thrift

An Easy Way to Secondhand Shop: thredUP

For the most part, I do a pretty good job of avoiding the temptations of shopping for new clothes. I don’t wander the mall for fun, or go window shopping, and I have unsubscribed from alluring marketing emails.

Sometimes I succumb to my desires and I end up trolling websites, adding things to my cart, feeling bad about it, and then never returning to purchase it.

I try and keep a list of items I am specifically looking for so I don’t get swept away by something trendy and end up impulse shopping.

Back to where I mentioned feeling bad about shopping, this is important. I am fully aware of all of the environmental and social costs associated with purchasing new clothing (water, resources, labor, shipping, etc.), which makes randomly purchasing pieces really hard for me (but just to be clear, I still do purchase new clothing).

Enter thredUP, a humongous repository of secondhand clothes filterable by size, brand, color, you name it! The problem I find with shopping for secondhand clothes in physical stores is sorting through what you are looking for. It takes time and patience.

With thredUP you can search specifically for what you are looking for and also create alerts when say a Madewell cardigan is added. That’s how I ended up with the cardigan on the right.

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Two J. Crew cashmere sweaters and a Madewell cardigan for much less $$$

I created my search and then waited for the right one to come along, but since there is only one of each item (usually), you need to act fast! By the time I checked my email alert, someone had already added it to their cart. An item can stay in someone’s cart for a specified amount of time and if it is not purchased it is opened back up. If you really like an item, you can check that you will auto-buy if didn’t end up getting purchased.

It was really easy and I used that feature to get my Madewell cardigan. I also set alerts for certain brands I am fond of, which is how I found the two cashmere J. Crew sweaters on the left. I wanted a cashmere J. Crew sweater but they retail for over $90. This one on thredUP was new with the tags still on for half the price. It is warm, cozy, and I love it.

A handful of my wardrobe has come from thredUP and I intend to add more pieces along the way. My coworker recently stopped by my office and asked if I had used thredUP before and my response was something like, “Yes, I have a bunch of clothes from there, this J. Crew sweater I am wearing is from thredUP! Oh wait, so is this Ralph Lauren skirt! I am wearing an entirely secondhand outfit!”

All in all, I recommend thredUP. I have not used other secondhand shopping sites like Poshmark yet but plan to take a look. I am on the hunt for a white denim jacket!

Do you have a place you love to secondhand shop? Let me know!

This post is not sponsored by thredUP, I just like their site and want to share! 

How Facebook Can Help With Secondhand Shopping

My love for Craigslist has not waned, but I have found a new place to add to my arsenal for buying items I need and selling items that don’t “spark joy.”

It came about when I started to sell our wedding decorations post-wedding. I posted lanterns and table numbers to Craigslist but heard that Facebook Marketplace was now the place to buy and sell. So, I tried it out.

In terms of selling, it is pretty easy. Just post your item and buyers can reply via Facebook Messenger. You can mark items as pending and then as sold once you have completed the transaction, providing a rating to your buyer. The downside is that Marketplace provides an “Ask for Details” button that automatically messages the seller asking if the item is available. From my experience, buyers like to use that button A LOT. I mean, if it is still posted, and not marked as pending, it is still available…

Buyers can also send customized messages about items and save items to come back to later. You can search specific areas, within a certain radius, as well as by category.

I cross posted all of my wedding decor on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. I got the most responses to my items from Marketplace, and that’s where the majority of my sales came from. Seller beware though, while I did get more responses, the responses were a lot of unnecessary questions, beyond asking about its availability. People asked where I was located, if they could only buy specific items of the lot, and what dimensions where. All this information had already been included in the post’s details.

In addition to Marketplace, I have joined a number of community selling groups on Facebook, like Chicago, Buy, Hustle, and Trade, and Wedding & Party Recyclers Group.  I also am apart of a neighborhood group, so it is likely there is a group near where you live too.

Another group I am a member of on Facebook is the Chicago Buy Nothing group, where members post items that are available for someone else to take, or where members post items they are searching for. I posted moving boxes and supplies after we moved this summer and was glad someone else could use those items.

moving boxes

I was just glad these boxes didn’t end up in the landfill.

