Kelly M’s tips for furnishing from Craigslist “free”

Our new contributor Kelly M recently moved into her first apartment in Queens, New York, and shares here what she learned about using Craigslist’s “free” section:

“Everyone loves Ikea. They’re relatively cheap, the stuff looks cool, and…well…they’re relatively cheap.

But then you move to the city, and “relatively” cheap only gets you so far. What to do if you’re strapped for cash, or if you just plain don’t want the same Swedish cardboard bookshelf that everyone else has? Check out Craigslist “free.” When you’re moving to a new apartment, perusing Craigslist “free” can become an addiction—and rightly so. You’ll quickly learn, however, that you can’t always get what you want.

Here’s how to get what you need.

1) BE TRIGGER HAPPY. The most important thing about Craigslist “free” is to refresh, refresh, refresh. The second that something desirable appears, you know that one of those other 7,999,999 people in the city is going to jump on it, so don’t mess around. If you’re truly in the market for a free couch, you’ll work that mouse like a lab rat looking for his heroin fix.
2) BE NICE. You simply can’t flake out when you’re looking to get something off someone else for free. If you say you want it, mean it. If you say you’ll pick it up at a certain time, be serious. Also, always be sure to let them know that you’re bringing three of your strongest friends, because the only reason they’re giving away such a nice armoire in the first place is that they don’t feel like carrying it down five flights of stairs.
3) BE PUNCTUAL. You’re laying down the chips here, driving your friend’s van all the way up to Harlem to pick up some stupid coffee table. If you don’t get there on time, and the dude already gave it away, your moving day is going to suck that much worse.
4) BE A TROOPER. Getting free stuff from Craigslist kind of sucks, in the moment. Generally, it involves sweating, grunting, pain, crowded subways, and a lot of heavy lifting. The thing is, would you rather have a shitty half an hour, or pay 200 bucks for a sofa?
5) DON’T BE STUPID. Lots of apartments in this city have bugs. I’m not talking cockroaches, I’m talking the kind of bugs that live in furniture and can go six months without sustenance before waking up to make your life suck really bad. (You can see a map of the worst bedbug-infested neighborhoods in NYC here.) Basically, most people aren’t the kind of jerks who will pass off their infestations with no warning, but we’re talking about strangers from Craigslist here. Use your judgement. (Some tips about avoiding bedbugs can be found here…not to unduly alarm you, but seriously, bedbugs suck.)
6) KNOW WHAT YOU NEED. Sounds simple, but it’s easy to show up at an “everything’s free” apartment-moving event and just grab stuff because, hey, you already made the trip to the Upper East Side. Is that porcelain rooster really as pretty as it looks? Maybe you can do without eleven sets of silverware.
7) PAY IT FORWARD. You’re moving too, right? There’s gotta be something in there that you’d rather get rid of. You’d be surprised at the unexpected gratitude that flows your way when you post something (anything) on Craigslist “free.” Just throw your unwanted stuff into the corner as you pack and make one big ad and see how many bites you get.

Ikea’s great and all, but you know what’s better? The free Ikea sofa I’m sitting on right now. Cost me luck, sweat, and bruises, but I’d rather ride a Uhaul with my brother to a stranger’s apartment than ride a bus to Paramus to view our options in plywood.”

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Comments (5)

  1. Avatar Brad

    For someone their first move out this is fantastic. Or after a home burns down you need whatever you can to live and it’s a blessing that people will give away some nice things. I found that really nice means very heavy and requires a truck and trailer. Some of the best deals are packaged and so some folks want to separate while the givers want it gone in one move so they don’t get stuck with the hutch that matches the desk. I’m actually doing this now and have scheduled several stops around town to go pick up everything to furnish my first apartment. Isn’t it awesome. Be sure you really commit and tell them if they must get rid of it sooner to please call and let you know. That usually assures you get what you want. At least around here because this isn’t New York. ;-)

  2. Avatar Tedah

    I would personally rather shell out the money. My skins too sensitive so even if there aren’t bed bugs there could be other stuff to irritate me. Crumbs irritate my skin and I can’t have pets so sitting/sleeping on other peoples used furniture gives me the heebie jeebies. I have trouble sleeping at my sisters house without a blanket on the bottom and top of me aside from the bedding they have.

  3. Avatar Kelly M

    Good point Anne! I should have added that bedbugs can (and do) hide in any furniture, not just beds. I was honestly a little bit sleepless the first few nights I spent with my new sofa, but thankfully the girl who gave it to me was honest. You can always try asking someone face-to-face when you show up and hope you take them by surprise–it’s not like you ever have to see them again. ; )

  4. Avatar Anne

    Oh god, bedbugs. I got a free couch, which I thought couldn’t be a problem, they’re bedbugs, not couchbugs, right? Wrong…