Everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum of the what is acceptable to get second-hand. Some people find nothing wrong with searching through grocery store dumpsters for leftover food. Some people can’t stand the thought of wearing a sweater previously-owned by person or persons unknown. Heebie-jeebies aside, let’s get right down to the sensible bones about it.
Leftover food: I’ve read about and recently seen the dumpster-diving-for-food crowd. This seems to happen in larger cities and while I understand that good food is thrown away all the time, even the poorest in urban centres don’t seem to do this. With food banks and shelters and churches that serve food every day, the dumpster divers I’ve seen are neo-hipsters with hemp pants and blond dreadlocks. Part of me says, “Good on you for sticking it to the system”. Most of me says, “Too far, my friend.” Many of the food establishments are filthy enough that you wouldn’t want to eat in them, nevermind from their bin in the alley. There are smarter ways to respect our food and our food dollars than this.
There are other sources of leftover food that don’t involve digging through refuse. Between work I used to do and my husband’s current work, we’ve seen a lot of receptions. Leftovers from vegetables trays are great in soups and tiny sandwiches are great snacks (but don’t last long – eat fast!). I’m always happy to take home turkey or ham bones for soup stock. If, like us, these events happen frequently, keep a stash of food containers in your car.
Clothes: There are subcategories which are more contentious such as underclothing, swimsuits and the like. This is where the heebie-jeebies divide people. If needed, any clothing article can be made hygienically clean. For me, the elastic on the these goods don’t last long and the price of new articles is comparable so I don’t even get to the heebie-jeebie factor before I’ve dismissed this as not a great deal.
As for pants, shirts, coats, etc. etc. This can be huge savings for families. The sky is the limit on how much you can save. Again, all of these things can be made perfectly clean and after wearing it once, it does feel like your own.
Furniture and Other Household Items: Very good deals to be had in this area. Solid wood furniture is expensive but will go for a song second-hand. Household items used to be better made and even pieces that are 30, 40, 50 years old or older will hold up better than their flimsy modern equivalents.
Upholstered items can be a good deal if you’re careful. Bugs, especially bed bugs love to travel and you don’t want your $30 sofa becoming the Santa Maria of infestation. Be smart, consider your source and shop accordingly.
Baby Items: I can’t understand why some people need to buy new things for their baby. For one, babies grow up. And fast. Babies do not wear things out. There are plenty of cribs, strollers, clothes, diapers, toys, bottles etc. in the world with plenty of use in them. Again, with determination, anything can be made clean, even for a baby.
Safety recommendations change but using the common sense God gave you, make sensible choices. A car-seat from 1974? Probably a bad idea. A wood high chair from 1940? Might be worth considering.
As for the only-new-for-me crowd, I offer this. From hotels to restaurant dishes to bus seats – we use these things over and over. We have agreed on an acceptable level of sharing with countless strangers. A second-hand casserole dish had less entounters with strange mouths than any wine glass at the fanciest restaurants. Before you turn up your nose at second-hand, think about that tacit social agreement we have about sharing renewable items.
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle: we jump on board with recycling but remember it does come in third. Remember the importance of our first and second choices.