According to Waste Data Flow UK, 670,000 tonnes of furniture and 310,000 tonnes of textiles were left at the kerbside to be disposed of as waste in single year. And, a significant amount of this was reusable or recyclable. So, why as are nation are we so comfortable with just throwing things away?
I think part of it is that we have lost the art of repurposing or fixing what is already available to us. Gone are the days when being thrifty was a necessity, not a statement in ‘shabby chic’. We are so used to being able to walk into the nearest chain store, and pick up the latest interior trends for next to nothing. But do these products really last? Or do we move on to the next trend once the last has died out, leaving these redundant items to crumble at the local tip?
I am a firm believer that buying good quality second hand furniture makes much more sense. Of course, the pieces might not be to your taste when you find them in that little thrift shop down the road. But, that’s the joy of upcycling! Chalk paints are getting better all the time, and can transform that dark and dingey dresser into a thing of beauty in hours. Don’t like the handles on that chest of drawers? Replace them with ones that you love!
Our home has a few new pieces that we really needed, but otherwise most items have been gifted, found on selling sites or discovered in local junk shops. They may not have been perfect, but after a little TLC they have become some of my favourite items in the house. Knowing that they have ‘lived’ a life before, and been enjoyed by another family, makes them all the more special. And, we haven’t wasted money or resources along the way.
My advice for finding second hand pieces for your home would be:
- You may not find what you are looking for straight away. Be patient, and ask around. Local car boot sales, selling sites on websites such as Facebook, and reclamation yards are great places to start.
- Find pieces made of good quality, solid wood, that will last you many years. Good indications of this are ‘dove-tail’ (see photo) and mortise & tenon joints. Try to find items that are held together with screws or dowels- not staples, nails or glue!
- Once you’ve found an item you love, give it a very thorough clean. Chances our it’ll need it, and if you’re going to paint it, this will go much more smoothly if the piece is clean!
- Use accessories to keep up to date with the latest trends. Keep walls and the colour of any painted furniture neutral. Use these as a blank canvas for smaller pieces, such as cushions, a vase or a new painting.
- Lastly, enjoy digging around and coming up with ways of repurposing the items you find. It’s supposed to be fun! Take a sense of pride in the fact that you now own a unique piece, tailored to you. And, you’ve stopped a perfectly good piece of furniture contributing to the thousands of tonnes of waste that end up in landfill every year.