How To: Decorate on a budget

street gold

One of the many joys of Sydney’s rental market (alongside such delights as having to provide a comprehensive life-history and the promise of your first-born to secure a lease), is the fact that most properties come unfurnished. If you’re new to the city – or in fact from here but not a millionaire – gathering the necessary furnishings can be a challenge.

But never fear, dear reader, you are in luck. Having undertaken this process on a painfully minimal budget, I am now in a position to share my carefully honed insights.

1. The street
In Australia, a surprising amount of pride can be detected in the words, “oh, this? I found it on the street.” While in most other countries, such a statement would signify either that the person lived in a squat or is engaged in a subversive art installation, these words are fairly normal in Sydney. It’s best to target well-to-do suburbs on garbage collection day – you never know when the rich and famous may be casting away an Eames chair. Also, this is recycling, and recycling is good for the environment! So much win.

2. eBay and Gumtree
As a technophobe myself, I am nonetheless amazed by the ineptitude shown by some of my friends when it comes to eBay. When encouraging one of these to use the site to buy a bedframe, she protested that the process was incomprehensible and she didn’t understand how one ‘applied’ for an item. As newborn babies can now effortlessly download apps as they scroll through their christening iPads, I think we need to embrace this. If bidding is not for you, Gumtree is an appealing alternative. There is also some seriously weird stuff on it, which can provide hours of entertainment. Sometimes one man’s trash is genuinely just trash, but search hard and you will find the gems.

3. Garage sales of those heading overseas
In the expat community, someone is always leaving, and often at hilariously short notice. Many seem to not reconcile their 20kg baggage allowance with the existence of possessions in Sydney until under a week before their due departure date. You must exploit this, and exploit it effectively. Hunt these people down and haggle – they can’t take it with them. Also, check out the Garage Sale Trail once a year, for more considered browsing and purchases.

4. Target and KMart
When I first arrived in Sydney, the absence of Argos completely threw me. I would wander the streets in desperation, disorientated and alone, unable to find even basic utensils which would not force me to take out a mortgage. I realise what I am going to say next casts extreme doubts as to the state of my mental health, but my brain could not actually process an alternative location to Argos from which to buy a kettle. Eventually, I overcame this significant block and discovered KMart and Target, budget purveyors of household essentials. They don’t stock hideous gold jewellery or produce the annual catalogue (aka our magical childhood book of dreams), but they certainly have their place.

5. Actual full-priced shops
Only as a last resort, and only if someone else is paying. Or you are an actual grown-up with budget for furniture (in which case, as you may have now realised, this article was not targeted at you).



Words by Sonia Clarke