'We furnished our home for less than £250'

Devon couple Sid and Sara Heaslip pictured on their travels in front of Uluru, Australia.

Sid and Sara Heaslip returned from Australia on a mission to save for their own Devon smallholding. - Credit: Sid Heaslip

Furnishing a house for less than the price of three ‘Goats’ – a Devon couple reveal how they dressed their home from the internet’s recycling market 

“No money, no bunny,” explains Sid Heaslip. Along with wife Sarah, this couple recently returned from Australia where they have spent the last few years working towards the dream of a rabbit and goat farm in rural Devon.   

And as Sid reveals: “It’s challenging to find a smallholding here and we’ve saved hard for it. The last thing we want to do is chip into the money that is earmarked for our future business.” 

Interior of a house in Plymouth, Devon, furnished for just £245 via freeycled items.

Sid and Sarah Heaslip dressed their whole house for £245. - Credit: Sid Heaslip

But fresh off the plane, with just a suitcase each, Sid and Sarah were faced with the immediate problem of setting up a temporary home in their ex-rental Plymouth house, recently vacated and completely unfurnished. The house needed a full makeover, then dressing for sale, whilst also providing immediate living space for the pair.   

So, how did they go about it? Sid takes up the story: “To start with we just borrowed a few items from Sarah’s aunt: some kitchen essentials so we could cook and eat, two wooden chairs and a picnic table so we had seating, plus a li-lo and bedding. It was like indoor camping! 

Devon freecycle expert Sara Heaslip painting second hand furniture.

Sara gets to grips with giving the second hand furniture a fresh coat of paint. - Credit: Sid Heaslip

“We stuck with this for a few weeks, but increasingly we longed for a bit more of a comfortable ‘burrow’, especially in the evenings.” But with all their possessions stuck in a shipping container how could they properly furnish out a house without spending a fortune? 

The answer, as many people find these days, came from the internet. They started looking at sites like Facebook Marketplace, Gumtree and Freecycle, and discovered these are full of secondhand furniture that is low-priced or even free.   

A black leather sofa bought for free by a Devon couple who are experts at freeycling.

This black leather sofa was given away for free online. - Credit: Sid Heaslip

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Their first scoop was a leather sofa, given away on Marketplace. Sarah explained: “The owner had given up trying to sell it and just wanted rid of it. It was faultless and perhaps £800 originally. We have our own currency of ‘Goats’ since every £100 saved buys us a future farm goat. At last, we had somewhere to sit and relax, purchased for roughly a leg of goat.” 

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Finding such a big online trading forum gave them an exciting idea. Could they furnish their temporary home for under three goats? Soon after ,Sid found a dining table and chairs on Gumtree, immaculate and only £40. He adds: “We picked up two beds with mattresses for £40 from Facebook, bedside tables for £20, cheap table lamps, a free TV, a second sofa for £10 and a host of kitchen gear from charity shops for a few pounds. Within three weeks we had everything we needed.” 

The recycled furnishing has paid off as the couple recently secured a buyer for the property. “The great news is that dressing the whole house and making it our cosy bolthole cost us just £245, which didn’t dent our savings. We’re now searching for our Devon smallholding, and when we find it, we’ll just put this lot on the web and recycle it all over again. With luck it’ll get us our first two goats.”  

A computer screen showing online selling sites.

Good items are snapped up within hours, if not minutes, of being posted online. - Credit: Sid Heaslip

Speed of the essence

Ironically, bigger second-hand furniture is often cheapest because people are keen to dispose of bulky items, particularly if they have already bought new replacements.   

However, adverts on websites move faster than rabbits, and good items are snapped up within hours, if not minutes, of being posted online.   

“We discovered the trick is to reply fast, collect fast, be prepared to travel and sometimes expect imperfections or some maintenance,” explains Sid. “We upcycled a bookshelf and TV cabinet that were both quite tatty when we inspected them, and they now look good as new.” 

Devon freecycle expert Sid Heaslip putting together a bed.

Sid hard at work constructing one of the beds. - Credit: Sid Heaslip