Furnished For Free

by Sasha A. Rae on 17 November 2009 14 comments

Free is such a great word. It brings images of cool things and cool experiences flying your way for less than the cost of an average cup of coffee or snack at the grocery store. It’s even better when all of that free stuff helps you furnish an entire apartment at no real cost to you, aside from a little bit of time and gas.

That’s exactly what I did a few years ago. I had pared down all of my belongings to just two suitcases and a few boxes before I moved overseas. When I returned, I didn’t even have a sleeping bag to use on the floor of my new place. That problem was easily solved with a little bit of ingenuity and some Internet research.

Start Your Search on Craigslist

One of the best places for free stuff is Craigslist. Craigslist offers a plethora of amazing goodies for nothing or next to nothing. You can check under the For Sale/Wanted section where there’s a free link or you can surf through the furniture and appliance sections. Even a general search in a broader category can pull up some interesting tidbits. Don’t forget: The closer it gets to moving day, the more inclined people are to start giving household goods away for free. Keep an eye out for anything that has a specific date on it.

Join a Freecycling Group

Freecycling is another beauty of a place to find free furnishings. Once you join a Freecycling group in your community, you can start surfing through the postings. If you’re in a hurry to find things, try searching the group postings specifically for what you want. If you have more time and a general interest in collecting things, you can sign up for a daily or weekly email or check the postings out periodically. The summer that I spent decking out my apartment, I found everything from a bookshelf and a table to dishes and utensils for the kitchen. I even came up with a few unexpected niceties like almost new place settings and a set of matching glasses.

With Freecycling, though, it’s a give and take situation. While you can easily find and pick up dozens of furnishings, clothes, and books, you have to be willing to give something back to the community. After I had furnished my apartment and was well on my way to creating a comfortable living space, I started looking around for things I no longer needed. I donated an old laptop to a non-profit that needed one and spent some time showing the woman who picked it up how to work the different programs. I also donated books and hangers the next time I moved.

To get started, sign up for a group in your area. Make sure to read the rules for how to post ads and how to respond to ads. Each group uses its own specific terminology and online rules of etiquette.

Hook into Free Stuff on the Web

Kashless Krew is one of the newest freecycling sites out there and uses all the benefits of Web 2.0 technology to spread their message, which is to “give and get free stuff.” Similar to Freecycling, the idea is to re-use things in a community. You might not need your old iron any more, but it might be exactly what someone else is looking for. Plus, with Kashless Krew, you can hook into Facebook and look for free stuff while you do some social networking.

Take a Stroll Through Your Neighborhood

A final place to look is at your local curbside. No kidding, especially if you’re living in a college town. Students start dumping their belongings on the streets towards the end of every semester and year. I’ve found dressers, books, and even a clean futon mattress just by keeping my eyes peeled while going on a casual walk or bike ride through my neighborhood. Plus, if you tell your friends and family what you’re looking for, they can keep their eyes peeled too.

It’s all about staying connected. Once you’re hooked in, you’re all set to find cool stuff for free. Have fun furnishing your digs!

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Guest's picture

I'm sceptical of the hidden dirt or soiling in soft furniture, but solid furniture can often be found out on the street and quite often is good quality which can be restored.

Guest's picture
Guest

Beware the bed bug

Guest's picture
cavale

these are all good ideas, but any tips on how to get large pieces of furniture from the curb and into your home?

Guest's picture

You get things into the house by schlepping - or dragging - with/without help from friends & neighbors - sometimes you can pay local teenagers to help, too! I always have had a car in which I put large items - that is, a hatchback or something similar - or get some tuition in tieing knots so you can load something securely on top of the car...

Guest's picture
Kevin

I would also avoid soft furniture, but otherwise, we've had some great finds; and some great uncluttering experiences.

The rental townhouse we just moved out of was not far from the edge of the student area; There was a concrete pad where people sometimes put things that were too good to throw out. It was within sight of some of the regular student migration routes.

As we were gearing up to move into our first house, we came across a lot of items that we didn't need or wanted to upgrade. Bookshelves, futon frames, etc.

We always made sure to put out good used items at peak times when a lot of students would be coming home from classes.

I had a bookshelf get claimed in the five minutes it took me to walk back to my townhouse to get the next item. I'm glad it found a good home.

Guest's picture
Bud

Bed Bugs.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have given away TONS of stuff on it.
Deck boards, pieces of wood, planter boxes, etc. Stuff that may have just been thrown away all went to a good home.

Guest's picture

Ayee! there is an epidemic of bedbugs in the US - so I would not longer suggest you get any soft furniture from the street!! I used to get pillows from sofas my better-heeled neighbors had thrown out, but no more! However, you can safely recycle other hard furniture, etc. In older neighborhoods you might even find some collectibles! I found a 50's dinette table with chrome legs for a buddy of mine.

Sasha A. Rae's picture

I agree! You have to watch out for the creepy crawlies when you pick up stuff curbside. If you're lucky, as I was, you can see the owner just pulling it out to the curb and talk to them about it before you take it. Otherwise, hard furniture is a better bet if you find it outside.

Guest's picture
kj

I've been involved in Freecycle sites for several years now (mostly on the giving side) and have found that for the most part if you do not set it up for individual emails and sit right on top of your emails all day you will rarely get anything that is decent. I've also seen the moderators snatch things up before they let the email through (found out about this from other freecyclers who say they got calls for stuff before it hit the site) so I have quit dealing with those sites.

Just an FYI about Freecycle for you.

Guest's picture
Olivia

When my roomies and I lived in Manhattan near Cooper Union, NYU and Parsons we'd find great stuff on the streets. It was fun when a new roomie came with better stuff. We'd put the old stuff on the curb, hang out the window, and see how long it stayed there. We didn't have problems with bed bugs, but roaches were something to consider. So if you scrub down everything you pick up and stick with hard furniture, you should be fine.

Guest's picture

This is a great article. You know My husband and I once bought a used mobile home (we call them caravans in Aust} for $750 it was from an estate. It was 20FT long was pretty dusty from being stored in a shed. But we cleaned it up and it was our home for 2 years. So in answer to one of the comments about having to clean something up to use it. With a little elbow grease you may find a stone turn into gold as the saying goes. Lets face it when you are broke you will do anything.

Guest's picture

I agree, great article, very practical and helpful. I am getting a new place and this is some good advice. take care!

Guest's picture
Guest

There is an epidemic of bedbugs in Manhattan, including some very posh buildings on the Upper East Side.

You have to avoid more than just upholstered/soft items. Even regular furniture can harbor them.

If you are going to take something off the street, you should think about seriously checking it and using special products to de-louse it. Bedbugs are not easy to see as they start out very small and transparent (before they suck your blood and grow).

Right now, people picking up furniture on the street and from used furniture places is helping to spread bedbugs.

You have to be responsible because once they are in an apartment, it's a nightmare (and very, very costly for overall expenses for cleaning, etc.) and may not get them all. In the meantime, you spread them in your building.

You must be very vigilant and not let your lust for free end up costing you dearly.