The downside of using Facebook and Craigslist, of course, is having to field questions and coordinate with buyers when you could just drop your unwanted items off at Goodwill or Salvation Army.

I see myself adding Marketplace to my repository of places to search for items I am looking for locally. The opportunity to be able to pick up a sought after item from a neighbor down the street, for less than it would cost new, is a win-win for me.

Have you used Marketplace? What are your thoughts? Do you have any other apps or sites that you swear by?

Disclaimer: This post is not in any way affiliated with or sponsored by Facebook. 

Salvation Army Vs. Goodwill

When we clean out our closets, move, are making way for new things, or are deciding which items in our lives “spark joy,” there is bound to become a donation bag.

It may be the giveaway pile or donate box, whatever you call it, it has to go somewhere.

The old books you’ve already read can be handed off to a friend looking for a new summer read, sold on Craigslist, or posted on the many Buy Nothing Project groups for someone else to enjoy.

More often than not though, with our busy lives, it becomes just too much work to try and find a new home for your items and coordinate a time to have it picked up. So the items get dropped off at a donation center because you want the stuff out of your house NOW.

Recently, I was asked which was a better place to donate your pre-loved items, Goodwill or Salvation Army? I didn’t have a clear answer, so obviously this became a good blog topic.

Salvation Army

According to their mission statement, “The Salvation Army, an international movement, is an evangelical part of the universal Christian Church. Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

They work to meet all sorts of human needs from helping disaster survivors and stopping domestic abuse, to combating addiction and assisting the unemployed. Learn more about what they do here.

Donating clothing and goods to The Salvation Army helps fund addiction rehabilitation programs. You can donate at their Family Stores and drop-off locations or schedule a free pickup. We had The Salvation Army come to pick up our couch once. It was nice that they could take care of that.

According to CNN, the Salvation Army spends 82% of donations on aid and you can check out Salvation Army’s sustainable development goals here.

Goodwill Industries International

Goodwill is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization whose mission is “to enhance the dignity and quality of life of individuals and families by strengthening communities, eliminating barriers to opportunity, and helping people in need reach their full potential through learning and the power of work.” They seek to help all job seekers and in 2017, Goodwill helped more than 288,000 people find employment.

Donating your items to Goodwill helps create job opportunities by funding job training and services and they also claim it keeps billions of pounds of textiles and clothing from meeting their end in the landfill. You can calculate the impact of your donation on their website which is pretty cool. For instance, if I donate 5 shirts, that provides 31 minutes of on-the-job training.

But is that what really happens? This Huffington Post article does a good job of explaining what happens to your clothes when you drop them off at Goodwill. In reality, after the good stuff has been picked out and the unusable has become rags, the rest gets shipped overseas. I was not able to find anything that directly explained what they did with stuff when it didn’t sell, but here is a blog about their sustainability initiative.

What’s the Verdict?

It is up to you! Both are keeping materials from the landfill and helping others in the process. I am sure there are parts of each that some may not agree with, but both are better options than tossing your clothes in the garbage. To avoid having to go through all your clothes and donating every few months, be conscious of your purchases and only buy what you actually need, buy secondhand, or attend a clothing swap.

What are your thoughts?

My First Clothing Swap

Have you ever looked at your closet exasperated and just said “UGHHHHHH!!”

Have you ever tried closing your dresser drawers only to have to shove a bunch of stuff down to get them closed?

This happens to me in cycles. I clean out my clothes, donate, and organize, only for several months later having to do it all over again. It is exhausting!

When I saw that the Sugar Beet Food Co-op was hosting a clothing swap, I was immediately on board.

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I tore apart my closet and dresser, pulling out everything that barely got worn, or no longer fit right. I had already had a pile of clothes that still were at my parents’ house, including multiple pairs of jeans I will never fit into again (sad day).  With the bags of clothes piled into the back of my car and I headed to Sugar Beet.

