Nicola’s Blog


I am absolutely passionate about recycling, repurposing, upcycling and any other form of reuse – my home is a testament to that. A lot of our furniture is family pieces, which we treasure, or secondhand. It is so much more solid than some modern furniture, it has real character.

Only last weekend I bought a 1950’s office bookcase. I subsequently spent four hours cleaning and polishing it and I am thrilled with the result. It sits on my landing replacing a flatpack bookcase but even that isn’t destined for the tip! I am taking it to my nephew’s home to house his DVD’s.

. . . Did I tell you that I am recently a very proud Great Aunt of the “When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” poem by Jenny Joseph, to the beautiful Fleur Emily Rose. My nephew and his fiancée are working hard to make a home for their new family. So they are grateful for gifts of furniture to help them. I think that’s the way most of us start our home building.

I also abhor waste. The Furniture Reuse Project in Plymouth will collect any unwanted furniture and domestic appliances, which complies with current regulations, for free. This has the added benefit that items don’t go into a landfill.

To describe The Furniture Reuse Project as a secondhand furniture shop completely undersells their offer. It is a warehouse of good quality affordable new and used furniture and domestic appliances including lounge suites, washing machines, refrigerators and freezers, cookers, pine bedroom and dining furniture. Ingeniously they have also put together starter packs for vulnerable and disadvantaged people, which are currently on sale for a very generous £450.00. The pack includes: a cooker, washing machine, fridge freezer, sofa, and a bed.

With the strapline of “For people, not for profit” their generous ethos doesn’t stop with discounted packages, the project has also given £30k worth of furniture free of charge to people who face disadvantage or who are on low incomes. This is done via a referral system with partnerships and other groups who support people facing disadvantage and hardship, such as The Royal British Legion, Citizen’s Advice, The Shekinah Mission, The Women’s Refuge and many others.

There are many testimonials on their website but the one that particularly caught my attention was from Plymouth Refuge. It is a thank you letter for the donation of a cot to a family in a safe house. The female recipient had experienced horrific domestic abuse and fled from her abuser to Plymouth with few clothes, no toys or equipment for her baby. She had two young children and she was struggling financially. Before the project’s intervention, the baby was sleeping in a secondhand travel cot that was too small for him. He is now sleeping comfortably throughout the night.

For some considerable time, the project has been opening its doors to members of the general public too. DCF’s recent grant has enabled them to employ a project co-ordinator to manage the volunteers, work directly with their customers, report to the board of trustees, oversee their free of charge service and be the main point of contact for the partner organisations.

This management role and the processes in place are crucial in the early intervention with the project’s customers and identifying community needs. This minimises people’s circumstances becoming worse. It has also allowed them the time and space to monitor and evaluate their service provision for future planning and funding opportunities.

Another unintended benefit, which links nicely with my previous blog on the benefits of volunteering for the volunteer, is that a man who was long-term unemployed and lacking in confidence and self-esteem so much that he walked to work as he didn’t have the confidence to use public transport, asked to become a volunteer. Initially, he worked in the workshop cleaning cookers and washing machines but with support and encouragement he has grown in confidence and now works in the main shop dealing with people and has even become a Trustee!

He has real empathy with customers through his own life experiences, having a clear understanding of the issues of hardship, disadvantage, poverty and social exclusion. Through this volunteer the project also now has a better corporate understanding of their customers and their needs. Our star volunteer also now uses public transport on a daily basis.

As with most of these things it is a win, win, win, situation.