Craigslist Savvy: How to Buy and Sell to Decorate Your Home

This fireplace mantel was salvaged from an old home, and we turned it into our headboard.

I love Craigslist. About one third of the furnishings in our home were bought using Craigslist. For furniture, it’s my preferred place to shop, even over buying new.

(Craigslist is an online website where people can post classified ads for free. You can find furniture, household goods, apartment rentals, and even job listings.)

Of course, the price is always lower when you buy used, but that’s not the only reason I love it.

  • The quality can be better. If a forty-year-old dresser still looks great, then I know it can last another forty years.
  • It’s more interesting. You can find things you won’t get at normal furniture stores.
  • You help someone earn extra cash and clean out their stuff.
  • You repurpose something old instead of buying new.


This card catalog file was bought from a librarian, and it organizes our small household goods like pens, batteries, and maps.

How to Buy the Good Stuff

Without a doubt, finding exactly what you want can take some time, but usually no more time than going from one furniture store to the next. Here is how you can make your search more productive:

  1. Act quickly. The best things sell fast, so if you are looking for something in particular, check the new listings each day.
  2. Search efficiently. Select the option to search for furniture being sold by owners, and skip the dealer listings. Narrow down your search by price and location.
  3. Use a photo preview tool. If Firefox is your internet browser, download an add-on like CraigsToolbox so you can view photos without clicking each ad individually.
  4. Be enthusiastic in your response. A seller is more likely to respond to someone who says “I’ve been looking for one like this. Can I come by and see it this evening?” If you don’t hear back, move on to the next ad.
  5. Bargain, within reason. It’s fine to ask if someone will accept less, but if you think something is a great deal, pay it willingly and don’t try to get a further discount.
  6. Pay with cash. Nobody wants a check.
  7. Be ready to haul it home. Borrow a truck if you need to, and bring blankets and rope.

This vintage dresser was a fraction of the price of a new one.

How to Sell the Clutter

It’s a great feeling to watch someone take away stuff you don’t want in exchange for cash. Use these tips to attract buyers:

  1. Always include a photo. Potential buyers will skip your ad if you don’t have a photo. This post shows you how to make sure your photos look big and clear and as good as possible.
  2. Be descriptive in your title. Say “Sage Green Loveseat from Pottery Barn”, don’t just say “Couch”. 
  3. Preempt questions by providing details in the listing. Include measurements and mention any flaws. Also be sure to describe your terms, such as: “Pick-up only, no delivery. Price is firm. Located near ___. Available evenings and weekends.”
  4. Check similar listings to make sure you don’t overprice your item.
  5. Set your price. Items priced low tend to sell faster, but you might want to price something a little higher to leave room for bargaining.
  6. Be safe. Try to meet in a public place, but if someone must come to your home, have someone there with you.
  7. Delete your ad once it’s sold, so you won’t continue to receive emails.

I’ll admit, I’ve bought things on Craigslist, used them, and then sold them again when I no longer needed them (sometimes for a profit!).  It’s also great for baby gear, free stuff, and all kinds of other things. We’ve even rented an apartment for vacation, saving money over a hotel.

What’s your best tip for buying and selling used furniture and other items?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I couldn’t agree with you more. I’m a huge fan of that site. I started using Craigslist this year and have already bought a desk, sold some electronics, and am going to pick up a couch tomorrow! One thing that I’d like to say to anyone selling on Craigslist is: respond to ALL emails please, even if its sold and you just haven’t pulled the ad yet. Theres nothing that urks me more than waiting to never hear a response. And to buyers, it is extremely frustrating to think your item is sold to someone and at the last minute be told they have less money than originally agreed upon. And be polite on both ends :)

  2. Amen, sister! I use CL all the time. Many times, I’ve bought something from the store and because it was a certain brand (Pottery Barn is a HUGE seller), I can make a profit off it the new price. I don’t do that all the time, just when I bought something for me that didn’t work out. I try a high price to see what people will pay – I’m usually surprised!

    I’m attempting to sell a few things now to buy one piece of furniture that I really like. It’s great to liquidate things that no longer work for something that does!

  3. The only drawback to Craig’s List is how fickle some of the people are who respond to the ads. When you say you’re going to come and pick up something at a certain time, then show up! Or call or e-mail if you can’t make it!

