Upcycling a Child’s Table to Make a Board Game Table

We’re big board game fans in this house and we regularly have friends over for ‘Games Night’. We’re all feeling our age and finding it a bit hard going to sit on the floor for hours. Our dining room table is quite small, as there’s just the two of us normally and it gets used for food on these nights. So we’d been keeping an eye out in all the usual places for a suitable ‘games table’. My idea had been that we would acquire one of those retro card tables from the 1950s or earlier, which have a felt top and often fold out. However, as they’re mostly designed for Bridge – they tend to be quite small. All of the ones we saw were also in poor condition or had very high asking prices! We also looked in charity shops for some kind of gate leg table, but as minimalists – it would be a big decision to bring another large item of furniture into the house. They also require chairs and we really wanted something more like a coffee table height, so people could either remain in armchairs (or sit on the floor – more on an answer to that later).

I spotted this child’s play table in a charity shop locally and knew instantly it was a great find. I described it to my other half, but he was unconvinced (mostly because I’d shown him so many unsuitable items on eBay! lol) They were also asking £25 for it, which seemed quite steep to us. Still, he dutifully agreed to come and look at that weekend.Well guess what – the shop was closed! We then got tied up with well, life and totally forgot to go back until we were passing about a week later. Helpfully the table was still there and they’d reduced all furniture to half price, to try and clear some space in the shop. We expressed an interest in the table and asked if we would pull it out, to fully check the condition of it. The manager said we could have it for a tenner! (She obviously wanted rid of it).

It turns out that this little beauty is made of solid wood and retails for about £150 when new. You can also be lucky enough to pick up second-hand ones on eBay for around a tenner too, if you look at the right time. The legs come right off, so we can fold it down and tuck it out of sight, when not needed. The top was a little scratched and we didn’t love the green colour. So we decided to send it a little upmarket, with its own blue felt top which has the added advantage of stopping the board games from sliding all over the place. You can see in the photos above, that we are part way through our little renovation/ upcycling job. The felt cost under £3 from my local fabric shop and we already had the all purpose glue at home, from other craft projects.

My other half announced that some bean bag cushions would mean we could all sit comfortably, at the right height. You could easily pay £15-£25 each for these in the shops and I have an abundance of leftover material from other projects. So I picked out some that matched our lounge curtains, some heavyweight corduroy that I picked up in a charity shop for a song and another piece leftover from some bedroom curtains. I purchased 6 zips, at a cost of 64p each and 2 bags of beans at £6.50 each. Perhaps I will do a tutorial soon, but for now here is a picture of 2 of the cushions I have made. They take a couple of hours each, but the savings are evident.


And lo, we are the proud owners of a custom games set-up, all for the princely sum of £20. Can’t be bad eh?


Second Hand Rose – The Beauty of Buying Second Hand


My family call me Second Hand Rose! I’ve earnt this nickname over years because of the huge proportion of things I buy second hand. Be it charity shops, eBay, jumble sales, car boots, Facebook selling groups, friends, friends of friends- you name it, I’ve probably bought an item that way! Above is an Ercol hoop back chair I picked up for £2 on a Facebook selling group. I don’t think the seller had an idea of its value (but I did!) It needed sanding down as it had a few paint splatters on it, but nothing structurally wrong and look at it now, good as new and looking fantastic!

My family think I inherited a double-dose of the second hand gene, as my maternal grandfather used to love rooting around at a good car boot sale and my paternal grandmother was a definite charity shopper, along with the good old church jumble sale! Friends have pointed out that I have a nose for a bargain and can spot a good brand a mile off! I think this is down to years of learning to spot the good stuff and also knowing what I am looking for. This doesn’t necessarily have to be item specific because I think it’s important to keep an open mind when shopping second hand, as you never know what you might find. But, you can know what you’re looking for in terms of good brand names, quality material and manufacturing, condition and style. There are Antiques and Collectables Guides which you could consider borrowing from your local library to gen-up. But they will usually only cover furniture, crockery and that kind of thing. I’ve tended to learn from experience and by spotting a good-looking item and then reading up about it or the brand online afterwards.

