Secondhand Savvy: What to Score, and What to Skip

Photo by the authorThe truth is, I'm just a secondhand sort of girl. I like my objects to carry an air of mystery, to enter my life with a little life of their own. In my eyes, well-made clothing is straight-up art (you can read more about my fashion philosophy on my blog, Bonzai Aphrodite). A chip on a vintage dish is testament to good living! And like the finest of wines, craftsman-made furniture will only develop character and complexity as it ages. Quality items always wear their maturity well.

But I also see the other side. My husband is a bit of a "chaser" – he loves minimalism, hyper-modern design, and he's always after the latest technology. And I certainly understand the appeal of hunting the cutting edge!

When it comes to furnishing a frugal, eco-friendly home, success means knowing when to choose new versus used.  So whether you're a squirrel like me – saving up and savoring – or a raccoon like my husband – always after the shiniest toy – it's prudent to take things case by case. Some things should always be purchased new. Conversely, sometimes buying secondhand just makes good practical sense. Here's how it breaks down:

Go ahead and hit the thrift:

  • Cups, saucers, and other dishes in glass or ceramic (avoid plastic).
  • Pots, pans, and bakeware in stainless steel or glass/Pyrex.
  • Flatware, utensils, or serving spoons made from any metal (avoid plastic or wood).
  • Wooden furniture - from desks to dressers to dinner tables, wood is easy to clean and ages beautifully.
  • Media like books, CDs, DVDs and video games.
  • Non-electric tools.
  • Garden supplies, healthy potted plants and flower pots.
  • Large appliances like washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.

Better be safe, better buy new:

  • Cast iron cookware (who knows what it's been seasoned with?).
  • Cribs (with all the recalls and all the accidents, it's just not worth the risks).
  • Car seats and other safety gear such as helmets (these are made to withstand a single incident, and without a complete history, you can't be guaranteed that they'll do their job).
  • Dirt (don't buy dirty dirt - you don't know what kind of contaminants are present).

That grey area:

  • Mattresses - Mites, bed bugs, mold, and other nasties, are a very real concern.
  • Blankets and other bedding - Again, if you're in a bedbug red zone, skip it. Otherwise it's fine, but do wash the ever loving criminey out of it, please.
  • Electronics, including power tools, DVD players, vacuum cleaners, etc - Purchase these only if you can score a super deal, because there's a good chance they won't last long.

With these simple tips in mind, you shouldn't have any problems outfitting a groovy, green and gorgeous abode. Happy decorating!

Sayward Rebhal is a Networx - - writer. Get home & garden ideas like this - - on

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