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One mum on a mission to upcycle her whole house with secondhand finds

Written by Jess

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How Jessica Ann Crank completely transformed her living room by upcycling secondhand stuff

Nothing will get in Jessica's way to make her house a home! She has had so much try and stop her, from a stroke at 29, to 11 lumbar punctures, she is an inspirational force to be reckoned with!

Jessica posted her makeover in a group on Facebook called 'DIY top tips on a budget'. She had done up her living room with only secondhand items that she had upcycled. The post had about 900 likes and hundreds of comments.  

"You don't need to buy new stuff when you want to update your space."

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I loved how she had let everyone know it was all secondhand. Spreading the word about how great your home can look at a fraction of the cost, a bit of time and effort, and you help the planet at the same time. 

I had to find out more. 

Your living room project looks great; you must love secondhand stuff as much as I do?  

I'm only 29, and I had a stroke 10 weeks ago; I've got a really rare condition. I'm going to have an operation soon on my brain to release fluid, and I've had 11 lumbar punctures, so I've been housebound. My living room project has been keeping me busy. I was bored with my living room look, so I thought I'd just do the living room from scratch. 

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I'm sorry to hear that. You must be so determined to not let all that stop you. 

It is what it is, I plod along. It's a condition that I won't get rid of. With 3 young kids, it's like, right, let's just do this. You've just got to get on with it.

What kind of stuff do you buy secondhand? 

Literally everything in my house is stuff I've found that I upcycle. Most of the nice, glittery things I've got are from charity shops. I see stuff, and it's like, 'ooh, it's only a quid, and it's a tenner in the shops!' I love it. I go on eBay a lot. The one I like the most at the moment is Facebook marketplace. The amount of stuff on there is unreal.

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What does your family think of it? 

My husband loves it, in the end. While it's happening, though, my house is upside-down. I'm like a whirlwind, getting this and that done. We all play a little part. It's my husbands' job to go and pick the stuff up and drop it off. I get the kids involved too. I don't like all these computer games. I either get my kids out or give them a bit of sandpaper and say, come on, help me. It's something we all do together, and we all enjoy it. It's a brilliant Sunday activity, to do something as a family.   

Your living room looks brand new and like it would have cost you loads of money; how did you do it? 

Oh, thank you, it really didn't, though, it was so cheap. It's just time. The paint was from Changing Lives (an upcycling / DIY charity shop near me). They get donated paint from warehouses; they split them up into tubs and sell them. Everything else was from car boot sales, charity shops, the tip, eBay, Facebook Marketplace. 

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Does your local recycling center have a shop? 

Yeah, we're always up there. They keep anything sellable, and you can buy it: furniture; paint; electricals (PAT tested etc.); straighteners; iron gates; all sorts. Iron gates are expensive usually, but we got ours from there, and it was £20. We just spray painted it, and it was good as new. To us, that's a good job. 

When did you start secondhand shopping?

I moved out when I was 16; I had been left some money from my nan to go out and buy stuff. But I looked at the prices of a wardrobe in a regular shop, and I was like, I'm not paying that for a wardrobe. It's something to put your clothes in. That's when I started looking around for secondhand stuff. If I've not been happy with how they've looked, I've upcycled them, even by just changing the handles. I thought to myself if you want stuff in life, 'you're going to need to do it the cheap way, girl'.

How have you learned how to upcycle things? 

I watch YouTube videos, read books, try something, and if it doesn't work, I'll sand it down and try again. Don't be scared to do it. 

Have you worked out how much money you've saved compared to buying stuff new? 

Hundreds and thousands. I save furniture as well. If it's a good piece of furniture. To change the look, I'll just sand it down and do it again. So I'll upcycle and upcycle again. 

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That must be so good for the environment as well. Does the environmental aspect play a part in your thought process? 

All the time and I tell everyone about it. My friends and family will say 'oh I want this', or 'I want that' and I'll say, 'well let me know what you're looking for, and I'll find it'. Because I'm always on the internet looking. Or I'll say, 'oh I've got that' or 'don't throw that, just because it's got a chip in it, let's fix it'. So I'm always trying to encourage my friends and family. I do it because I can't stand waste. I won't throw anything away that can be used, or it'll get recycled or given away for free, so someone else can use it.

What are the other benefits of secondhand shopping? 

It is all based around easiness for my life, and my kids lives. If I can save money in some places, we can have more treats in other things we do. We have a pretty comfortable, happy life. We've got a caravan that we bought secondhand. The whole thing was riddled with damp, so we ripped the whole thing out and just did it again. Wherever I go, that theme follows. 

Any tips for when people can't find what they're looking for first time?

I'd say don't just go on the first website and go 'oh well, I can't find it' and buy it new. It's just a case of persistence sometimes. And luck. I set search alerts for things I can't find straight away. My friends will say 'oh, I'll just order it new, and it's here'. But it doesn't take much; just put a little post on Facebook and people will comment. Sometimes it's as simple as that. You just need to be prepared to go out and collect it. Or sometimes, you just need to be prepared to wait until the right thing comes along. 

How do you get rid of stuff you don't want? 

I put it for free on FB. If I've only paid a tenner for something, I won't sell it, just give it away for free.

What have I learned from speaking to Jessica? 

Jessica Ann Crank is one of the most determined people I've ever spoken to. Nothing will stop her. She loves a bargain and will put in the graft to save furniture and make it beautiful again. 

Takeaway #1: Your whole family can be involved in upcycling. It can be a brilliant activity for you all to do together. 

Takeaway #2: Don't be scared to try it. If the paintwork doesn't look right, you can just sand it back and try again. 

Takeaway #3: Secondhand shopping sometimes takes persistence, sometimes luck. But you can always end up finding what you're looking for. 

Takeaway #4: The money you save by buying secondhand instead of new can be spent to make other areas of your life more comfortable. 

Do you have an interesting secondhand success story? Share it with the community to help spread the word about living a secondhand life :)

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