I get such a buzz from bargains, so it’s even more amazing when things are FREE. It all started when I spotted a wee bookcase on the pavement outside my flat a few years ago. I peeked out the window and saw it was in good nick and was just what I was after, so I dashed down the stairs, had a quick glance left and right to see if anyone was around, then grabbed it and ran back inside feeling giddy. After a quick clean and a lick of white paint it looked amazing and didn’t cost me a penny. I don’t see anything wrong with this and I think it should be encouraged, as often these items will end up being thrown away and wasted, when they could be re-homed, reused and lovingly restored. Over the years and without really trying, I’ve picked up a few free items on my travels, including an ornate mirror, a vintage chest of drawers and an amazing retro coffee table. No longer needed by their previous owners, these things were just waiting to be whisked away and I’m glad to see that the trend is turning towards free finds.
Kirstie Allsopp made free finds fashionable with her programme, Fill Your House for Free, in which she advocates skip-diving and Gumtree-giving. Kirstie showed the British public how it’s done, by managing to fill an entire shop with free furniture, found around the country, on pavements, at shop clearances, on Gumtree or simply family hand-me-downs and unwanted items. The programme was a real eye-opener as to the amazing items out there just waiting to be found, which would otherwise have gone unwanted, unloved and unused in a skip somewhere.
As an avid bargain-hunter and fan of vintage fashion, I can often be found rummaging in charity shops, delighting in my thrifty finds, so I was overjoyed when a swap shop opened nearby. An excellent addition to the east end, Simply Swap is a community initiative designed to reduce waste and recycle unwanted items, and the other amazing thing about it is that no money changes hands – it’s all free! Shoppers simply bring along their own unwanted clothes, bags or shoes and exchange them for the same amount of items that previous swap-shoppers have brought in. I have been the swap shop’s biggest fan since it opened and I’m constantly amazed by the things I find, which include a Zara mac, countless vintage dresses, vintage brogues and these Topshop beauties which originally cost £62!
As they say, one’s trash is another’s treasure and that is very much the case with free furniture finds and swap-shopping. I hope that many more swap shops pop up around the country and, if not, why not organise your own clothes-swapping party with friends? Long live swap shops, Gumtree-giving and pavement pilfering!