    I’ve had people mess around for days before actually coming to get the item when I could have had it gone the same day if I had just gone to the next person on the list.

    • That is frustrating when people don’t show up. Don’t wait for them to call you, just move on to the next person who contacted you. I usually respond to waiting buyers with a “Someone is scheduled to look at it this evening, but if they don’t show up I’ll let you know.”

  4. I wish more people thought of buying used first. I like to go to CL and browse for wedding stuff — I’ve seen so many beautiful wedding dresses and decorations and for sale.

    It looks like you got some neat stuff! That card catalog is wonderful.

  5. I’ve heard of Craigslist but I’ve never even checked it out. I guess I should since I’m in the market for some furniture for my office.

    As far as selling stuff, I don’t like the hassle of trying to sell something or having strangers come to the house to look at it. I just always give everything away to friends, relatives or charitable organizations. I obviously don’t make any money this way, but it’s just so much easier and helps others out too.

    Amanda @ Mommy’s Idea Book´s last blog post..Tips for Family Vacation Planning: Introduction

  6. What a great idea!!! Thank you for the tips! We have bought from Craigslist before, but I never thought to decorate that way. Thank you!

  7. I love The List. I’m on there everyday and YES you can get amazing deals on very high quality items. I have a hard time justifying buying anything new when I can easily find everything I need on CL.
    I use a first offer gets 24 hours rule. That way if they don’t show I have the next offer ready to pounce! Letting people know that there are other folks interested and only giving them 24 hours to pick up really motivates the buyers and they don’t dilly dally. Of course if they pay up front, they can pickup whenever. I’m nice that way : )

    Juliet´s last blog post..

  8. Thank you so much for the tip off to the Craig Toolbox! That makes Craiglist so much easier to use.

  9. I love the card catalog! What a unique idea!

    Shilo´s last blog post..Florida, Precious Q’s and Unforgettable Mommy Moments

  10. We don’t do CL where I live, but our comparable site is Kijiji… I was inspired by your mantel-headboard, and just found one on Kijiji… planning to check it out this week!

    Tonni´s last blog post..Kamille – Tillsonburg, Ontario Maternity Photographer

  11. all great finds and best of all, recycled!

    Aly in Va.´s last blog post..Earth Day 2009

  12. I love Craig’s List. As others have mentioned, I also make people get the item within 24 hours and always post pictures and dimensions. If something is defective, I take a picture of what is wrong with it so the potential buyers aren’t imagining something worse than it is.

    Additionally, and I’ve noticed not a lot of people do this, I write my ads in outline format, not complete sentences and paragraphs. It is frustrating to buyers to have to read a whole block of text. Breaking it up and being concise allows people to scan your ad quickly.

  13. Thanks for the tip about the Craigslist Tool Box!

    Oh and I’m so envious of your card file… that is an awesome find! We love Craigslist too – I bought a $400 crib and changing table off of a lady for $40 then sold the changing table a year later for $50. The crib is a convertible so it will change into a toddler bed when we’re ready for that! We’ve had a lot of luck with other stuff too. The free section is also a great way to get rid of stuff that you don’t have time to haul off – but that isn’t sellable – like our old broken oven and etc… and I’ve picked up stuff for free that I turned around and sold later when I was finished with it – once that was a really nice stroller!

    Blessed´s last blog post..More Turkey Hunting News

  14. Thank you so much for the tip about CraigsToolbox. I installed the add-on yesterday and love it. By the way, congratulations on your news about having a baby boy. You must be so excited.


  15. I didn’t know about CraigsToolbox…I just sold my old washer and dryer, a refrigerator and a kids ride on toy. And, a couple of years ago I bought our Pottery Barn sofa! Love Craiglist!

    melissa @ the inspired room´s last blog post..My Kitchen: The Top 10 Things I Learned While Remodeling on a Budget

  16. I’ve always wanted a librarian cabinet like that, Rachel. What a great buy! Craigslist is not a place that I’ve used for making purchases.

    Suzy:)´s last blog post..14th & 100th, “LOST” Episode & My 300th Post…Yay!!!

  17. LOVE Craigslist. Use it all the time. My hint would be to have the sections of craigslist that you check all the time sent to your Google Reader. Yup – there are RSS feeds!! That way all the new ads for just the sections that you want show up in your Reader – I created a folder just for them, and they’re all in one spot. Pretty cool!

    lifeasamama´s last blog post..Mother’s Day Already?

