10 Things About Buying Furniture in Hawaii

When we moved, we got rid of everything. Having spent more than 10 years accumulating our possessions, I hyperventilated a bit when I got here and realized: a) we have NOTHING. And b) we have no money. I suppose we could have gone to a furniture store someplace and gotten a credit line and bought incredibly overpriced furniture, but that didn’t seem like a wise idea. I want to be in less debt, not add more.

I thought about the people I knew who had lost everything they owned in one of the fires in San Diego– and there have been several throughout the time I’ve lived there– and felt like I was whining. Because at least I got to keep my All-Clad pans and my big stand mixer and all my photos. I had that luxury.

We have been slowly acquiring new furniture since we have been here. I’ve learned some things:

1. Wal-Mart, Target, or K-Mart furniture is cheaper and in better condition than buying most used furniture from garage sales or Goodwill, but it smells like formaldehyde and msut be aired out for a week prior to use.

2. People who live in high-income areas (cough, Portlock, Kahala, Hawaii Kai) often think their furniture is high-falutin and worth more, but it is not. They paid $1000 for that glass topped black lacquered dining set back in 1985 and surely it’s only APPRECIATED in value, no? No. It’s junk. It’s not an antique.

3. Or the high-income areas sell their nice stuff for very cheap because they don’t care, in which case it’s gone the moment it’s posted.

4. Military people sell a lot of their stuff when they PCS (move) because they are limited in weight, but their stuff might not be in such good shape because, naturally, they keep the best stuff for their move.

5. The only TVs listed on Craigslist are from military people, who are always listing near brand-new entertainment sets with huge flatscreens and speakers and such, leading me to suspect that they bought it with their PX credit cards while flush with extra tax-free deployment monies, but now need to sell because they’ve realized they can’t afford it on $1500 a month. I still can’t afford the new brand-new. Sorry. Hey, if I had access to the PX still I might do the same.

6. Old TVs cannot accommodate the Wii, nor can they accommodate both a DVD and a Roku at the same time.

7. Free furniture sounds good, but it usually has bedbugs or mildew or is made of paper that has the permanent smell of cigs in it.

8. Ross is huge on the island and always has tons of houseware stuff and even some furniture. In fact, I saw stuff in Ross that I saw in a department store here CONCURRENTLY. Take that, high priced retail!

9. Kailua has the best and least expensive furniture for sale. I am not sure why that is.

10. Not having a DVR in Hawaii is the most terrible experience on the face of the planet, because prime time happens at 7 pm, and who wants to watch a stewardess seducing Don Draper with your 4 year old sitting next to you?

Seven is not really part of the furniture-buying process, but it’s still true.

The best furniture deals we got were from a lady who was moving from Kailua to the Big Island. She had to get rid of everything, and made us a deal. My favorite piece from here was a small table with four stools, painted with sea turtles. It’s the perfect size for the kids to sit and eat or draw or do homework. It was only $20.

Turtle table
Turtle table

She also sold us a nice glass-topped table with four chairs for like $80, I think; a futon with a great frame but in need of a newer mattress; and a dresser. I would have liked to get some more furniture from her, like a cute rocking chair and rattan lamps and end tables, but was informed by my husband that we had no room, neither in the car nor in the townhouse, for such niceties.

The other greatest deal ever was Ethan’s bed. It is a Captain’s Bed, with three drawers underneath and a bookshelf at the head, sold at Wal-Mart for about $300 new, listed at $100 used. The man selling it was moving from the Leeward (west) side of the island to the Punchbowl area, near downtown. I called and said I was interested in the bed. He said would just take it to the Punchbowl with him in his moving van. Then he called back and said heck, he would just drive it all the way into Hawaii Kai for us so he could get it out of the truck and not have to worry about it. The bed, he said, was only a few months old, used for his daughter who did not apparently live with him, and apparently there was no room for the bed in his new place.

The night we were expecting him, he called and said he had to work later than expected, but he could still get here by 10. Then he called and said it would be more like 11:30. We said we could come get it the next day instead, because we figured the guy had worked all day and then moved and we didn’t want him to crash or go to these heroic efforts.

Cadillac went the next day and picked it up, and it was in great condition. It’s also great because there’s no need for a dresser and now Ethan has tons of room.

The most amazing thing about the story is that the man went through all this trouble for us, strangers. What if we flaked? What if there were other people calling him telling him they would come get the bed RIGHT THEN– did he tell them, “It’s spoken for”? I think he did. I think he trusted us, because that’s what you do on the island. Someone calls you on Craigslist and it never crosses your mind that they would flake. It’s a darn miracle.

Published by Margaret Dilloway

Middle grade and women's fiction novelist. FIVE THINGS ABOUT AVA ANDREWS, (Balzer + Bray 2020); SUMMER OF A THOUSAND PIES. MOMOTARO: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (Disney Hyperion); TALE OF THE WARRIOR GEISHA and SISTERS OF HEART AND SNOW, out now from Putnam Books. HOW TO BE AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE was a finalist for the John Gardner fiction award. THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS is the 2013 Literary Tastes Best Women's Fiction Pick for the American Library Association. Mother of three children, wife to one, slave to a cat, and caretaker of the best overgrown teddy bear on Earth, Gatsby the Goldendoodle.

4 thoughts on “10 Things About Buying Furniture in Hawaii

  1. Yeah, I totally forgot to pack up my big stand mixer in the evacuation, I mourn it every day.
    I’m glad to hear things are looking up for you on the furniture front, not having furniture sucks. Big time.

  2. OMG, tell me you did not get bedbugs. I’m big on free/cheap furniture, but am deathly afraid of getting those wee beasties.

    1. I don’t think so. For a while I thought I did, because I got mysterious leg bites; but I did the bed bug test where I put a pan of warm water in the room and turned off the lights, and if there were bedbugs they were supposed to be attracted to the warmth and throw themselves into the water. Nothing showed up. I think it was the occasional ant (even though these ants are not “supposed” to bite), so we sprayed and sprayed and vacuumed and I don’t have any more bites. Phew.

      but yeah, when you get furniture, look in its nooks for bedbug detrius (looks reddish or dark brown) or a coriander-like smell.

  3. Wish my experience was like yours with Craigslist. I told someone I wanted their Ninja blender and would come the next day. They said they would be free all day and when I texted the next morning for a good time to drop buy the person says “Sorry sold it”

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