How I furnished my house for nothing
Bar stools, unused Ikea furniture, Casio keyboards: Australia is a scavenger’s paradise
A caramel-coloured leather sofa got rejected only because it wouldn’t fit and I wasn’t sure about the shade and, yes, I was getting fussy about what I’d take for free. So much for my quest to unburden myself of the tyranny of stuff.
Australia, for better or worse
I’m not going to write 10 months’ worth of columns about how everything is better in Australia. Some things are indisputably better: the beaches, the public transport, the clothes pegs and the banana bread. There is lots more sunshine, but it does get properly cold in winter. I think Australians probably do cheerful better.
But there are some things at which – as far as I can see, one week in – it still can’t compete with Ireland. Chocolate, for one. Proximity to family. Newspapers and radio. Household insulation. The charm of the undersell. And then there’s the undercurrent of everyday sexism here that I don’t think exists in Ireland any more: in the mobile phone shop the other day, for instance, the assistant suggested entirely straight-faced that I should take the contract home and show it to my husband before I signed it.
But Australia definitely does “paying it forward” better. Twice a year, in Sydney, the local councils hold a clean-up night during which householders leave their unwanted furniture and other goods out for their neighbours – or the newly arrived and sofaless – to take away.
The rest of the year, people leave other stuff, like the stools, out on spec. There’s no shame in it – you see families browsing the offerings like they were picking up a few bits in Ikea.
Why don’t we do this in Ireland? Are we worried that someone coming home drunk from the pub might decide someone’s abandoned leather sofa is a good place to fall asleep, or to relocate to the middle of a busy road? We have online freecycling sites, of course, but there’s something appealingly uncomplicated about leaving it on the footpath where, if it doesn’t disappear in a week, you’re supposed to dispose of it yourself.
In keeping with my promise to S, I intend to pay it forward. If you know someone who’s planning to arrive in Sydney next summer and who is likely to find themselves in need of a household full of almost-new and reclaimed furniture – and one slightly shabby Casio keyboard – get in touch.