Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thrifting the Craigslist Way

This is what one corner of my garage currently looks like thanks to Craigslist.  When we upgraded our condo in the mountains, we purchased one that was furnished. However, said furnishings look like they were purchased in 1978. I'm all for 3/4-Century Chic, but some of the items look like they came right out of Jack Tripper's friend Larry's bachelor pad on Three's Company.

In an ongoing quest to reduce, reuse, recycle, I turned to Craigslist and am thrifting my way to a newly furnished ski condo.  Along the way, I've figured out a few tricks of the trade when it comes to Craigslist.

Top Ten Recommendations for Craigslist Thrifting Success:

  1. I frequent four categories for optimal success. You can see these circled below:
  2. Free - Has the best bets for items in need of serious rehab.  You can sometimes find great scores here if you're willing and able to pick up and drive to Timbuktu THAT DAY.  These are usually items that people leave on the curb or need to have gone before the end of the day. I once found a great free sleeper sofa here.  I had to put it through a SERIOUS "sniff test" and let it air out to ensure that there weren't any bugs living in it, but in the end, it turned into a great reupholstered piece.
  3. Household - If you're looking for things like vanities, sinks, even spare ceramic tile, this is the place to look.  This is also a great place to find lamps and light fixtures.  I found a pair of Dale Tiffany hand-painted lamps in this category. They look similar to the center lamp in the bottom row.  Retail, these lamps go for $150/each if they are new.  The woman that I bought them from had inherited them from her parents, and parted with them for $10 each.  She just wanted them out of her house and was more than willing to bargain once I asked. (More on bargaining below)
  4. Art & Crafts - I have found that most of the actual art in this category is overpriced or priced right as far as art goes - not, however, priced for my thrifty budget.  I have found some amazing deals on frames in this category, though.  Oftentimes people just want to dump their extra frames.  If you have the time to paint them, stain them, distress them or otherwise treat them with a crafty hand, you can end up with some beautiful frames for your art.
  5. Furniture - You will find so many different types of furniture here.  I've seen chairs made from twigs, chairs made from skis and chairs that must be made from solid gold the way they are priced.  My first rule, never look at anything priced over $100.  If it's priced over $100, chances are you can find something similar in a furniture store for within $100 of the asking price.  If you want to find a deal, stick to the cheap stuff.
  6. Never get your heart set on something specific - you lose all of your bargaining power.
  7. Always ask for less than the price.  I usually say something like.  "I can't swing $50 right now for the two nightstands, but I would love to have them for $35.  Please let me know if you don't get any better offers, and thanks for considering mine." Sometimes, you'll find someone who is very firm in their price, but most of the time people are willing to deal (even if it's just a little bit).
  8. I've had the best luck searching on Friday nights after 10 p.m.  People are home from work, thinking about what they need to check off their to-dos this weekend, and start listing things on Craigslist.  Even if they've already gone to bed when you make your offer, your email will be waiting in their in-box the next morning.
  9. Saturdays are a great time to pick things up.  People aren't at work, and usually want to get rid of their items before the weekend is over.  Bid on Friday night.  Check for return emails early Saturday morning. Return phone calls and set definite pick-up times.  Plan your route (use Mapquest or Google maps to plan the most direct routes) and head out to make as many pick-ups as possible.
  10. Important questions to ask regarding furniture (if the pictures don't make it clear): Is the dresser, end table, etc., made of solid wood or laminate?  You can see the right half of a queen-sized headboard below. I failed to ask and discovered I was buying a laminate (oak look-alike) headboard for $40. What are the dimensions of the piece? Make sure it will fit in your car and make sure it will fit in your space.  Pictures can be deceiving.  Are there any cracks or structural integrity issues that I can't see from the picture?  I drove to a seedy neighborhood thinking I was getting a deal on a $15 oak pedestal table and two chairs, only to discover that the base has a crack that runs from the table top to the floor.  Not to worry, though, I have big plans for that baby.  It's amazing what a few tension straps, some screws and a fresh coat of paint can do to shore up a table.
  11. **Bonus suggestion: Always take someone with you for pick-ups.  You just never know who might not have the best intentions.  I believe in safety first and bargain finds second.
Below you'll find some photos of some of the great finds that are patiently waiting in my garage to be transformed.  I'll be posting each transformation as it's complete.

Mid-century solid wood dresser with some scratches and a strange white haze on it - $15

Two matching end tables or nightstands (as the case will be for me).  Solid wood with serious water damage - $8/each.
Two mission-style maple end tables in perfect condition - $15/each
One oval-shaped mirror just begging for an oil-rubbed bronze spray paint - $10
One mystery-wood dresser with at least 5 coats of paint and only 3 knobs - $10

Stay tuned for all of the transformations and happy hunting. Send me some pics of your favorite finds from Craigslist and the Before-and-After transformations at sara(at)thehandyhausfrau(dot)com.

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  1. This is an excellent post with some terrific suggestions I've not figured out on my own. ;) You are definitely right about bringing someone with you...Also, you may want to start utilizing CraigLook. We live in a tri-state area, and having to look through each individual state's listing is tedious and time-consuming. With CraigLook, one may search by zip code and even tell the system how far they want to go. It's *fantastic*, and I'll probably never go to the actual CraigsList site again!

  2. Great tips, I totally agree!!

  3. I'm a pretty frequent CL shopper, but you mentioned some tips that I hadn't thought of -- Friday night listings, checking the "free" section. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I've been a little bit afraid to venture into CL but now, with your tips, I think I'll give it a shot. Thanks!

  5. Such great tips. I am going to link to this post in my Inspire My Saturday post tomorrow.


  6. Thanks for the tips. I have never thought to look in categories other than "furniture" I hope you will post photos of all that "stuff" once you work your magic on them!

  7. Wow...I love Craigslist, thanks for the helpful tips! And thanks for linkin' up to Frugalicious Friday! oh and I followed. :)

    Jane @ Finding Fabulous


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