How To Make the Most of Craigslist

Years ago I used ebay a lot. Mostly for selling, occasionally for buying. In the years since, ebay’s fees have gone up, and the stuff I have for sale has gotten bigger — kids’ gear and toys are rarely small. Because of the size of these items, shipping isn’t a good option. That’s when I started using Craigslist for buying and selling.

I’m by no means a Craigslist expert, but I have learned a few things since I started buying and selling kids’ stuff there. Here are some tips:

If You’re Buying

♦ Plan in advance. If you know you want to give your kids a ride-on John Deere Gator for their birthday in September, start looking a few months in advance. This way, you’ll have plenty of time to watch the Craigslist ads and wait for the right deal.

♦ Take someone with you when you go to look at an item. I like to believe that the world is a safe place, but it just makes sense to take a friend when you’re going to a stranger’s house.

♦ Be prepared to pay cash for the item when you go to look at it. But don’t be afraid to walk away if it’s not exactly what you want.

♦ It’s okay to ask the seller if she’ll take $xx for the item, but don’t be a jerk about it. Most of the time people will take a little less, but sometimes they won’t. Decide on the maximum price you’re willing to pay before you get there.

I’ve bought quite a few things for my kids on Craigslist. For larger toys and playsets, it makes sense to avoid paying full-price for a new item, especially if it’s something the kids are likely to out-grow. It’s also good for the environment to reuse an item that’s already out there, rather than buying, and therefore causing more production of, something new.

If You’re Selling

♦ Do a search on Craigslist for the item you will be selling. See if there are others already listed and compare prices, age and condition of the item(s).

♦ Clean it up before listing. Clean items are more appealing and are more likely to sell.

♦ Be as detailed as possible in your listing. Include photos. Disclose and photograph any problems — it will save you a lot of time later.

♦ Be honest. The person who contacts you first gets first dibs.

♦ Ask a fair price, but be willing to haggle a little.

♦ Providing a phone number in the listing makes things move along more quickly. I always use the anonymous email option, but do give my cell number.

In General:

Buy quality products (used or new) and take care of them. If you do, you’ll get a good return on your money. We recently sold a Power Wheels Barbie Jeep, a Peg Perego John Deere Gator and a BOB Revolution Duallie stroller. In each case, I was able to get well more than half of what I paid for each item. It was a good deal (compared with buying new) for the buyers and a good deal for us.

I’d love to know what tips and suggestions you have for buying and selling with Craigslist. Tell us about them in the comments.

Photo Credit: David M Hepburn

Reuse: More Projects at Our House

Last week I wrote about a few of the reuse projects at our house. Today I’d like to show you a couple more, this time in the kitchen.

When we bought our house the kitchen cabinets and counters were set up in a U-shape. The prior owners had installed new counter tops and when they did, they set up a large half-circle coming off of one leg of the U. They had counter-height stools set up around the half-moon and presumably used this as an eating area because there was no room for a kitchen table. This setup never really worked for us, though. Neither my husband nor I really enjoy eating while perched on a stool. Once our girls came along, the height didn’t really work for high chairs or booster seats and it wasn’t possible to talk to everyone seated there.

What we needed was a kitchen table. The half-moon would have to go, but even with it gone, the table would have to be longer and more narrow than the standard kitchen table. After a bit of woodworking, my husband was able to make us the perfect sized kitchen table out of some old wood he had in the garage.

The same wood that made our square foot garden boxes . . .

. . . was used to make our new table:

The table is rustic, which is what we were after, and it’s working great for us. There’s plenty of room for everyone and no one has to balance atop a stool while eating.

The second project in the kitchen is in the pantry. I’m blessed with a large pantry, but it’s so deep that getting to the things stored towards the back of the shelves is a problem — not to mention having to move everything in front of an item to get it out. The solution was some scrap wood and a few J-hooks my husband recycled from old gymnasium mirrors. He ended up building some shelves on one side wall for canned goods and more shelves on the other side for large pots and small appliances.

The pink things at the bottom are the girls' little rolling pins.

I promise, the fire extinguisher is there because my husband is safety-conscious, NOT because of my cooking. . .

Again, I’m showing you these projects not because I think they’re for everyone. Most of the things my husband makes require tools and woodworking skills. These posts are really about thinking in a more creative way when it comes to reusing items you already have. When you get ready to buy something new, think for a moment about whether or not you already have something that could be re-purposed in a creative new way.

Reuse: Some Projects at Our House

I’ve talked before about reuse being even better than recycling. Recycling is certainly better than throwing something in the trash, but recycling does require energy to process. If you can find a way to reuse an item, it’s possible to do that with less energy output than recycling.

Fortunately for us, my husband enjoys woodworking and is also very creative. He consistently finds ways to reuse wood scraps and left over items from projects in our home. I thought I’d devote this blog post to a few of those things in our house. Today, I’m starting with our girls’ room.