  18. I love CL, too. Got my nearly new, very nice couch on there for $200 and then sold it for that much again several years later (when we moved into our current house-sitting gig).

    I give people a timeline when I sell on there, too, and when I use Freecycle, as well. If I don’t hear from them (we all have cell phones, right?) within an hour of when they’re scheduled to show up, I move on to the next person.

    For portable items, my husband and I have met people places other than our apartment so they don’t come into our home. And when I communicate with people, I always make clear (just by saying, “My husband and I will see you at ___”) that I will not be home alone when they come—for safety’s sake.

  19. Oh, and Rachel–I love the headboard! I adore old mantels. How do you affix it to the wall?

    • Thanks, Sally! It’s not really mounted, it’s mostly leaning against the wall. The bed is pushed up against it, so it can’t move. We did put a metal L bracket on the top that is fastened to the wall for safety.

  20. Laura Honan says:

    One of my good friends met her husband through Craigslist!

  21. Great article. Thank you VERY much for the photo preview link. That is amazing & makes browsing quicker!

    Congratulations on finding out about your baby boy growing in there. My son is oldest and mommy’s little sweetheart. I hope you get to enjoy a mama’s boy too. :-)

    Suzanne´s last blog post..Utilize Money To Enhance Life

  22. Love Craig’s List but will be even better now that you have shown me that picture add on, just d/l and going to try it out.

    cheryl´s last blog post..Tuesdays Unwrapped

  23. Thanks for this post! I just got a gorgeous hutch for $100 yesterday on Craigslist! I appreciate the photo tip as well, I’m off to get it now!

  24. All great tips. Thanks. I”ve used Craig’s List a few times now, but I’m eager to use it more now!

    Kasey´s last blog post..WFMW: Wall Decor

  25. I just made my first craigslist purchase! It is a maple desk and I paid $20… The seller couldn’t have been nicer and seemed delighted that it was sold. It is actually in very good condition but it will be my new project-I am thinking black paint!

    nancy´s last blog post..

  26. Great, informative post. I actually have a growing pile of baby items that I need to get rid of. I have never used Craig’s List to sell anything. Only for listing rental properties. Is there a “quality” threashold for items you list on Craig’s List? If I want to get rid of something fast that is moderatly-to-well used I use Freecycle. (It goes within a matter of minutes.) But I feel the quality of the items on Freecycle is generally = well used, but still useable. Do CL buyers expect a higher level of quality?
    Thanks for the great post.

    Abbie´s last blog post..Ever Procrastinate?

    • Rachel says:

      Abbie, I don’t think there’s a quality threshold. Just describe it accurately, so people know what to expect when they drive over to see it. That’s one nice thing about Craigslist: people get to check something out in person before buying it.

      Baby stuff tends to sell easily on Craigslist since it’s something people are searching for.

  27. Craigslist has been great for me! Half of our furniture is from there (the other half from Goodwill), and we’ve also had great luck selling things. Much easier than a yardsale!

    Chandra´s last blog post..Garden Party

  28. I love CL! I found tons of furniture on there–my patio chairs, my Sherrill sofa, my Gilles Nouailhac chairs… It’s amazing the treasures you can find–and environmentally responsible (re-use!)

    Glad I found your blog. Keep up the good work!

    Amy Schulz´s last blog post..Total cuteness!

  29. I love giving stuff away on Craigslist! There’s something so special about being able to put a face and a name to who will be the caretaker of my old possessions. I’m on a huge decluttering kick right now; however, I also really like the idea of being the caretaker of somebody else’s unneeded items next time I’m in the market for something. So much more character than just buying it brand new and off the shelf.

    Your blog is terrific! So glad I stumbled upon it :-)

  30. Hooray for Craigslist! I bought lots of things from there when my husband and I got married last year, and we needed to furnish an apartment. We only bought a few things new, because we needed very specific things…okay, we’re picky. I looked for a kitchen table for probably 6 months, but we ended up getting a new one b/c we never found exactly what we wanted/needed. And we ended up with a table we’ll have for a very long time. The only other main thing we bought new was a computer desk. Craigslist and other secondhand sources provided most of the other furniture. :)

    Nikki (Trexel) Moore´s last post…everyone’s afraid of something…or several things