General ramblings, Really Useful-Buy Nothing New

Sourcing What you Need When You’re Buying Nothing New

Last week I remedied the oversight of never having blogged about why buying nothing new is so important to me, and it’s occurred to me that there’s lots of Buy Nothing New basics that I have never really covered!

Today I thought it might be helpful to share all the alternative places I’ve found to source the things we need/want without buying new. And the good news is there are lots of them!

BNN sourcing-P

Charity Shops/Thrift Stores
I mentioned last week that we were not a family of natural thrifters, and scouring charity shops was not something we did as a matter of course prior to My Make Do and Mend Year.
In fact, my dad once asked me slightly incredulously “Why do you go into charity shops?”!!
I was always slightly jealous of people who seemed to effortlessly find wonderful clothes at bargain prices in charity shops-I always just saw a jumble of things, and could never really find anything I liked. Until I started looking properly.
Now, I haven’t bought clothes from anywhere else for over 3 years!
I’ll be sharing my top charity shop shopping tips in another post very soon.

Car Boot Sales
A Sunday morning mooch around the local car boot is one of my favourite ways to spend some time over the weekend.
It’s an especially great place to pick up toys and clothes for the kids.

Jumble Sales/Garage Sales
Both of these seem to be less popular nowadays than I remember them being back in the day. Who else remembers treasure troves of jumble piled high in church halls, where everything was 20p?!
They might be experiencing something of a resurgence though thanks to initiatives like Jumble Trail, and Garage Sale Trail.

Vintage Shops/Fairs
I do love a wander around vintage shops and fairs, and although things might be a bit more expensive than charity shops, there is the advantage that everything has been carefully picked, and you are being saved the trouble of searching far and wide for that vintage or retro look.

Vintage finds1

Antique Shops
I’ll be honest here, I am a little intimidated by Antique Shops, but if you are looking for quality pieces of furniture, they are well worth a look. Older furniture is made to last, and you might pay more than you would on the High St, but you won’t need to replace it anytime soon.

Auction Houses
This is another place I was scared of exploring prior to My Make Do and Mend Year, but I plucked up the courage to have a look around our local one, and I was amazed! The variety and quality of the things on offer was fabulous. And you can submit advance bids in writing if you aren’t sure about the whole live bidding process!

Flea Markets
This has become another favourite day out since starting to buy nothing new. I honestly think you could find pretty much anything you wanted at a flea market, and lots of things you didn’t know you wanted until you saw them – red phone boxes; statues of dancing bears; and stuffed owls are all things we’ve seen!

Flea finds-Dancing bears

Share Shops
Did you know that the average power drill is only used for 13 minutes in it’s lifetime?
There are some things that we don’t all need to own, and this is where the Sharing Economy comes in.
We are lucky enough to have the UK’s first Share Shop open up near us in Frome. It’s tagline is that is like a library of things, and is a great place to borrow the things you only need from time to time. They have all kinds of things from power tools to preserving pans.
Another first for the UK, is Edinburgh Tool Library, the first Tool Library in the country. It’s such a simple premise-you can read more about it in this interview I did with it’s founder Chris last year.
And keep your eyes peeled in 2016 for great things from The Library of Things. They have grand plans for rolling out sharing shops across the country.

This is like an online version of Share Shops, and aims to encourage sharing between neighbours. If you need a ladder, or a blender, you can post on there to see if anyone local to you has one they could lend you.

Free Shops
A local community centre in Swindon set up their first Free Shop in 2013, and it has been such a success that Swindon Council have rolled out the initiative to other community centres around the town, and there is now one on somewhere in Swindon every week. I interviewed the founders of the Free Shop at Savernake St Social Hall last year-it’s a really interesting read about how it came about, as well as some tips on how to start one in your own community.
It’s worth a look to see if there is anywhere local to you doing something similar (if there is, do let me know, and I can add them to the What’s On Guide for the newsletter)

Give and Take Days
Local councils will often organise these as part of their waste reduction initiatives.
The premise is simple, it’s like a Bring and Buy, but without the Buy element-you can just take whatever you need!
Ask your local council if they run any, or you could even start one yourself. You can do it on really small scale with your friends, or at your local toddler group etc.

Swishing is another word for clothes swapping.
These are a great fun way to refresh your wardrobe for very little cost. Check out the Swishing website to see if there is one near you, or failing that, there are super easy to run-here’s a blog post I wrote about how to Swish!

