More Green For Less Green

Living more eco-friendly for less money


Used Items

Exciting news, in 17 days we will close on our first home! It is a small single family home (1054 sf + basement) on just under a ¼ acre. It is a foreclosure and is in need of major love. We've asked the bank to pay for the code & sanitation issues things like a major German cockroach infestation and dealing with all of the basement water going through the sump pump into the yard (this is not a thought-out grey water system, it is bad plumbing). After we take possession, we'll take care of the many cosmetic issues—incredible filth everywhere, writing on the walls, peeling paint, as well as practical things like bad gutters and broken stoves. Yes, stoves! One great thing about this house is a second kitchen in the basement, which we are calling the craft kitchen.

Our goal is to make the house totally "more green for less green". In other words, we want our house to be as sustainable as possible, but we definitely have a budget. So, we are already stalking the used-item circuit for house goodies. This weekend we loaded up on old, heinous sheets to use as drop cloths for painting (that can be composted later) and we are on the hunt for anything else that might be a fit—yard tools, fireplace tools, etc.

When buying for myself, I buy almost exclusively used items. It just is so fun, you can read about my fun finds here. So where do I shop used? Here is a breakdown:

Yard Sales

  • We particularly love community yard sales so we can walk between the homes and hit up many sales at a time
  • Anything and everything goes. Expect to find mismatched, broken, and trashed items along with super finds
  • It is normally impossible to try on clothes, so I put a $2 cap on clothes since I don't know if they will fit
  • Favorite find: Like-new sandals in my hard-to-find size (5) for $3, box of soap making supplies for $2
  • Try your negotiating skills to get even lower (works especially well if you are buying multiple items)

Rummage Sales (my favorite!)

  • We favor church and charity fundraising rummage sales where items have all been donated and the proceeds benefit the organization
  • Anything and everything goes. Expect to find mismatched, broken, and trashed items along with super finds.
  • It can be very difficult to get around the throngs of people to look at items. It is not a place for the claustrophobic.
  • Usually items are organized at the beginning of the day and indentified by signs or in particular rooms, but the flip side is that sometimes volunteers are still sorting when the sale starts
  • Look for "fill a bag" sales where you pay a flat fee to fill a whole brown paper bag (usually books or clothes)
  • Clothes are usually just piled into mountains and there is no place to try them on. The good news is that they may be really cheap.
  • The line to the register may be extremely long. Take a look before you start shopping and decide if it is worth it. Favorite finds: Antique cut green glass bowl for $1 that matches two we had at home. $0.50 like-new black heels in my size

Estate Sales

  • Great chance to find complete sets of things (dishes, glasses, tools, bedroom sets, etc.)
  • Good place to find high-end items: wood furniture, antiques, china
  • It is just plain fun to check out the houses and see what people have collected over the years
  • You might experience sticker shock—prices can be quite high. Go on the last day for discounts (but dramatically smaller selection)
  • Favorite find: 8 hand embroidered vintage cloth napkins for $2 (we use these every day)

Thrift Stores

  • Usually things are somewhat organized
  • You can try on clothes, though it may be in a communal dressing room
  • More expensive than yard sales, but still cheaper than new (generally; sometimes I think their prices are nutso)
  • Ask for a store calendar and shop on sale days. My favorite store does 75% off clothes the first Monday of the month. I see no reason to shop for clothes there any other day!
  • If you love it and can afford it, buy it. Stock rolls over quickly. It may not be there later that day.
  • Favorite finds: Ski boots in my size for $3 (I bought used skis later that season), tags-on ball gown for a cruise, $4


  • Easily searchable website, you can filter by location, price, pictures, etc.
  • Peruse the free section, you never know what you will find
  • Post your wants in the wanted section
  • The downside can be unreliable communication from unreturned emails to no-shows at your meeting time
  • When setting up a meeting, always ask for their cell phone number and give out your own. Call and confirm before you leave your house.
  • Try your negotiating skills to get even lower on items that have been up for awhile (but agree on a price before you meet)
  • Favorite finds: Cuisinart food processor for $40, end table coincidentally finished to match my coffee table $0 (free)


  • Online groups to get or give only free things. Join the Yahoo group for your area and receive many emails throughout the day or a daily digest.
  • My dear friend Jill suggests getting all of the emails, but setting up email filters to only allow keywords you want (e.g. tool, baby, boxes) and have the rest of the emails go to your spam folder. Because we are looking for so many things right now, that doesn't work for us, but if you have specific wants—give it a try!
  • I am new to Freecycle and so far I prefer Craigslist's free section because I don't want 50 emails a day and by the time I get the digest, the item is often taken already. Plus I don't like going through the moderator to get approved, post, edit a post, etc. Currently I live on a borderline for a particular Freecycle region and the convenient group (i.e. the area that I drive through to get to work) rejected me. Do note that not all areas do the whole boundary map/moderator approval thing.
  • Favorite find: I've only gotten on things so far: moving boxes & packing material. I posted by first thing to give away today.

Large Trash Day

  • Large trash day is that day when garbage companies or community associations agree to take large items. The night before large trash day is a prime time to find some great stuff for free.
  • You may want to knock on your neighbor's door and ask if you can have the item, just in case it is actually meant for charity, another person, has some really gross/dangerous feature that isn't obvious
  • Favorite finds: coffee table in desperate need of refinishing (which my husband took on), several months later the matching end table (in good condition) was put out

Just Be Open

We have so many things simply because others know we are open to reusing items. I'm not saying you have to hoard or take everything offered to you, but just be open at let others in on your appreciation for used items and see what is offered

  • An extended relative gave us their old washer the same month ours broke. Sadly, theirs broke as we were moving it up the stairs, but it turned out to be in the same model series as our 30 year old washer (we didn't know this beforehand). We were able to get out many useable parts and repair our machine. It is still going strong!
  • In college, I made over $1,000 selling textbooks a roommate left behind (I confirmed with her first that she didn't want them)
  • Most of my fabric stash was given to me by crafters paring down

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