When people pursue a secondary education is often a time during which their living arrangements change. The situation is different for everyone, as some move out at the start of their degree into a completely unfurnished place far away from family, some do so at the end or even later, and others live in a variety of housing styles over several years before settling in. However, each situation inevitably involves decisions on when, where, and how to acquire furniture. While this is almost inevitably consumeristic, it can be incredibly fun to explore different styles and find pieces that suit you, while doing so sustainably and on a budget. Following are a few examples of the interesting ways you can consider acquiring furniture more sustainably than a trip to a big-box retailer *cough* IKEA *cough*, as fun as that can be as well.
- Asking around for used furniture people would like to get rid of.
This might sound strange, but I am writing this blog while sitting on a big comfy couch that had previously been sitting unused and in the way in the garage at a family friend’s house. I’ll admit, it’s not pretty and a pain to move because of how heavy it is, but it is so comfortable I am going to keep it for many years to come. Don’t be afraid to take pieces from your childhood bedroom either, if possible! It’s sure to look very different in a new environment, and it will probably sit unused for a while if you do not.
- Kijiji/Facebook Marketplace/garage sales/As-Is sections.
A bit obvious, but thrifting and buying used items from other people is a great way to get pieces for cheaper than retail price and to prevent them from being thrown into the landfill. This is also sometimes an option at the actual big-box stores. For example, IKEA has an As-Is section in which items that were returned, or previously on display, are sold. It can be a hit-or-miss, and it can take time, but others will sell some amazing things. I like a mix of styles myself, and I really wanted a streamer trunk for storage. I did not think I would be able to find anything in my price range, but I kept an eye out online. Eventually, I found one on Facebook Marketplace, for a great price, so be patient!
- Think outside the box.
When I needed a nightstand for my new bed frame I thought about what I needed it to do, and what I wanted. It also turns out they are much more expensive than I thought they would be when purchased new. So instead of rushing into one I took my time to look up inspiration, and decided I would like a stump. A tree stump brings in natural wood tones, and could be custom cut to size since my bed frame is taller than most. We went to a lumber yard where they build log cabins, and they were able to give us a leftover piece that had been cut off.
- When you are starting to think you want to replace something because it is getting worn, reevaluate and see if you can fix it up instead.
This blog post was inspired when I looked at my dining table and thought I wanted a new one. I had purchased it on Kijiji a few years before for a great price, but I never really liked the colour. After a few years with many roommates it had also gotten scratched, and it looked used up and old. My first thought was, “Yes, an excuse for a trip to IKEA! Meatballs, here I come!!”. Instead of following that impulse I sat down first and tried to think of what I really wanted instead. The table was solid wood, something I appreciated, with a rustic shape which I did not mind. The main issue was the paint colour and surface damage. Upon consideration I decided to paint the dining set myself instead. While not for the faint of heart, reviving a piece of furniture is much more sustainable than most of the alternatives. If I had gone to a store, or even purchased another used set in better condition online, I would never have been able to sell my old one due to the amount of TLC it needed, and it would have ended up in the landfill.
When furniture pieces are well made it is often not too hard to restore them; mostly it is done with elbow grease and supplies that cost less than what something new would cost. For solid wood you just need sanding paper, paint/stain, a brush, and time! I did the top with an electric sander that I borrowed, but that is not really necessary if you paint it a solid colour on top instead of a lighter stain. The sanding is really to make sure the surface is rough enough for the paint to adhere to. It is important to re-sand between coats to create that rough area. Three coats later, and my dining sets looks much brighter and more my style. It now makes me happy to look at and will last many more years to come!
Moving out can be a stressful process, but exploring your own style can be lots of fun! While it is completely alright to own all new furniture, I would encourage you to really think about what you want rather than impulse buying. And if you love something, don’t be afraid to try and create it or fix it up yourself!
Nikki van Klaveren
Blog Team Member