Why do I love Craigslist? Let me count the ways. If you follow me on Twitter you might notice that I enjoy periodically mentioning a Craigslist listing that struck my fancy. I may love something, but not personally NEED it so I want to pass on the info. In fact, I have gotten a few emails asking how I find things on Craigslist. Do I use an RSS feed of some sort or have any tips? I don’t use anything fancy. I just search the site, but I do have a long list of words that I search often. Some of these words include settee, loveseat, love seat, mid, tufted, velvet, antique, rustic, gold, white, antique mirror, antique armoire, harvest table, farm table, primitive, shabby, vintage, pink, kilim, navajo.
I avoid “modern” for the most part, since people generally have a much clearer sense of what is vintage, antique, or even midcentury, but people seem to find “modern” synonymous with “new” or mistake if for “contemporary.” No offense, but I don’t want to waste my search with a hundred curvy, rolled arm sofas if that is not what I am looking for.
Besides being fairly clear about what you are searching for, set some other boundaries for yourself. How much are you willing to pay, realistically? If it is $250 for a sofa put in $300, since prices are often negotiable, or you may find such a great deal at $300 that it was worth it. You call it a sofa, but remember to search “couch” as well. That is fairly obvious, but I personally am looking for a decent sofa bed so I search “sleeper sofa,” “sleeper couch,” “pull out sofa,” “pull out couch,” “sleeper,” “hide a bed,” “hide-a-bed,” and all sorts of combinations of what people may refer to the item as. Don’t get too specific with descriptions in your search (but please do it when you are listing!) For instance, don’t search “4 foot gold mirror from 1800s”… search “antique mirror” or “antique gold mirror” or just “gold mirror,” since more often than not people give little info and let the photo do the talking. Only search items that have images. I don’t even click on things without a photo.
Be selective. Only investigate it or call the person if you LOVE it. If you are a “collector” of stuff, it is easy to run wild with Craigslist, and you’ll want to buy things left and right, but as in all things in life try to only buy what you really love. And be willing to wait for it. I wanted an awesome Life Fitness elliptical for under $1000 (the one I wanted retails for over $4000) and it didn’t happen in a week but within a few months the perfect one was listed and I snapped it up. I knew what it was worth, I knew what I was willing to pay, and now I love my elliptical. I’d rather have a four-year-old gym-worthy machine than a brand new chintzy one. And with most gym equipment, the reason it was being sold is that they never actually used it. So, it basically was new! BUT if you are ready to drop some serious cash prepare yourself not to be shy and hop on that thing and elliptical your heart out in front of the people selling it or plop on that couch. You wouldn’t buy a car without test driving, it after all.
SUSTAINABILITY. Everyone loves to talk about sustainability. It’s important after all. We live in a throwaway culture and we know it. You know what’s greener than buying something green? Buying something that already exists. Does that mean I don’t buy new things? Of course not. But why not round out your new shiny pretty things with something that is not? I won’t elaborate on this subject since I have a feeling I’m preaching to the choir. : )
THE HUNT. If you like thrifting I am talking to you. I love a good thrift store and frankly a good thrift store is getting harder to find. And sometimes the “good stuff” is REALLY expensive. As much as I will always be an avid thrifter, I have evolved with the times. Yes, I will always pop into a Value Village, but for home goods don’t underestimate antique malls (good deals can still be found) and of course Craigslist. Will Craigslist give you the same thrill and make your heart skip like walking into a thrift store does? Maybe not. But it is nice to have a place to search for a specific item. I use thrift stores for discovering things I didn’t know I HAD to have until I saw them, and also in my mind I have my “always on the lookout for” list. For instance, I am always on the lookout for Cathrineholm anything. Who isn’t, right?
AFFORDABILITY. That’s what most of this comes down to for me. I simply don’t have (or am not willing to pay) $4000 for an elliptical. Nor will I spend $500 on a chandelier or $700 for a giant flokati rug. I use these examples because these are three things that I have purchased from Craigslist. I desperately wanted a GINORMOUS empire chandelier and they are PRICEY. Fairly quickly (I was surprised) one popped up on Craigslist. I called the gentleman and told him I would love to see it in person (the picture on Craigslist was a photo of a photo! So needless to say, not a great representation) but I also told him that my budget was actually a bit lower than what he had it listed for. He was totally open to it and said come on over. Come to find out he and his wife brought this giant chandelier with them from India when they moved and it flew first class when they were in coach. They recently moved again and were redoing the house and the ceilings were far too low in their opinion to hang this again. But they were so nice and so happy that I loved it and told me about the chandelier industry in India and how the country is sad to see it mostly going to China now, and that this chandelier is hand-cut crystal. It was not a bullshitty sales tactic. It was a very nice conversation with a very nice family that was so happy someone loved their chandelier as much as they did.