For example; I’m often buying ladies clothing for myself- if you keep an eye out for the higher end brand names (and occasionally designer pieces. Yes really, get to know your designer labels!) you will often find a good piece. To be more specific, I would be looking for Hobbs, White Stuff, Seasalt, Phase Eight, Laura Ashley, Whistles, Lands End and that sort of thing. A brand name doesn’t always spell quality, in my humble opinion White Stuff make some real cheap tat these days- really thin, poor quality cotton items. You also want to check out the condition of the garment – has it been washed too many times or incorrectly and is the fabric starting to look pilled, bobbled, misshapen or even shrunk?

Always try on your garments before buying, just as you would do in a shop. There’s often a reason why an item has ended up in a charity shop – it may be an oddly fitting or unflattering garment. Sometimes you don’t notice a flaw until you try it on; like a zip that doesn’t work, or a stain that only shows up in the bright changing room lighting. Most charity shops these days do have changing rooms, but if not – make sure that you can return an item for a refund if it doesn’t fit. Beware the charity shops that will only give you a credit note, as that probably won’t be much use – you can’t guarantee that there will be another item you want to buy. Another way to mitigate against potential disasters is to carry a tape measure with you and know your own body measurements off by heart. That way you can quickly and easily ascertain whether an item is likely to fit.

I buy a significant proportion of my wardrobe second hand with most pieces only costing a few pounds. Much of the time (because I look out for good brand names, in excellent condition and won’t pay over the odds), I can sell an item on after I’ve finished wearing it for the same or more than I paid for it. This only works if you also take care of the items whilst they’re in your ownership – so don’t stain them or shrink them in the wash! But it works out as a zero cost per wear! How many people can say that?

My general advice is that you don’t want to pay more than £10 for an item like a jacket, coat or dress, no more than £6 for a skirt and no more than £4 for a pair of trousers or a top. Occasionally I might go a little bit higher, say £12 for a  really nice dress and £15 for a proper, winter coat. But charity shops that ask any more than that for High Street names are trying to take the mickey and over inflate their prices. I see this more and more these days, and to be honest you might as well just look on eBay where you’ll often find things for less. Personally I dislike car boot sales and jumble sales for clothing because you can’t try items on, but the advantage is that items are usually so cheap (we’re talking anything from 10p up to about £2), that you can afford a few mistakes! Always remember to check the care labels before buying clothing – you might love the item, but you’re not going to love paying to dry clean it all the time! I try to stick to machine washable items only and that’s probably better for the environment too.

Whilst I’ve majored on clothing in this post, we’ve bought a significant amount of our furniture and homewares second hand. The only thing I’m slightly squeamish about buying second hand are mattresses and sofas, or easy chairs. Soft furnishings can easily be harbouring nasty bugs, you don’t know if the previous owner has had pets (fleas!), or basically what bodily fluids are on the items. Ewwww. That said, I have purchased 1 upholstered chair second hand and it has been fine. It’s a bit different if you’re going to re-upholster something and just keep the frame. Mind you, some people are squeamish about second hand shoes, but as long as they’re in good condition that doesn’t bother me. And no, I’ve never caught anything nasty! The fact is you can shave a significant portion off the price of new by buying second hand. If you stick to good brand names, you’ll probably break in or even profit (so long as you check, for example, sold prices on eBay beforehand to make sure you don’t bid over the top). I’d recommend looking at items made by John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Ercol, G Plan, Laura Ashley and similar.

Sometimes it’s helpful to go to a specialist retailer that deals in a particular item, or group of items. For example, for a musical instrument, sporting equipment, sewing machine. They may also service the item before sale and possibly give a guarantee with it. You’ll also benefit from their expertise. This is particularly helpful if you have children who grow out of items quickly, as you’ll often find barely used items for a fraction of their original price.

You can buy almost anything second hand and it can really help your budget to stretch further. I’d love to hear stories of your second hand bargains. What kinds of things do you buy second hand and why? Where do you like to shop for them?

Moving again

We’re moving house again, cue lots of boxes! This is a really positive move for us in lots of ways, but as much as a year ago I said I never wanted to move again… I’m actually relishing the opportunity to pair down my belongings again. I sincerely want to reach the point of enough and no more!


This was us before the move last time. I strongly anticipate having less boxes this time as over the last year, I have continued to purge my belongings. I can see a slow cooker in that picture which I sold. Those big flat pictures behind the table, I gave to a charity shop recently. We have gotten rid of a tonne more books.

