Making East London Home through Furniture Re-Use

The Quakers have always been full of great ideas. For one, they invented chocolate.

I could just stop there, couldn’t I?

qsa logoQuaker Social Action has been at work for 145 years in East London, under the moniker, “Working for a Just World Where People Put People First.”

And this is just the message East Londoners need to hear. Often. This is a high-density corner of the world. Some of us have lots of stuff, while others can’t afford it. But we all live next to each other. And the amount of ‘stuff’ that some of us have can cause problems–flytipping for one. We need people with great ideas to keep things running smoothly.

Enter QSA’s Homestore, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The furniture re-use charity project collects quality new or used furniture donations from businesses and private individuals and sells it on at a low cost to low-income East Londoners, our neighbours. Everything someone would need to fit out a decent family home is on offer at the Homestore Warehouse, at prices that rival even those of charity shops.

I used QSA’s Homestore a few years ago when I moved in with DH. He had a few items from his bachelor days that ahem needed a new home. So I sent a home office desk and a tv console their way. I called Homestore again recently as we’re renovating and have a dining table and sofas that are too small for our growing family. And I became intrigued.

Last week, I brought the girls along for a browse in the warehouse and to meet Jane Williams, who heads up Fundraising and Communications for QSA and Homestore Manager Jim Carling. It’s tucked away in a Stratford industrial estate, quite near to the wonderful new Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, one of our favourite new spots to visit. Inside, the Homestore is a cheery, bright place, welcoming for families looking for things to make their homes nicer. It’s not long before the little ones ‘ask’ if they can bounce on the settees.

warehouse floor 2013Jim explains that for every £1 in donation, the Homestore needs to fundraise £2. It is a grand-scale furniture recycling scheme staffed by full-time employees and volunteers. Homestore’s fleet of lorries shuttle between pickup points in seven East London boroughs and back to the warehouse several times a day. Donors are asked to contact Homestore about their donations and these will be pre-qualified before a driver is committed to picking up: It’s essential that any donated items are in compliance with fire and child safety regulations, and the Homestore staff will determine the suitability of your items over the phone or by email.

At the warehouse, furniture is given a quick scrubbing up, and put on sale. Customers of the Homestore must show proof of low income in order to shop here. Donors can give their items in a safe, reliable, and convenient way. And if you’re a Freecycler or EBayer, like we are, you know what this means.


Theresa is a teacher in Hackney. She enjoys a home with a lovely view out to the park from picture windows. When she was expecting her baby last year, she needed to move furniture out of her spare room to create a nursery. She chose Homestore to donate her very smart coffee table and a beautiful jumbo cord-covered sofa.

Become a Donor

In order to make its next 25 years a success, QSA is appealing for donations of more good quality furnishings from East London homes. So, instead of Freecycle or eBay, consider donating your furnishings to Homestore.

Donation guidelines are viewable and  downloadable here.

Unfortunately, some childrens’ and baby furniture cannot be donated as the safety compliance cannot be verified. Donated items can have normal wear and tear, so don’t worry about the odd scratch.

Mumsnet Local serves all of the boroughs in which Homestore collects donations. Listings can be found in the following categories–Community Organisations, Eco Services, Removals and Storage–or by clicking directly on the links below.


4 thoughts on “Making East London Home through Furniture Re-Use

  1. We have a similar scheme in Bury St Edmunds called Gatehouse which has an enormous warehouse filled with really nice stuff. I’d be happy to ‘shop’ there (although it only asks for donations) and it is as far removed from the image of broken down sticks of furniture as it is possible to get.

  2. I love so many things about this programme, not the least of which is that both buyer and seller are committed to it in a way. It’s much more than a transaction. It’s a way of building community. I’m really glad to hear that other communities are adopting similar approaches. We all benefit from schemes like this.

    • Kate, thank you. It is so wonderful to hear that you really ‘get’ what we are doing. The scheme helps donors, volunteers, customers and the planet, all be part of something bigger and better.

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