Second-hand Stores in Ireland 2021

Second Hand Furniture

This blog post was born after I was called ‘tight’ (Irish slang for mean with money) in a Freecycle group for asking for something inexpensive.  The rude commentator expressed amazement at my request for an item that could be bought for €5 in a shop. I explained that I only needed the item for 2 hours and that I avoid buying new items for environmental reasons, so she suggested that the item could be cut up and used as rags after it’d be worn. I said it would be better for me not to buy one in the first place, to which she replied with the terms, ‘tight’, ‘mean’, ‘tree hugger’ and ‘get a grip’. Her comments were eventually deleted by moderators but it got me thinking. Why the strong reaction to my post? And why did her response fill me with shame?

I sought feedback from members of the Zero Waste Facebook Group and it seems my experience wasn’t a once off. People reported being mocked as misers for buying pre-owned by friends and family. Even radio presenters had been heard ridiculing the practice of buying second-hand on the radio. What’s the deal, why are some people so reactive to the idea of buying second-hand goods?

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One member suggested that it’s all tied up with our measure of success. That society measures success not just by how much money we have, but how much we display. This desire to appear successful by displaying our so-called-wealth keeps us in the rat race that we (as a society) have created so of course we’re all invested, consciously or subconciously, in making sure we don’t upset that apple cart.

We all think of ourselves as individuals with free will and a rational mind and we are, partially. We’re also social creatures and the worst fate for a social animal is to be shunned by it’s community. It’s this subconscious fear that leads most people to live slightly different, but largely similar lives. The message is clear, ‘it’s okay to be different, but not too different’.

What is defined as ‘different’ all depends on a groups’ ‘atmosphere of normality’ at any given time. In the 1900s it was ‘normal’ for all women to only wear dresses, in the 1950s it was ‘normal’ not to own a television, and currently for a large number of people it is ‘normal’ to buy everything new. I suspect that it’s this fear of being seen as different that is holding most people back from embracing second-hand.

The ironic thing is that buying second-hand is one of the few sustainable ways environmentalists like me can look ‘normal’ to the outside world. If was to exclusively wear sustainably and locally grown, processed and made garments within my budget I think I’d be looking at dog-hair jumpers! Buying a second-hand Zara top allows me to blend in with the general population engaged in linear consumption.

I know a lot of people also associate buying second-hand with poverty and are terrified of being labelled as poor. Ironically in my experience it’s the families that can easily afford new uniforms that engage with pre-owned uniform sales. Families that can least afford to shell out €40 on a new school jumper are very reluctant to be seen to buy second-hand goods. It’d be interesting to know how attitudes to second-hand by a peer group influences an individuals shopping habits.

I’ve noticed that social change happens in waves, rippling out from points of influence. The origin of the influence and the impact of the ripples differs from phenomenon to phenomenon. I’m sure more than a few oil barons hoped this whole ‘concern for the planet’ was just a fad, something that would dissipate overtime as happened in the 1970s.  I am hoping that’s not the case as I see story after story about new developments toward sustainable practices like Patagonia’s recently opened pop-up ‘Better than New’ store in the US selling pre-owned clothing.

To help spread positive ripples the steps are clear, share this article, buy second-hand and tell EVERYONE about it with pride!

And if you don’t know where to source your second-hand goods here’s a guide.

Clothing, Shoes, Accessories

Swapshops are another great way of finding new garments and they’re becoming increasingly popular in Ireland. Here are a few groups running them

Kids Clothes



Upcycled Furniture

Furniture from Recycled Materials

  • Home Street Home (Irish made furniture and furniture from abroad made with salvaged / recycled materials located in Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6)
  • Quirkistuff (Restyled furniture made with components from existing furniture sourced in Ireland located in Bray, Co Wicklow. See my previous article on Quirkistuff for more info)
  • The Store Room (Co Louth but really only online) They sell products that they say are sourced through Fairtrade and Ethical companies from around the world with a focus on reclamation , recycling , upcycling and re use of materials.

Pre-loved Furniture 



Electrical Goods

CDs, Books, Games


Sports / Bikes



Published by Elaine Butler

I am a designer that researches, talks, writes and advises on all things sustainable in Ireland.

8 thoughts on “Second-hand Stores in Ireland 2021

  1. Hey Elaine, Love this latest one..As I’ve a memory of seeing it when it happened too..The psychology of it is interesting. Would you be interested to do like a lunchtime talk in the Abbey Group sometime on Refuse..Reduce..Reuse and supporting promote your blog, sustainable living and for people in tourism to link in and promote sustainable travel/tourism. Later in the week would normally work best like a Thursday/Friday even Wednesdays would probably be better than a Monday.. Anyway,let me know your thoughts..We can link up for that coffee /tea / hot chocolate hopefully if you may have a Monday in December suitable..In passing I spoke with Coffee Roasters café manager Laura in the last week, she’s trying hard to introduce sustainability but struggling to find the ways..with which mugs ..composting.. waste management.. packaging etc.

    We’ll all try and middle through together for this planet we are borrowing from those of future .

    Best wishes, L.

    On Fri 22 Nov 2019, 06:02 living lightly in ireland, wrote:

    > livinglightlyinireland posted: ” This blog post was born after I was > called ‘tight’ (Irish slang for mean with money) in a Freecycle group for > asking for something inexpensive. The rude commentator expressed amazement > at my request for an item that could be bought for €5 in a shop. ” >


    1. Hi Linda. Thanks for your lovely message. Would be delighted to do a talk. Will send you an email on it. Would it be worth putting Laura in touch with Sorcha from the conscious cup campaign. She’s a wealth of information on sustainable when it comes to cafes.



      1. Looking forward to receiving your email 😊 I dropped the Conscious Cup poster in to Laura . I’ve subsequently heard of IADT & Bounceback cafes doing €1 deposit returnable reusable coffee travel mugs.
        All the best,


  2. Sorry you had to go through that, Elaine.
    I’m determined to wear most of my clothes for as long as possible, so I occasionally have to deal with social slights, like a pointed glance at a hole in my sweater. I think a lot of us waver between feelings of shame and defiance when faced with judgement, but we should never feel shame for trying to help the planet!


  3. Such good points and thank you for the links to the furniture shops – as I could be looking for a new sofa in the next few years (my initial idea of making one from scrap wood is slowly dwindling here).
    its hard to get by the ‘just buy it’ mentality – I know I will often mention to colleagues they could rewild their garden (and mow a path thru) when when complain about having to mow lawn and considering purchasing a ride-on – it is viewed in horror, or when I suggest fixing things yourself – it is met with cant do it / dont have time etc (even when I suggest the repair cafe I volunteer at). The time thing is ironic to me as if we consumed less (ie shopping) there would be a lot more available time….
    Funny thing about ‘the new’, apparently in public schools in the UK it used be viewed as a ‘no-no’ for kids to show up in new brogues etc at beginning of term, as it was seen as ‘new money’, where as to turn up in resoled brogues and worn hand me down barbours was the ‘thing’


    1. Glad the links will come in useful.

      I think the resistance to change is all about the comfortableness of routine and fear of anything that seems abnormal. We’ll just have to repeatedly expose them persist to our abnormal ways to desensitise them.

      So true about the additional time. I always think it’s funny how people pay for a gym and then power tools or devices that reduce the physical demands on chores. If we all mowed our lawn with push mowers none of us would need a gym.

      Interesting about the new shoes thing. Is that currently the case or from years ago?


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