Secondhand Shopping for Beginners

Before becoming a mom, I liked buying new furniture, new clothes, and new books with those crisp, clean pages. But now, my budget is tighter, my clothes are more well-loved, and the furniture in my home is working harder than before. So, I’ve started purchasing more items secondhand – and I love it! Secondhand shopping helps me see new potential in used items, and I’m way more laid back when something gets broken or stained.

If you’re looking to start shopping secondhand, here are some every day items that make great buys:

  1. Non-upholstered (or minimally upholstered) furniture: Think for a moment about all of the demands placed on the furniture in your home: it must be able to stand up to spaghetti-stained fingers, wayward crayons, and babies learning to walk —all while holding a mama’s many coffee cups! In other words, you want reliable furniture that you don’t have to worry about getting stained or scratched. Keep an eye out for sturdy, used furniture with minimal or no upholstery. These items are incredibly easy to clean (no funky odors to eliminate!), plus they can be easily re-purposed with a little sanding and some chalk paint. If you don’t wish to re-purpose furniture yourself, hop over to the stores in the West Bottoms on a First Friday weekend and grab a fun and less-expensive statement piece there.

side table

  1. Home décor: Lamps, vases, picture frames, and candle holders are great second-hand buys. If you like the shape and size of something but not the color, you can easily fix that with a can of spray paint. I love buying and painting open frames, and I don’t bother purchasing glass for them – you can simply perch them on your mantel or hang them around a canvas or other item on your wall.
  1. Clothing & costumes for kids: Since kids go through clothes at break-neck speed, it hardly makes sense to pay full price for everything they wear. Even my first child is already getting dressed in lots of hand-me-downs and consignment sale buys. We’ve loved shopping the Just Between Friends sales and garage sales … as well as the tubs of outgrown clothes in our family and friends’ basements.
  1. Clothing for moms: Sometimes it feels like my son uses MY clothes more than his own! All those hugs, tackles, and snotty noses add up to lots of wear on a mom’s wardrobe. I don’t have the personal spending budget to buy a ton of new outfits these days, but there are some amazing secondhand options! When buying secondhand clothing, I tend to look for reliable name-brands, especially brands that feature classic styles. Used pieces in these brands usually have life left, both in style and quality. I’ve been really enjoying the website Twice, where you can both buy and sell clothes without ever leaving home!
  1. Books: Call me old-fashioned, but I love a home full of real, paper-and-ink books. Unfortunately, new books are also expensive (and I often don’t realize how expensive until I see how my Amazon Prime shopping has added up…). Before buying a new book, call a used bookstore to see if they have that title in stock – you might be surprised! When at a thrift store, keep an eye out in particular for kids’ books, classics, and any books in colors that might be useful both for reading AND decorating.
Jenna lives in Midtown with her husband and two kids (ages 6 and 4). She has an M.A. in English and too many overdue books at the library. She has been working with writers for over a decade, as a high school teacher, college instructor, and writing coach. She loves good coffee, serious conversation, and not-too-serious fiction.