to begin with and I know she is going to colour all over it, play with the stickers and within 6 months it will be trash. What I will do: buy a used book that another child lost interest in for $1.25 from vallue village. Either way the book will end up as waste but my daughter can get several months fun out of them first and I can recycle the paper portions once she is done.

10. Special Event Attire

Left Photo:Shoes and a dress I thrifted for my daughter ($10 total)
Right Photo: An Artizia dress I thrifted for $20

Event outfits are often a 1-3 time wear. Especially with dresses. It feels wasteful to buy new when you’ll only wear the item a handful of times. I know that there are rental shops for this purpose, but not everyone has access to this option.The last couple weddings we have attended, one of us needed something to wear. In June my daughter didn’t have a dress or shoes that fit her. I was able to find both at a local thrift shop for $10. In August, we went to an adult only wedding and I didn’t have anything quite “fancy” enough. I decided to check out the thrift store before heading to the mall. I’m so glad I did. There were hundreds of dresses to pick from, I eventually phoned my sister to help me chose.

11. Entertainment Units

Photo: A used pool table and cues we bought for $600 off Facebook Market Place

Recreational items and furniture won’t likely be found at the thrift shop, but are in abundance on local second hand sites. Whether it’s renovating, moving or just wanting a change, someone is always looking to have a pool table or foosball game carted out of their home. Imagine spending less money and saving the landfill of one of these massive items buy buying used.

12. Cloth Diapers & Inserts

Photo: A few of the cloth diapers and inserts I bought used off Facebook Marketplace

If you are interested in trying cloth diapers, or you just need to add a few to your supply, used is a great option. You will not likely find these anywhere except swap meets and local second hand sites but they are worth the hunt. If you are concerned about over all cleanliness, you are not alone. I striped the used lot I bought before I put them on my daughter, in the end though its no different than a cloth diaper service that takes the dirty and bring clean ones to replace them. Of course cloth diapering in general, not just second hand cloth diapers, saves the landfill of disposable diapers, and saves parents money. If you want to know more about cloth diapering check out our post on “Rethinking Reusable Diapers“.

13. Outdoor Toys & Patio Furniture

Photo: The used slide my parent’s thrifted for our backyard

Patio furniture and outdoor toy sets are easier to find used than you might think. Due to their size you’ll likely have to search for them on a second hand site, rather than stoping into your local thrift shop. This isn’t always a bad thing though. The sites often have more selection and price ranges to chose from. I often see these items listed when people are moving, upgrading or they’ve outgrown it.

14. Appliances

Photo: The used stove we found on Facebook Marketplace to replace our broken stove for $125.

This seems like an odd item to thrift and one that doesn’t immediately come to mind when you think of buying used. However, you’d be surprised at the variety of appliances people are selling or even giving away. Last year our stove broke and the reparation cost was very high. We were able to take it to the appliance recycling center and found a used one on a local second hand site from a couple that was changing their appliance colour scheme. We were also fortunate to get our deep freeze free second hand.

15. Home Renovation Materials

Left Photo: The bar sink we bought off Kijiji for $25 from a couple that never got around to installing it themselves
Right Photo: The used carpet we picked up for free from a family that installed hardwood

For those of you DIY-ers there are plenty of second hand materials to be sourced out. This cuts back on material costs and saves the landfill of anything you choose to use in your renovation project. There are many cases of home owners not liking the carpet colour the builder chose, or someone over estimating paint cans or drywall sheets needed but can’t return them. All of these items will go to landfill if no one else can make use of them. Check out our blog post on “Eco Home Renovations” for more tips and tricks.

16. Fabric

Photo: The “Earth Baby” capes I made using thrifted fabric

Another item that’s for DIY-ers, specifically sewers. I recently learned that most thrift shops contain a fabric section. Often they are the left overs of a fabric bolt from a project, but sometimes there are several meters worth. Either way it’s worth checking out before heading to the fabric store and buying several meters. The only thing to keep in mind is your amount needed. Usually the amounts donated aren’t usually more than 2 meters and you have no way to buy more if you need. Which means its perfect for smaller projects and trickier with larger ones. I have also found that people will sell fabric they never got around to using on local sites as a way to recover a small portion of what they paid. Another win-win situation since its cheaper for you than buying new, and they aren’t going to use it.

What is your favorite thing you have every bought second hand? What might we have missed from this list? Let us know below!

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