Upon arrival, we were instructed to sort our clothing by category onto tables.

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After everyone had laid out their pieces, we were then able to browse and pick anything that caught our eye (and was our size). My intention of attending the swap was not to get new clothes, it was more to offload what I had accumulated over the years.

The whole experience was neat because I was able to see other people pick up my articles of clothing and be excited about them. That was much more fulfilling than dropping off a bag of clothes at a donation center. I loved knowing that my pieces were exactly what someone else was looking for. Even so, not everything was picked up, so what was left was donated.

I did leave with one article of clothing though. It was a knit vest and it is so cozy warm that I have worn it for the last two days.

 

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The only thing I allowed myself to take home from the swap! 

With my resolution of reducing my clothing purchases this year, hopefully, I won’t need to be attending too many more swaps!

 

10 Most Overlooked Ways to Reduce Waste: Part 2

Welcome to Part 2!

If you missed Part 1, you can check that out here.

10 most overlooked ways to reduce waste.p2

Let’s get right into it.

#5 Vote with Your $$$

Every time you purchase something, you are contributing to its demand. This is simple economics.

Put your money towards products and companies that you believe in. If it is important to you that your items are produced using renewable energy, then support companies that do.

For instance, there is a fair trade shop just around the corner from our apartment and it is currently struggling, so after work today I popped in and used my dollars to buy wool dryer balls and Bee’s Wrap. My dollars did not just get me faster-drying clothes in the dryer but they made a statement that I support these kinds of shops and want them in my neighborhood.

Resources:

#6 Your Pantry and Fridge

Open your fridge.

Now open your pantry.

How much of the stuff in there is going to end up in the trash can/landfill? I am not just talking about food packaging and wrappers, but food waste too.

Keep this in mind when you are at the grocery store. I am not asking you to only shop in the bulk aisle of Whole Foods, but just start noticing.

Once you do it is hard to shake it.

 

CSA week 7

Joining a CSA helped us cut down on packaged produce, but sometimes we still received things in plastic. 

 

Resources for Cutting Back on Packaging:

#7 Wait it Out

When I find something that I want (not need), I bookmark it in my browser under a folder called “Things I Want to Buy.”

And then I leave it there for days, weeks, and months.

If I am still thinking about it long after I saved it, then I will consider it further. If not then it gets deleted, and to be honest, not many things have survived the “Things I Want to Buy” folder.

Basically, avoid impulse buys by having a waiting period for each item. You might find that you didn’t like it as much as you thought, or get home and realize you already have 5 black sweaters.

Resources:

#8 Put Some Effort into What You Already Have

Did something break? Then fix it.

Do your jeans have a hole in them? Sew them.

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The #8 overlooked way to create less waste is also known simply as taking care of your stuff! Wash and dry clothing according to the directions. Store equipment in the proper place. Use a coaster. Give your car regular maintenance. Fix the soles of your shoes when they have worn through.

Putting a little extra effort or elbow grease will make your stuff live a longer life.

Resources: 

#9 Buy Secondhand/Previously Loved

If you’ve followed this blog, you know that the majority of our furniture is secondhand. Everything pictured below has either come from Craigslist, a garage sale, or family/friends.

Not only is it way cheaper than buying anything new, but it keeps pieces out of the landfill. Beyond furniture, I do have some pieces of clothes that are secondhand, but the majority of my wardrobe is not. It is something I am working on.

Resources to get your secondhand shopping on:

#10 Don’t Give into Trends

The fashion world likes to tell us that we need new styles of clothing every few months. If it is not the 70’s bell sleeves, the chokers, or those “cold shoulder” shirts, it will be something else tomorrow. That way you can buy, buy, buy.

Don’t give into that crap. You don’t need any of it. I like to think that the clothes I purchase will be something I wear for a long time, so I stay away from trends and keep my closet pretty neutral.

Whatever the next ridiculous trend is, pass on it, and just wear your regular sweater that covers your shoulders with pride!

More Resources:

 

What else would you add to the list?

