If you’re an instant-noodle dependent, afterpay-addicted student (or just strapped for cash), the prospect of furnishing a new place be daunting. Essentials like washing machines, mattresses and fridges can be expensive – and the environmental cost of the ‘fast furniture’ industry is very real. The lure of cheap, mass-produced furniture can be difficult to resist, but its poor quality often means it is abandoned on the kerbside within a few years.
Kevin Morgan, managing director of EC Sustainable, estimates that up to 48,000 tonnes of furniture is disposed at the kerbside every year in Greater Sydney alone.
To make up for the environmental transgressions of the older generations, who are guzzling through our resources like there is literally no tomorrow, many young renters are seeking sustainable options. Although sustainability produced furniture is often pricey, there are some great secondhand options out there for people on a budget.
1. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of hard rubbish.
Would you believe this bar was furnished almost entirely for free? The kerbside can be a treasure trove if you’ve got the time and the energy to sift through it. Admittedly, you might have to search through a heap of junk before you find something you like – but that’s half the fun.
If you’re super organised, you might like to hop over to local council websites and look up hard rubbish collection dates – this is when the best pickings will be on display. Consider making a weekend out of prowling the wealthier suburbs, where you’re more likely to find better quality furniture.
Just as a disclaimer, white goods are not necessarily the best items to source from hard rubbish, as they’re often faulty if they’ve been dumped on the kerb. Which leads me to the next point:
2. Be savvy with your white-goods.
Before you start your search for cheap white goods, consider letting your extended family know you’re on the hunt. You never know who might have an old fridge in the shed and would be glad to give it away. Alternatively, there are plenty of cheap secondhand options.
Let’s start with Gumtree. Many an Australian share house has been serviced by a $50 washing machine from Gumtree. While Gumtree is an alluringly cheap source of white goods, it can also be unreliable. I’ve heard stories of share houses going through three Gumtree washing machines in a month.
Considering the effort it takes to transport the machine, haul it into the laundry, and connect it, you’re going to want to make sure it works, at least for the extent of your stay. Even if you try it at the seller’s house, it could run out of steam a few months down the line. If you’re willing to put in the time and energy to potentially keep replacing machines, Gumtree is probably the cheapest option in the short term.
Another option is secondhand white goods stores. Secondhand stores often provide warranties for their products, which ensures you won’t have to waste time and energy replacing your machine. You might have to pitch in a little more – $250 is about average – but the peace of mind is worth it. Alternatively, you could pitch in an additional $100 for a spanking new, 4-star water efficiency rated machine with a warranty, like the one pictured above. It all depends on how much you and your housemates are willing to chip in.
3. Good old op-shopping.
Yes, Sacred Heart has an Instagram store now. It’s amazing.
Op shops are a great option for furniture and retro-finds. Consider hitting the big stores with dedicated furniture sections to maximise your chance of finding something you like – but beware of falling into the trap of buying too many knickknacks. There are only so many adorable ceramic statuettes you can fit on your windowsill.
4. Facebook finds.
Facebook isn’t just for stalking your ex-classmates and feeling vaguely inadequate. No, it’s also an emerging marketplace for second-hand furniture – some of it even free. There is a range of Australian Facebook groups selling secondhand furniture, ranging from free Ikea shelves to trendy, mid-century Danish coffee tables. Search for a group based in your region, and join those that suit your price range and style. Some might require you to answer a few simple questions before joining to verify that you’re a genuine buyer.
5. Ikea – but some products are more sustainable than others.
Ikea is undoubtedly the global leader in cheap, mass-produced furniture, but the company produces some sustainable ranges. Some greenies might balk at the thought of supporting a company like Ikea, but I’d argue that boycotting them entirely isn’t the way forward. Big companies like Ikea aren’t going to go away, but the more we support their sustainable enterprises, the higher priority they will put on environmental issues
The DVALA sheet range is an example of sustainable innovation worth supporting. The cotton used in the DVALA range can be grown using fewer pesticides and water than most, and the sheets themselves use 15% less material while still providing the comfort-level of regular bedding. Better still, a quilt and pillowcase set (pictured above) is available for as low as $19.99 on the Ikea website. For more sustainable Ikea ranges, see their website page here.
That’s five ways you can furnish your home on a budget – but there are undoubtedly more! It’s more important now than ever to keep exploring and celebrating sustainable ways of living. It’s undoubtedly the way of the future.