If you don’t move to a new country with a truck load of stuff, you’ll have to start acquiring new things pretty much as soon as you arrive. No matter what type of apartment or house you have, you’ll need some basic furniture like kitchen table, chairs, couch, bed, and so forth. You’ll obviously also need different types of kitchen utensils, pots and pans, and cutlery. You’ll need lamps and such. We have published a free guide called “Furnishing Your House”. You can find it here for downloading but we thought we’d expand on the topic a little bit and focus on Finnish second-hand stores.
Obviously, if you have the money and prefer it you can acquire all of the necessary stuff brand new. However, there are other great options if you want to be environmentally conscious or just fancy recycled stuff. There are several types of Finnish second-hand stores.
There are various different types of second-hand stores all around the country. Some are private second-hand stores or flea markets. Some Finnish second-hand stores focus on vintage items from a particular decade or decades. They carry such items as clothing, handbags, costume jewelry, shoes, and even furniture. In my experience they can be more on the pricey side. I think is understandable since they most likely spend a fair amount of time curating the things they sell.
Many of the flea markets around are self-service types. Selling customers rent a stall or two from the market, place their items in them for sale, and the flea market operators function as cashiers. These can be good places to hunt for bargains.
When my children were smaller I primarily acquired their clothes from these types of Finnish second-hand stores. Very young children rarely use their clothes long enough for them to become really worn. Often this means that the clothes you buy for an euro to two look brand new. Sometimes finding those bargains involves going through stall after stall with heaps full of clothing. If you don’t enjoy doing that Reuse Centres (Kierrätyskeskus in the Helsinki metropolitan area) and Kontti Second Hand Department Stores by SPR (the Finnish Red Cross) are really good options. Here‘s a list of recycling center -type second-hand stores around the country.
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Reuse Centres and Kontti Stores
The Reuse Centres that operate in the Helsinki metropolitan area vary from large to small. The larger ones, such as the ones in Kyläsaari (Vantaa) and Nihtisilta (Espoo), have basically everything you could possibly need from furniture and home appliances to crafting supplies. The smaller ones, such as the store in Oulunkylä (Helsinki), do not have furniture for sale. They carry small kitchen appliances, clothes, kitchen utensils, etc. In my experience prices tend to be ever so slightly higher in Reuse Centres than in flea markets, but browsing for stuff is more pleasurable in them. The stuff is nicely laid out on shelves and racks rather than in heaps in a small stall.
If you are into crafting, I do recommend the Reuse Centres. Many of them have a special section for crafting. No matter what you like to do, you most likely will be able to find supplies for yourself for very reasonable prices. They might not be exactly what you are looking for but you might get inspired by the stuff they do have. The Reuse Centre also has an online store, which is unfortunately not in English.
The Reuse Centre has their own line of upcycled products called Plan B. These are handmade clothes, accessories, furniture, and items for interior decorating. If you want truly unique furniture, check their collection!
Currently the Finnish Red Cross has 12 Kontti Second Hand Department Stores across the country. The Kontti stores specialize in items that are in good condition. They sell everything you might need in your home from furniture and tableware to clothing and household textiles. The Kontti stores are a pleasure to shop in since items are well laid out, and the stores are open and well lit. Yet again prices are steeper than in flea markets but I find the shopping experience more pleasurable.
Other second hand stores
There also other second hand chains operating in Finland. One of them is run by Fida, a Christian missionary and charity organization. I have found really nice vintage furniture in my local Fida store so I recommend them. Since they, or at least my local store, seem to have vintage furniture on sale all the time, I suspect they get a lot of donations from estates. Hence they are definitely worth exploring if you like older furniture.
UFF also has stores all around the country, but their stores specialize in clothing. Thus they are not the best place to shop if you are looking for household items.
If your primary goal in second-hand shopping is to find clothes for your children, joining your neighborhood flea market group in Facebook is an option. One does find other items for sale in these groups as well. If you need something more urgently, they might not serve you well though.
Reuse Centres, Kontti stores, flea markets and Facebook groups are also great for finding sports equipment for kids (and why not also for adults). As we discuss in our Crash Course, kids in Finnish schools do need to have skates and skis during the winter. These can be pretty expensive bought from a sporting goods store. If you kid only uses them once or twice during the winter, the price per use can get high. Thus buying them second hand is a really great option.
There also stores that specialize only in second hand sporting goods. In these you are sure to find a larger collection of items to choose from. You are more likely to find what you are looking for than just by going through one flea market after another. Google “sportti divari” tai “sportdivari” to see if there’s one nearby your house.
Getting rid of stuff
Ok, so what if you want to get rid off some of your stuff? All municipalities run recycling stations on their own or together with neighboring municipalities where you can take your paper, cardboard, metal, plastic, electric, and other types of trash. They even take large items such a couches or broken washing machines. For some types of trash they may apply a modest recycling fee, but a lot of this stuff they take off your hands for free. If you don’t have a car, some municipalities run recycling trucks that come occasionally to neighborhoods to collect trash made of these types of recyclable materials.
All of the places I’ve mentioned above take donations. If you want donate large items, such as furniture or large kitchen appliances, many of them also offer pick up services. Remember though that the items you donate should be clean and they shouldn’t be broken. Don’t dump your trash on any of these organizations or your neighborhood Facebook group.
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