One thing every frugal person knows is to get things second hand whenever possible. But some of us can't help but think about who else had it first, what they did with it, and what kinds of diseases they might have been carrying. I'm not talking about someone with a serious mental disorder like OCD, but just people who the heebie-jeedies from something someone else has used again and again. My hubby and I are in the category of people who over think about what's on an object. On the other hand, we don't have much (meaning ANY) disposable income, and we have three going kids, plus we've moved a lot and had to downsize each time, but we've had good friends and family, plus a few random kind strangers, who have helped us out. When we've been given something second-hand that we can use, we graciously thank them for their generosity and then clean the heck out of it! Here are a few of our tips for second hand stuff:
Wash all clothes, even if you think they're clean, and use detergent!
Be very selective where you get anything upholstered from. Our couches we free from people we knew very well and had visited with on multiple occasions. For a year and a half we had a second hand mattress from someone we knew from church. Even then we still sprayed some Lysol disinfectant and vacuumed these things really well. Lysol is my friend.
If it's been stored outside or in a garage or something, you could sprinkle a little boric acid on it (keep away from kids) to kill any bugs (a worry in places where it rarely gets cold enough to freeze the bugs) and after a few hours vacuum it off. This is usually overkill (no pun intended) but if your imagination gets going.....
Things that aren't upholstered or porous can just be cleaned with some all purpose cleaner and a rag.
Interestingly enough, most of our stuff is second hand, but we almost never go to thrift stores or yard sales. I'm signed up for freecycle, and regularly check the free section of craigslist, but it seems my timing is always off and it's already gone, or I don't have any way to get there in a timely manner. They're still worth trying. We get most of our stuff for free from friends and family members. In our church, every family is assigned a few people to visit and help them if needed. When these people (known as visiting teachers and home teachers) visit, they often ask if there's any way they can help the family. So whenever we've been asked this question, we try to think of things we really do need. Like when we had one dresser for our family of 5, which was occupied by little kids who want to pick their clothes and dress themselves, we put the word out that if anyone was getting rid of a dresser, we could use one. A little over a week later there was a knock at our door and when we opened it there was a four drawer dresser there with no note or anyone around. I peeked my head out the door to look around and didn't see anyone, so I yelled out "Thank you!" to the darkness, in hopes that my springtime Santa would hear me. A lot of out kids clothes have either been presents from family for their birthday or Christmas (when family asks, mention this first) and people we've gone to church with who have kids a little older than ours that pass on the still wearable clothes to our kids when they wear out. Our baby most wears clothes his older brother didn't ruin at that age, plus whatever hand me downs others send our way.
Furniture is an interesting thing. I promise we help others out of the sincerity of our hearts because we care, but it seems like we always get way more back than we give, and I mean literally. We helped my husbands boss move (into a bigger place) and they decided to get new furniture right after moving in so they sent a lot of they "old" but still perfectly good, stuff our way. We got a couch, kitchen table and chairs (before that we'd been using a card table and folding chairs, that we'd also gotten from someone who didn't use them), a shower curtain, lamps ( the bedrooms in our place don't have overhead lights so lamps were a need), plus more dishes than we could use (we donated what we couldn't use to charity). Our high chair was from when we were helping a friend of our deal with no longer having small children at home (through tragic separation) and he asked us to take everything to the dumpster and keep what we could use. The high chair was about the only thing we could use. Our beds we bought new with our tax return, but before that we had a mattress on the floor from some people at church who never really used it, and before that it was an air mattress. If you go back far enough, we had a new bed that we got for a wedding gift, but had to sell it to some friends to make an interstate move in our car.
We've gotten a few miscellaneous things from family members and friends who didn't need it or someone offered it to them and they were kind enough to keep us in mind. We've also tried to keep others in mind when we have stuff we can't use.
One other thing we learned is to own less stuff, and want to own less stuff. The less you own, the less you have to clean, the more room for your kids to run around the house, and he easier it is to find what you're looking for.
I'm long winded I know, I guess I just seem to have a lot of experience with second hand things. Which is great because I don't end up with buys remorse afterword!