My giant 8 × 12 (maybe actually quite a bit larger…) beautiful flokati rug came from a very nice woman who had been a marine and when she was in Greece bought this flokati while on shore leave and dragged it back to the ship by herself, all the while fantasizing about the amazing apartment she would have and where she would put her rug. Flash forward to reality she had never used it. Her vision and her actual space never quite came together and when she did put it down her black cat fell in love with it. So she listed it for $100 which is an INCREDIBLE price and I was so happy to get it, and by this time she was more than ready to part with it.
Whether you are selling or buying, use common sense. Most of the people on Craigslist are not trying to rob, rape, or murder you. But that doesn’t mean don’t be cautious. If you are buying something or selling try to meet somewhere public. I like the Ikea or Target parking lot. Or, if you are going to their house, tell someone where you are going, leave the address and take a buddy with you. Same applies if you are selling. Try to have someone at home with you. Have the item outside your house when they arrive. And if you are going to buy something see if they can have it outside as well. I am not a paranoid person at all but I still don’t want to follow someone alone into their dingy basement to look at a chair (but trust me, I have).
How much time to I spend on Craigslist? A lot less time than it appears, I promise. I check most days for the few things I am still waiting to appear (perfect tufted settee and giant gold Louis XIV mirror) but the search goes quickly and I usually check Craigslist after answering my e-mail or finishing a project. Basically it is the reward for finishing a computer-based task. I’m at the computer anyway, right? I have also been known to use it when I am procrastinating starting a project. : ) Or with a morning cup of coffee after I check my blog feeds.
Or if I am itching to shop it is a nice passive window shopping experience that often gets my ya yas out without spending a dime. And I may see something great to pass onto a friend or my sisters.
In my fantasy, alternate world where I have another job that I love (I have several fantasy jobs) I am a Craigslist matchmaker, finding people the right furniture at the right price. Or more realistically I think about Twittering a lot more about great finds or blogging about them, and hopefully the right person out there will snatch it up, or it will inspire them to look at their own Craigslist. Like the scavenger on Apartment Therapy, but a bit broader in scope than just the midcentury. Or roundups a la Design*Sponge, but a chandelier roundup of different cities on C-list. I think about art installations where I have build rooms out of Craigslist free section, or a blog post that is “build an entire room for under $2000.” I actually did that as a little exercise and was pretty happy with the results.
Now this is a little tangential, but I think also VERY helpful. It applies for clothes, home interiors, anything really. When you see something, anything that you have a visceral reaction to, you love it and you don’t necessarily know why, it just makes you feel happy, keep it. If it’s in a magazine, cut it out, or more likely if it is online, drag that image to your desktop and then put it into an inspiration folder. I have both an inspiration folder and a home folder and periodically I look through all the images. It will make you happy, but it will also show you a throughline that you may not have consciously known about before. Do all the interior shots you gravitate to have white walls? Maybe a certain type of couch? Do all dresses you like actually have the same sleeves? In my case all the rooms kept having empire chandeliers and BLAM it hit me. I need one! I pull images for all sorts of reasons. If I like the lighting, a flower caught my eye, a color, I loved the ENTIRE room or maybe a teeny tiny detail. Perhaps it was the arrangement of furniture. And since it’s just for me I will instantly recognize what it was about the picture I loved the next time I see it. I am not publishing, so I don’t need to remember the source or to credit it. It’s just for me. I find pulling images of things you only LOVE makes you less likely to settle for things you only like in your day-to-day life, which to me is also getting to know yourself better.
Lastly, don’t be afraid of a little inconvenience. Going back to the elliptical, that beast is nearly 300 pounds and huge. It wasn’t fitting in my car. I went back on Craigslist and found bonded and insured movers (although in retrospect I am VERY skeptical that they were) and for $50 they moved it. Or ask that friend with an SUV if they can help out. I made my car decision (a 1999 Honda CRV) knowing that I would never again buy a car I could not do some serious hauling in. If there is a will there’s a way. I firmly believe that. To take that further, if there is patience and diligence there is finding the perfect thing at the perfect price. And NOTHING makes me happier than a really great deal!
In making a house a home (or any space a home) I like to think there are a few things everyone should have. For me this includes something new and the nicest something you could afford at the time (for me it’s my couch), something thrifted, a family “heirloom”, something you hand-made, something a friend or family member hand-made, something found, something given to you as a gift, something from a trip (even that trip was just to the neighborhood park or the beach), something black, something white, something luxurious (even if it’s just a fancy bath towel), and something that shows that you don’t take yourself too seriously.