A Table Fit for Four

It has been a bit of process getting our kitchen table. At first, we were going to go secondhand, but as with shopping secondhand, what you are specifically looking for is not always available at the time you want it.

So, then we decided to just design our table instead. With my dad having the access and the know-how on woodworking we sent him a picture of what we were looking for and the custom dimensions we wanted for our small space.

And then we waited.

Months later (he’s a busy guy!) our table started to come together.

dining table

With every new picture update, we got even more excited!

dining table2

Before we knew it, K and my dad were finagling it up the stairs to our apartment.

And BAM!

We suddenly had a real kitchen table.

That more than two people could sit at.

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It is glorious and more beautiful than anything we would have ever bought in a store (and way better because I get to say my dad made it).

We are so cautious with it now, whereas with the old table we just threw whatever on it. Now everything must be gingerly placed on a placement or coaster.

At the time we received the table, we only had the 2 IU library chairs to sit on, so instantly inviting people over was not an option. Luckily, I had perused Craigslist the night before and inquired about a set of West Elm chairs that I have been pining over for ages. Each of those chairs retail for $249 A PIECE!

Thank goodness I acted quickly and followed up that I could pick them up the next day because I got all 5 chairs for $200 total!

chairs

Within two days we went from tiny garage sale table that fits two to the amazing custom table and bargain chairs that fit four (actually 5 but we cant fit that chair anywhere right now).

Come on over for dinner!

No More IKEA

The last piece of IKEA furniture is officially gone!

After much Craigslist searching, I finally found something that satisfied our needs. We have a lot of books and they need a home. This bookcase/TV stand was the perfect answer and at the perfect price, $80!

Within 24 hours, I replied to an ad, got a response, and had picked up our new TV stand.

new tv stand

We finally have a spot to keep all our cookbooks in one location. Before they had been scattered about the apartment wherever they could fit.

new tv stand2

Once it was set up, I was so excited that I just put books in any which way.

After a while, I added a few tchotchkes that were around the house elsewhere.

tv stand1

I am pretty happy with it right now!

Please disregard the mess of cords underneath, we have not gotten to organizing those yet!

I Keep Flamingos on the Fire Escape

There’s nothing quite as kitschy or screams summer like a plastic lawn flamingo.

I personally think they are hilarious and have always wanted to have one in my future yard, but never really came across any and I didn’t go out of my way to find them.

That was until I found this flamingo pair at a garage sale.

flamingoes

And they are awesome! You can’t help but smile looking at them!

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According to the seller, they are cast-iron from the 1930’s and had recently been repainted. I did an e-bay search when I got home and could not find anything else like them online. They truly are one of a kind!

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Let’s keep in mind that I do not have a yard or any green space for that matter.

All we have is the fire escape.

So until then, the flamingos are going to hang out there with the mini grill and the compost bucket.

How to Be a Craigslist Boss: Part 2

The other day, I posted Part 1 of How to Be A Craigslist Boss.

Now it is time for Part 2: Selling on Craigslist!craigslist

Creating Your Post Is Important

Good Images

I personally think the key to a good Craigslist ad is all in the pictures. I will never even look at a post without an image!

Seriously just take some good pictures of the item you are trying to sell. It will take 5 seconds. Most likely the quality of the phone on your camera is amazing, so there is absolutely no excuse for bad photos.

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Nooooooooo. No images and terrible headlines (see below).

Effective and Precise Headlines

No need for flashy headlines here, just be specific on what you are selling.

Say it is a couch and you are between two headline options.

Headline #1: “Great Deal! Comfiest Couch Ever!!!”

Headline #2: “Crate and Barrel Brown Leather Sectional- Good Condition”

The second option gives the buyer much more information than headline #1.

craigslist5

I could not resist this headline though. Very clever!

Keywords

On the same note as headlines, you need to use specific keywords in order to get people to view your post. At the bottom of the post body, add tags to help people find it when searching.

craigslist6

Good amount of keywords and not keyword overload.