If you are looking for craft supplies, then do check out the Scrapstore central website and search to see if there is one near you.
All the supplies are donated by local businesses and diverted from landfill. It’s a great place to source supplies for crafting, especially for stuff to do with the kids.

Community RePaint
This is the place to go if you are re-decorating and looking for paint. There are organisations up and down the country, and you can search for one near you.
If you have paint leftover from projects, I think you can also donate it here, to save it from landfill.

Community Wood Recycling
Another great re-use initiative that re-distributes unwanted wood. We sourced a sideboard from our local one, to make a guinea pig cage (obvs..!), and you can also find great upcycling treasures like cable reels, and doors.

Guinea Pig3

I think everyone must have heard of Freecycle and Freegle by now. You join your local group, and you can then post WANTED ads for anything you need, and OFFER things that you no longer want. I love our local freegle group, and am always amazed at the stuff people are giving away.

Buy Nothing Project
This is a project that started in the USA and has now spread around the world. It is Facebook based and you can join your local group, and then ask for things you need, or giveaway stuff you don’t.
Search here to see if there is a group near you. If there isn’t, it’s a simple process to start one-here’s the link.

eBay, Preloved, Gumtree, and Craigslist are all good places to search online for the things that you need.
Just be aware that most of the stuff on eBay now is new, but you can tick the Used box to narrow your search down to secondhand things.

Friends and Family
I always end up putting this last, but it really should be first.
If you are looking for something, always ask your friends and family-you never know what people are hoarding that they might be happy to share, or even gift to you.
I needed a yellow t-shirt for BigSmall for Sport’s Day a couple of years ago, and having had no luck in the charity shops, I posted on my personal Facebook page, and had two offers!

I’m sure there are other places I’ve missed off-if you have a favourite place for sourcing the things you need secondhand, please do let me know and I can add them to the list!


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  • Reply Ten Things | Moral Fibres - UK Eco Green Blog August 13, 2017 at 5:01 am

    […] 5. How to source what you need when you’re buying nothing new. […]

  • Reply Kate Harrison April 9, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    When we were little my Mum used to go to a thrift shop in Knightsbridge! Three of us had ‘new’ coats which eventually got passed down to the youngest sister. She complained about getting hand-me-downs but we never told her that the coats weren’t new in the first place! I used to get brilliant clothes for my daughter from a thrift shop in Ringwood and even took them back for resale when outgrown.

  • Reply busygreenmum April 5, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    We have several active local giveaway and selling groups on Facebook and I’ve also obtained things for free via website streetlife (now Nextdoor). A friend hosts a swishing event from time to time and I’ve always loved charity shops – I did a no new clothes year about 8 years ago now.

  • Reply Bernadette Keenan April 2, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Free Markets. We do one every two weeks on Bridgeview Surrey BC. There is one in Vancouver too. Check us out on FB.

  • Reply Sarah Plumer January 20, 2016 at 8:16 am

    I was telling my colleague come pay day I’m looking for a second hand travel mug and a landline phone as mine had recently broken. He told me he had a spare mug that he’d bring in for me and on the way home I realised I could take the phone from my Dad’s house which we have been clearing following his death last year.

    • Reply Jen January 26, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      Good work!

  • Reply Becky Annison January 18, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    If you have children then you forgot my favourite… NCT sales. Great second hand stuff (not just for babies – ours has clothing and shoes up to about 7/8 years. Plus lots of toys, books and other kit like swimming stuff, bedding etc. I’ve got curtains, duvet covers, and very cheap lots of brio! You don’t need to be a member to go to them either.

    • Reply Jen January 18, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      Ooh yes! Good one Becky, Thankyou! I might actually do a whole “pre-loved kids” post…

  • Reply Kathryn Houldcroft January 18, 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Great list. We pick up some of our household electrical items from local charity household furniture and electrical appliance shops. These are branches of charity shops, usually in larger premises, that specialise in furniture (we picked up a sofa) and PAT tested electrical appliances (which usually come with a guarantee). I know British Heart Foundation have a few of these around the country.

    • Reply Jen January 18, 2016 at 9:38 pm

      Thanks Kathryn! Reassuring to have that PAT test!

  • Reply Workshopshed January 18, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    That re-paint could be useful as I have ended up chucking old cans of paint that went a bit funny after many years storage in the shed

    • Reply Jen January 18, 2016 at 9:38 pm

      Yay! Do you know if you have one near you Andy?

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