The only slight problem I anticipate is that we moved from that property into an old family home. The unfortunate results was inheriting all kinds of junk and duplicates. I am hopeful that much of that has gone too, as we have returned items to their rightful owners, sold valuables at antiques auctions and just given shed-loads to charity.

So, with my current review- I have offered all the white goods for sale with the property (at a price). I don’t expect them to be taken, but they were all 2nd hand to us and they are such a pain to move. I know we could replace at the other end cheaply. We are selling the dining room chairs we inherited- there are 6- we never use more than 4 except on rare occasions like Christmas. As we are moving nearer family, if more chairs are required- they could easily be borrowed. We hate the way they look to, so why keep something you don’t like?! We will not have a separate dining room in our new house, it’s a lounge-diner- so space is at a premium. Therefore, we only want a max of 4 chairs and we have some that are stackable. Our current dining chairs are not stackable and they are heavy. There will be nowhere in the new house to keep them in the attic, as it’s not big enough.

We are also selling a corner dresser we inherited. It is a family heirloom and serves a purpose in our current house because we have an ugly water pipe running up the dining room wall (goodness knows why it was sited there!) But, again we both hate the sight of it- so we are selling it.

I have decided to sell my hi-fi system. I’ve been thinking about it for a good 6 months now. With the purchase of an iPod and getting married, I use it about once a month now. My husband doesn’t always share my musical taste and I find I am listening to a lot less music now I’m married. Music just isn’t a priority anymore, something changed- I’m not a teenager anymore! We both have laptops capable of playing music and we could purchase a much smaller iPod dock if we felt the need. I would rather sell it whilst it is only 5 years old and still has some value.

I have cleared out my wardrobe and put it all on eBay. I am taking whatever’s left to a car boot sale. I hope to clear the lot! It will give us some much needed wardrobe space and I just plain, don’t need all those clothes!

I’m sure there will be more. I plan to shred old documents, sell old magazines at the car boot and go through my craft drawer(s).

For his contribution, my husband is getting rid of an old games console (in addition to the one we have already sold!) He is also getting rid of an old laptop and says we can sell the laptop bag at the car boot. Although he would to profess to be a minimalist, it is catching! (In a good way).

Has anything prompted you to minimise more?

EDIT: Sept 2014- I decided not to sell the hifi for the time being because I suddenly started to use and enjoy it again. Instead, I sold my iPod after I realised that my phone had the exact same capabilities. So I am really happy to have one less device, one that multi-tasks is far more use and I got £75 for it at CEX.

The Grim Reality

OK, so 2 days ago we moved house. It is completely and utterly the most stressful thing you will ever do. And do you know why I think it is SO stressful, mostly because of how much stuff you have! You have to;

  • Box it all up
  • Wrap breakables extra carefully
  • Create and inventory of stuff
  • Arrange insurance
  • Arrange removal
  • Move it- lift it, carry it, shove it- whatever
  • Unpack it
  • Dispose of packaging
  • Find places for everything

Imagine if you didn’t have that stuff, then none of that would be necessary. It is physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting.

So, at my last count- despite my best efforts at purging- we moved with around 75 boxes, plus all our furniture; beds, wardrobes, chairs, tables, desks, pianos and more. I could not believe after all my efforts to get rid, that we ended up with that many boxes. I dread to think how much we would have had otherwise! So, two days into our new home and it already feels too small. There’s not enough cupboard space for everything and there aren’t enough places to put things. Which is truly, utterly crazy- this is a 3-bed house after all.

So I’ve begun purging again. Admittedly some of it is furniture we’ve inherited with this house which is completely superfluous. But, this stuff has to go. I feel the weight of it heavily right now. I truly believe you’ll never experience the burden of your possessions until you box them up. You’ll understand it better if you then have to move them. But after doubting The Minimalists approach (i.e. of boxing it up) Find it here: http://www.theminimalists.com/21days/day3/ I am fully on board with that part of their approach!

To be honest, I could not have left it all boxed up, I mean we couldn’t even move around the house there were so many boxes. So, we have begun unpacking. But I have mentally noted which items are not staying in my house. I will not rest until I have minimized. I hope I don’t have to move again for quite a long time, but next time I do- it is going to be minimal moving!