Pitfalls to avoid when buying secondhand for the home
The idea to start a fancy homewares store for prelovable gems, came out of an aversion to trolling through crowded shelves crammed with unloved stuff, in the hope of finding even one gem. In my mind, 'unloved' is dirty, missing pieces, broken parts, rusty, cracked, mismatched, or used to the point of exhaustion. Looking around my stylish home, there is no way that ‘unloved’ has a place here, despite being someone who actively champions lifestyle behaviours with low impact on the environment.
The paradox was as obvious as a vegan in a butcher’s shop. Which led to the thought: imagine if all the “gems” were in one retail space, cleaned or restored to near-original condition. A space that gentrifies the secondhand shopping experience, puts the LOVE into preloved, and removes the pitfalls. A space that gives dignity to both the preloved products and the shoppers seeking a bargain or treasure.
With this, Gold Leaf was born. Named after ancient traditions of gilding belongings with gold to symbolise respect for perfection or imperfection. The Japanese art of Kintsugi (golden repair) seemed particularly apt given restoration and cleaning are fundamental to the gentrification of secondhand.
So that’s how we began. Starry-eyed and naïve; traipsing around charity shops and secondhand stores in search of gems worth saving. Making so many mistakes along the way that at one point, my family suggested renaming the business, Fools Gold.
After operating for just over six months, there are inevitably more pitfalls ahead, but here’s our Top 10 Tips to consider BEFORE purchasing certain secondhand household items.
1. Check if coffee capsules are still being sold (and easily accessible) for any capsule espresso machine. For example, the Caffitaly espresso machine was sold at Briscoes and Countdown for a number of years, but has now been discontinued. As have the coffee capsules. After extensive research, we found that the only two options are to buy a reusable capsule for $45 OR source coffee from Italy (not ideal).
2. Check if Bialetti Moka espresso pots still have the safety valve. Without this, the pot is unusable.
3. Hand mixers need to be cleaned internally before use, as they get a huge build-up of baking grim over the years.
4. Measure the area around the lamp bulb at home before buying the lamp shade.
5. Check the measurement dial on kitchen and bathroom scales can be adjustable to zero, with and without the bowl on top.
6. Small cracks will become larger with use. Especially worth considering when buying items like Bodum glass coffee plungers and milk frothers.
7. Check that all the parts go together as a set. For example, we bought a food processor and all its attachments. In reality, it was a collection of three different models, not even the same brand. Unusable.
8. Be wary of "fresh fruit gelato makers"; we've tried a few and they are not great at making what we know to be gelato.
9. Fine porcelain cake slicers are beautiful, especially with a matching cake place, but their shape makes for extreme fragility. We have broken two so far. Most suitable for calm households and kitchens.
10. No matter how beautiful or 'cheap an iteam, unless you use it (or know what it is used for), it is not a bargain.