Second chances

Buying and selling used gives new life to family essentials

For generations, money-savvy parents have been outfitting their growing kids and their changing hobbies with gently used items.

Buying and selling through thrift stores, garage sales and consignment shops stretches budgets, and while these options still exist, there are more choices than ever for eco-conscious and thrifty Ottawans who are looking to give goods a second life.

Ottawa mom of four Meghan Good tries to “purchase as much as possible second-hand”—clothing, sports equipment, toys, games, footwear, plants, books and furniture. She often finds items which are new or almost new, which offers significant savings, and also sells things the family has outgrown.

“Being able to get a bit of money to contribute to the next size of skates, next pair of shoes, etc. is helpful,” she says.

Like Good, Christa Tsamis chooses second-hand for 90 percent of her family’s clothing. “I’ve always been frugal,” says the Ottawa South resident. “I can’t bring myself to pay $25-plus for a pair of leggings I can get for five to 10 dollars at a thrift store. The kids grow out of their clothes so quickly, or destroy them. Why pay $40 for a GAP sweater when I can pay $6 for a similar or even the same sweater at a consignment store? I can get an entire back-to-school wardrobe for my son for $100 or less.”

Once her children have outgrown the clothes, Tsamis consigns the clothing, or sells on Facebook Marketplace—a process simplified during the pandemic, when porch pickups became the norm.

Buying second-hand has become more commonplace. Customer experience consultant Aileen Nandy, founder of If/Then/How Consulting, says that “second-hand markets have been an important trend for my clients over the past year.”

Bethany Breault, manager of the Mission Thrift Store in Bells Corners, has also seen a significant increase in the number of shoppers in the past 12 months. “It’s quite incredible how thrifting has become so popular these days,” she says, adding that “we expect it to continue to rise.”

In addition to seeking value, some “families and individuals are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet,” Breault says. “In addition, we are welcoming many more refugees and displaced persons who need our services to get started in this tough financial environment.” As such, clothing, as “the most-needed item,” is a bestseller at the store, followed by household items.

Mom of two Mariah Little has used “different platforms and thrift stores over the years”—Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji and others—to buy and sell clothing, books, toys, sports and musical equipment and educational tools.

“With how fast the kids grow and how fast their interests change, its easier to keep up on it buying second-hand rather than brand new,” says the Finch resident. “It’s a savings buying used rather than buying brand new from a commercial store.”

Breault says that while “there are many good deals to be had in thrift,” concern for the environment is another reason people buy used. “The fact that you are not contributing to the environmentally destructive fast-fashion juggernaut,” she says, “is an added bonus.”

Kanata resident Wendy Dawson “grew up in an eco-friendly home” and buying second-hand was “just what we did.”

“Even when we can afford new, we look at used first because it is a way to recycle and keep things out of landfills,” says Dawson, who has two teenagers. “All of our kids’ hockey and ringette equipment is second-hand. The kids love going digging through thrift stores for previously loved books.”

While saving money is one reason for buying used, Dawson says raising environmentally conscious children is another. “Teaching them to avoid fast fashion and look at everything from a sustainability lens… means that our grandchildren’s grandchildren will still have a good world to live in,” she says.

Amanda Reddick has bought and sold all kinds of things for many reasons, “including sustainability… and also to help families and members of my community experience savings [and to support a] circular economy,” says the Arnprior resident. “The effort is always worthwhile.”

“It’s about working as a community to help everyone find what they need,” Little adds. “Rather than toss it, it’s nice to help others, and getting back a bit of what you put out isn’t half bad itself.”



Buy Nothing

The Buy Nothing Project is a global gift economy network where everything is freely given and received without any expectation of reward or compensation other than the joy of giving, receiving, sharing, and building a strong web of connections between people.

“The list is expansive for what we have given away to those who could use it,” says Mariah Little. “We’ve also taken in items that others haven’t needed but we found a use for, such as art, books, clothing, even cookware. I enjoy being able to assist others who may not have those specific items, or those who don’t have the means to attain them. It doesn’t cost anything to have a big heart and be giving. It doesn’t cost to save the environment while helping your community.”

In addition to receiving “some amazing furniture, gift cards and a gazebo,” Meghan Good has also given away many things. “I believe in so much of what it stands for—building community, saving items from the landfill, getting to know and helping neighbours,” she says.

Sveta Kassumbekova gives away kids’ stuff and unused household items. “Kids are growing so fast so there is no point in buying new stuff,” says the Ottawa mom of two. “Reusing stuff is an amazing chance to help the environment and our pockets.”

Long before Buy Nothing, there was FreeCycle, says Wendy Dawson, and “the idea of recycling still-good goods to the populace to prevent things from going to landfills while they have useable life.”

“We have received toddler bikes, pieces of ephemeral furniture, a helium tank for balloons, kids’ costume pieces…. and in turn, we have put out those same items and more.”

“Gifting is easy, as nobody haggles over prices,” says Amanda Reddick. “Items usually get picked up promptly, and [it’s] a good way to get to know your neighbours or the neighborhood if you’re new to the area,” Reddick says.


Tips for buying and selling second-hand

–      Ask the age of the item. “Some things break down over time—shoes, safety gear, items with elastics.”— Meghan Good

–      Ask about smoking, pets and fragrances if not mentioned in the ad. — M.G.

–      Double check what you’re buying to ensure it’s in the condition stated. — Mariah Little

–      When buying online, check the seller’s rating to see if they’ve been flagged by other buyers or if they have a good sales rating. — M.L.

–      “Sometimes people are difficult to deal with, but I just move on if I get a bad feeling from a buyer or seller.” — Amanda Reddick

–      Do research. “Compare selling prices of similar used items.” — A.R.

–      “Ensure someone else is present in the home at the time of sale, or sell in safe public places.” — A.R.

–      “For clothing, try on everything. Size means nothing when shopping second-hand. Every brand is different and items will fit different based on how they were washed.” — Bethany Breault

–      “Be sure to check the zippers, buttons, and underarms.” — B.B.

–      “If purchasing jewelry, particularly with precious gems, always meet at a store where the piece can be appraised.” — Christa Tsamis

–      When looking for furniture, we look for solid wood. It doesn’t matter if it is an ugly colour or the finish isn’t matching—that’s just elbow grease to strip it down and restore it to the way you want it to look.” — Wendy Dawson



“My oldest is super into thrifting to find cool clothes from the early 2000s, which I find hilarious because he wants everything that was popular in my teens.” — Mother of three Sherry Trowesse