When we bought this house in 2004 there was an icky room off of the laundry room, next to the garage. It had a stained, gray concrete floor, really dark wood paneling — generally dingy and grimy. After our girls came along and we were desperate to get some of their toys out of our living room, we decided to fix up the icky room. We painted the paneling and all the trim and my husband installed bamboo flooring. In the end, the room turned out like this:

As the girls have gotten older, we started having a problem with their shoes ending up all over the place. We finally worked out a system to get them to take their shoes up to their room each night, but there wasn’t really anywhere to put them. After a week or so of looking at the “shoe pile” in their room, my husband came up with the idea for this shoe rack. He made it out of left over bamboo flooring strips from the playroom and extra plywood he had from a train table he’d made them. I’m happy to report that the shoe rack works beautifully. They love to put their shoes away now.

Like most 4 year olds, our girls like to look at books. Books have become especially useful in the mornings when they awake at 5:00 a.m. and we’re not quite ready to get up yet. We’ve told them that if they wake up before 6:00, they may read quietly until we come to get them.

We had a large bin of books in their closet, but the books never seemed to end up back in there. I saw a bookshelf similar to the one below in a Pottery Barn catalog and showed it to my husband. He gathered some scrap wood together and came up with this. The girls love it.

Years ago a friend of mine decided she no longer wanted the wooden shutters on her house. My husband was happy to have them because he knew he’d be able to use the wood for something. He was in the process of building a storage cabinet for me and I asked him to use a pair of the shutters for the doors. We’ve since put the cabinet in the girls’ room to store some of their baby items and other mementos.

I realize that not everyone is a woodworker and that some of these projects would be very difficult to make by someone who is not. What I hope this post is more about, though, is thinking in creative ways. How can something be reused? What’s another way to re-purpose something you already have?

Stay tuned for more projects from around my house. I’d love to know what creative things you all have done.

How to Make Your Own Cloth Napkins

Cloth Napkins D

This is a guest post from Nicki at Domestic Cents. Nicki writes about all things domestic, frugal and crafty.

Our family used to use a LOT of paper napkins and paper towels. We used them at every meal time and we used them generously. I don’t like greasy fingers and I especially don’t like those fingers wiped on clothing. The rate that we went through paper towels and napkins was beginning to be ridiculous. I was purchasing large packages of them far too frequently.

Paper napkins bothered me for two reasons:

1. Using them was very wasteful.
2. Purchasing them constantly was cutting into my food budget.

We’re pretty casual people so cloth napkins hadn’t really crossed my mind for our home. They felt too formal for us. I decided to give them a try anyway because they seemed like a good solution to me. After using them for a couple years now I can confidently tell you that I was wrong. They work great for us and they don’t have to be formal at all. In fact, I have a set with polka dots on them – very fun.

I’ve never purchased any because they are simple to sew yourself, even without a sewing machine. I picked up some remnant fabric to make the set I’m about to show you but you can really think outside the box with these. Do you have sheets or pillowcases that you no longer use? How about a men’s collared shirt? Do you have old curtains shoved into a linen closet? Any of these things could be washed, cut and sewn into cloth napkins. Get creative. To avoid using napkin rings, each person could have a different-looking napkin. Maybe you could make one with a funny pattern for your younger kids and help your hubby feel more manly by choosing something with a cool logo on it. It’s completely up to you.

Here’s what you need:

* (1) 18″ square of fabric for each napkin
* Thread, to match the fabric if you like
* Needle or sewing machine
* scissors
* pins
* iron
* ironing board

Here’s what you do:

1. Cut however many napkins you’d like to make.

2. Iron out any wrinkles then iron each corner over half an inch, then half an inch again. Like this:
Cloth Napkins 1
3. Stay at the iron and iron over each side half an inch, then half an inch again, just like you did with the corners.
Cloth Napkins 2
This should make the corners form a pointy triangle.
Cloth Napkins 3
4. Pin around each side to secure.

5. Sew it. Use either a sewing machine or sew by hand. Be sure to secure each corner and back stitch at the beginning and end so they will hold up well when they’re washed.

6. Iron your final product and voila!

Cloth Napkins E

Thing to note:
*You can make these any size you like. Your beginning square just needs to be 2″ larger than the size you’d like your final product.
*Are you good at embroidery? (No? Neither am I.) If you are, consider embroidering each person’s initial in the corner of their own napkin.

For more fun and easy projects, check out Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures, by Amanda Blake Soule.


The Story of Stuff


Annie Leonard spent ten years following the trail our stuff makes and the end result of her hard work is this freely available, 20 minute video. Teachers have had great success using it in the classroom, according to an article in the New York Times.

The video is geared towards kids, but even for those of us who aren’t kids anymore, it’s 20 minutes well-spent. I think The Story of Stuff website explains it best:

What is the Story of Stuff?

From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

If you have the time, please take a look at the video. It really will change the way you view your stuff. Click any link labeled The Story of Stuff in this post to view it.