Be Specific

Include any details that you happen to know about the item. Some details you may want to include:

  • Manufacturer
  • Age and when you bought it
  • Condition (missing pieces, scratches, dents, etc.)
  • Smoke and pet free home (especially important for upholstered items)
  • Dimensions
  • Any links to the item if it is still currently being sold

Pricing

Shoot for a price that is not too low and not too high, but leave just enough room for buyers to negotiate down.

You can list that your price is firm or will accept OBO (or best offer).  The good thing about Craigslist is that you can always change your price later if you are not getting any bites.

Make sure to do some research and see what similar items are going for on Craigslist too.

Also, take into account the condition of your item. If it is broken or missing pieces, say so and price accordingly.

Being Safe

Safety is an important aspect when you are selling things to random strangers online. 100% of the time, I have never once had an issue, but still please be careful.

  • Do not post your actual address. Just use your zip code or a major intersection in the area.
  • If you can, schedule to meet in a public place such as a crowded, well-lit parking lot.
  • Have another person with you if you can (I have actually brought my grandmother before, but not like she could help beat off an attacker).
  • Do not accept PayPal, check, wire transfer or anything like that. Go for cash only.

 

What has been your experience selling or buying on Craigslist? Or any additional tips? Let me know!

More Resources:

 

How To Be A Craigslist Boss: Part 1

I have bought and sold a ton of stuff on Craigslist.

Past roommates have even been found with it and that is a whole different story.

In fact, I furnished my entire dining and living room in DC with Craigslist items for under $400.

Below are two Craigslist tables currently hanging in our living room.

You can even find love on Craigslist and not in the Missed Connections section. My cousin met his now-wife through it because he bought her couch. Crazy, right?

Right now, I am searching Craigslist for a TV stand and dining table, but seriously you never know what you might find, which I think is the most fun part!

craigslist

Since I do most of my shopping lately on Craigslist, I thought I would put together a handy little list of tips for those who are new to finding and snatching deals on the platform.

1. How to Search Through Craigslist Crap Like a Boss

Search Terms

As I said before, I am looking for a TV stand, but I pretty much never just search “TV stand.”

So many different items can hold your TV. Some of the search terms I use include: “buffet,” “credenza,” “sideboard,” “dresser,”  and “media console.”

When looking for my kitchen table I either use just “table” to capture every kind or “kitchen table” and “dining table.”

Additionally, you can use the pipe key “|” to include an “or” in your search.

The Map Function

I find this most useful when looking for apartments, or when I am feeling particularly lazy and am wondering what people nearby me are selling.

craigslist3

Check “Posted Today”

If you are looking for something common, such as the kitchen table I am looking for, Craigslist is inundated with these items all day long.

And if you spend any significant amount of time searching for something, you will notice the same posts you saw yesterday after a couple pages. To see what is newest, you can check the box for what was posted today.

craigslist1

 

Knowing How to Filter

I also like to filter my results by newest posts instead of by relevance and price. The faster you can reply to a new post, the more chance you have to score that deal.

craiglist2

There are a couple other ways to filter out unrelated posts too. To remove spam, you can filter the price to a minimum of $2.00. I also like to only search posts that have images and to bundle duplicate posts.

2. Timing Is Everything: When to Search

Obviously, you can check Craigslist anytime you want, but there are certain times of the year that will yield more results.

  • When people move: at the end of the school year or the end of the month
  • After holidays: people get new stuff and need to make room for it
  • Weekends: for when people need to sell stuff ASAP

3. Location Matters

Some geographic areas are just going to have better goods than others.

Chicago being a major metropolitan area provides a lot more opportunities for there to be a bedroom set you are into and a lot more people to buy that weird coffee table you have been trying to get rid of.

For instance, I have a friend who was in the market for a vintage Coleman cooler like ours below.

cooler

He lives in Michigan and Craigslist did not have any listings for these type of coolers, but when I searched in Chicago, there were at least 5 available. I ended up getting the cooler for him here in Chicago and he picked it up the next time they were in town.

Stay tuned for my next post on selling on Craigslist!

Additional Resources: