Everything seems to be so fast these days – fast food, fast fashion, fast cars, fast furniture, fast people….we seem to be rushing headlong into disaster with many people blind to the potential destination. Yet there are also a growing number of us who are working towards the slow, and the slower. Slow food, slow fashion, slow homes and slowing down. There are groups, organisations, books and television programmes, all taking time to talk about slowing down.
Taking it Slow
In days gone by things took time. If you wanted food you had to grow it, wait, harvest it and cook it. Often you had to preserve and store food to make it last. If you wanted clothes you had to make them, mend them and wear them until they were no longer able to be worn. There were no vehicles to rush you to your destination, the journey to get to another place took time, and plenty of it. Things were mended and fixed and repaired, over and over again. There was value placed on the materials and time that was put into making stuff.
In the not so distant past, if you wanted a quality piece of furniture you saved up and bought something that would last. These pieces are now often found in the back of secondhand stores and garage sale sheds. Now people seem to want to change their sofa every season and many new items do not last very long at all. When you decide you need a new bed, or sofa, or dining room table, do you stop to consider where it has been made, by whom, with what and what will happen when you no longer need it? Do you think about how quickly it has been made and how quickly it will break or no longer suit your needs? Judging by the amount of furniture sent to landfill each year in Australia it is clear many people don’t.
Just like fast fashion, fast furniture is made for a season. It is made to be used for a short time and then moved on so you can bring a new chair into your home, one that is “on trend”. Fast furniture is often made from poor quality materials like particle board and willl be tossed into landfill within a short time. Not only is this bad for the planet, but it is bad for your pocket. It might be cheap to start with, but how many times will you need to replace that item? Fast furniture often contains harsh chemicals like formaldehyde, which are terrible for human health. These items are made to be irreparable.
According to an article on Handkrafted, in average furniture weights, the equivalent of 800,000 three-seater sofas, 1.65 million dining tables, 3.4 million coffee tables or 6.85 million chairs, thrown away every year…. These numbers are for Sydney only and don’t include other furniture delivered directly to tips by households and businesses or illegal dumping. And the problem is getting worse.
There are a number of ways you can reject fast furniture. There is absolutely no need to buy cheap, poorly made furniture. There is an abundance of vintage furniture to be found in stores, opshops and even roadside. If you have ever felt the thrill of picking up a fine chair from the side of the road, you will understand! There are also literally thousands of makers in Australia, handcrafting furniture that is quality made and built to last. Here are some options for rejecting fast furniture.
If you are like me, you will have a house filled with secondhand furniture. Older pieces tend to be made with timber and quality fabrics. You might need to bring something back to life with a coat of paint, or some new upholstery. This is a small price to pay for a unique piece of furniture that will last for decades, and which you have saved from landfill. Look at the shape of a piece of furniture and the quality of the materials used. The finish can be fixed and changed. Head out to garage sales, ebay, gumtree and vintage stores. Check your local charity stores, salvage yards and tip shops. Currently, darker furniture is still quite cheap. These pieces can be handed down to your children or passed back to the secondhand store if you decide you no longer want or need it.
Buy from Local Makers, Upcyclers and Artisans
There are so many skilled furniture makers and upcyclers in Australia. We are starting to add as many as possible to the Sustainable Home Hub. You can find them on places like Handkrafted, the Australian Furniture Association and etsy. You can also find them at markets and via searches online. These people are usually making furniture with responsibly sourced materials, often recycled timbers and fabrics. They take time to create furniture that will last. You might pay slightly more to start with, but you will reap the rewards for years to come. Many more people are upcycling, reupholstering and painting furniture. If you do not have the time, skill or desire to do this for yourself, there are plenty of small businesses who will do this for you, often being happy to custom make something for your home.
Make, Fix or Renovate Furniture Yourself
If something breaks at home you may be able to fix it yourself, or find someone who can. There are more repair cafes and classes on mending and repairing all sorts of items starting to crop up. Places like the Bower and the Adelaide Sustainability Centre are just 2 examples. Making something yourself is not only satisfying, but means you know exactly how something has been made. This might be as simple as painting a dining chair, right through to taking some woodworking classes and building your own table.
Why It Matters
Rejecting fast furniture and choosing one of these options for your next piece of furniture matters for so many reasons:
- It helps reduce the amount of poor quality furniture going to landfills
- It stops you being part of unfair trade practices
- It keeps toxic materials out of your home
- It saves you money in the long run
- You are contributing to our local maker economy and supporting charities and small businesses
- You get better quality, more satisfaction, unique pieces with heart and can feel good about how you are choosing to decorate your home.
Next time you need a new sofa, bed or chair, stop and consider your options and then go slow. You will enjoy the ride much more than when you choose the fast lane.