February 2, 2011

Lately, I haven’t had the time or inclination to stop at a thrift store. I mean, I have enough stuff! It just seemed like too much work these days. Then my friend convinced me to join her for a Saturday morning romp. I reluctantly agreed.

Scanning the irregular displays and multiple colors, I walked into the shop almost weary, anticipating the work it would take to get me in the mood.  But I decided to give it my best effort  – for my friend’s sake. Maybe it would be fun.

Predictably, we sifted through the women’s tops first, almost mechanically. What was I doing here? Nothing looked interesting, even if it was my size. They were skimpy, or oddball colors. *Sigh* Oh! But then I felt a familiar twinge. I spyed a cute top that would look fabulous with my green vest. Good price, too. Ooo, Talbot’s. Even better. Suddenly my enthusiasm was building.

We continued through the vests, sweaters and jackets. My friend has a thing about tops and  lingered there for a while longer than I usually care to linger, but we eventually progressed onto the pants.

Luckily, this store was one of our favorites had the pants separated into sizes. We could easily find our way to the right spot. My friend tried on three pairs before finding some just-right jeans that she was looking for. I was totally taken by surprise by a pair of hiking pants that were in good shape, the right color and fit perfect. Sweet!

After this excitement, we cruised the trinkets in the housewares department. We played around with gadgets a bit and found some that were useful. My friend found a brand new rubber jar opener for me and I found a garlic peeler for her. All there was left to do was check out.

We moved to the counter to find someone in line ahead of us. So in suspense, we stood admiring our finds and commending each other for our good taste. When we finally got to the counter, I was so thrilled with my purchases that I couldn’t count my change. When it was over, I felt like screaming, but I composed myself.

So, even though sometimes it feels like a chore to get to the thrift store and take the time to shop, once you commit yourself to being there, you’ll find it very satisfying.


Too Much of a Good Thing

May 30, 2010

Thrift shops are the inexpensive way to get new (to me) clothes. I love that. Shirts for work, an extra pair of jeans, skirts for dressy events are easy and painless to obtain when they only cost a few dollars. But I confess, I indulge in this guiltless pleasure a bit more than I should, and today I am paying for it:  I’m cleaning out my closet.

I told myself to be ruthless. Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in a year. Get rid of anything that doesn’t fit you well; anything that is dulled or worn. And above all, get rid of duplicates.

I started with sweaters. Ugh. I love them, but they take up so much room. Here is where I complied easily with the no-duplicates rule. How many green cardigans does one person need? But I had to bend the not-worn-in-a-year rule. I can’t get rid of my handknits – even if they are over twenty years old.

Shirts were split into long and short sleeves. I have a few of those long hangers that can accommodate six shirts at a time, so that became my limit of each type. That turned out pretty well until I had to factor in my sleeveless blouses and the turtlenecks. Because they are in season, I had to compromise and create overflow for the sleeveless blouses (only three). I decided to forfeit all regulation for the turtlenecks and hid them away for the summer in the trunk (all nine of them including three white ones).

Clearing out my pants was easy. I rarely buy pants for fun. When they fit and look good, I wear them routinely. But I found a few pairs that were bought for their cool color (or their just-as-cool label) that never seemed to make it into the regular rotation. Out they went. No regrets.

Then there are the miscellaneous items like fleece vests, dresses (I don’t have many), dress shirts and skirts. Those dress items were tough. I kept saying, “What if . . . .” But I was eventually able to come to terms with saying good-by to some of them.

This project took several hours. Does that make me want to change my thrift shopping habits? Not a bit. Even if I’ve worn some of the discarded (now donated) items only one or two times, I’ve gotten that thrill of wearing something different and braving a new look. I feel good about having weeded out my clothing. I can’t say that I was as ruthless as I had hoped, but I do have less congestion in my closet. I just wonder when I’ll muster up the same determination to go through my shoes.

The Rummage Sale Round-up

April 23, 2010

Look around. Rummage sales are popping up like so many daffodils. Spring seems to be the dominant season for these sales. You can find some in the fall, but not as many. In the Spring, the warm air somehow generates that energy to clean. Then the resulting catharsis makes you feel generous. I think the local churches are tuned into that inclination.

Rummage sales are a great fund-raisers for non-profits. I’ve noticed that most of the volunteer base for these organizations has grey hair. This includes churches, women’s auxiliaries, and hospital volunteers. For some reason this population has the rummage sale thing down. (Could it be an “age-related change” that scientists are not aware of?) They do such a great job of folding all the clothes into neat piles. I recommend you arrive at opening time to fully apreciate their work (not to mention getting the best shot at the quality items).

Shopping at a rummage sale requires a certain mindset. That you will find incredibly low prices is a given. What you have to prepare for is the adventure; the search; the hunt. Be prepared to handle multiple garments in the process of getting that bargain. Rummage rooms tend to be arranged by apparel categories, but not by size. So if you know your son needs sweatpants, you will know where to go first.

This month there are three rummage sales in my area that are put on by churches. I look forward to them every year. I hope you, too, will keep an eye out this Spring for the great sales in season.

Who needs the lottery?

March 21, 2010

My friend thinks I am so lucky; I can find such great bargains at yard sales and thrift shops. Her case in point is the high-end Kitchen Aid gas stove I bought at a yard sale last year for $300. (It works perfectly and is a huge improvement over the previous cheap, chipped and leaking GE model that came with my house.) I do agree with her that the stove is a great find, but that does not mean that I am lucky. It just means I know what I am looking for and am ready when it appears.  

It would be different if I found the stove the first time I ever went to a yard sale. That would be lucky. But I go a lot. So my chance of getting a bargain increases significantly. That is something my friend doesn’t get. I get the feeling she thinks she is doomed to a life of retail because her planets are not aligned right or something. Not so! You gotta go to the thrift stores and yard sales if bargains are what you want. It’s like the lottery – you can’t win if you don’t play.

Newport Thrift Shop

March 7, 2010

37 John Stark Hwy
Newport, NH 03773
603 863-1637
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10-4

This shop has been an institution in Newport, NH for over 30 years. Run entirely on donations and volunteerism, this shop is organized and welcoming.  Now residing in the Newport Shopping Plaza, The Newport Thrift Shop is easy to find with plenty of parking.

Volunteers from the Newport Service Organization (NSO) staff the shop. Funds raised from their efforts go towards various health-related organizations and college scholarships. The community has been so supportive in return that two years ago the store was able to double its space to accommodate the generosity.

The store has one small and two large rooms. When you walk in the store there is a shelf of fine and interesting dishware to the left. Straight ahead at the center of the first large room is the check-out. There you can find out if there is a sale that day. As you continue to the left and around the perimeter, you will find small appliances, men’s shoes and clothing, sportswear, jeans, craft items linens, books and housewares. At the back of the first room is the entrance to the small but varied children’s section.

The second large room is to the right as you walk in the store. I would call this the women’s department. It has a wide assortment of women’s clothes, shoes, and accessories including plus sizes, maternity and formal wear.

The prices are fair and reasonable. Except for the beginning of the season, the store will have sales throughout the year, so you can get a great deal at any time. The best deal time is when they have their end-of-the-season bag sale. This happens twice a year in March and September. Then the store closes for a week so the volunteers can restock and redecorate for the coming season. When they reopen, the prices will be at their highest – but they are still quite reasonable. This is the time when the hidden treasures come out of the back room and one of my favorite times to visit.

The Newport Thrift Shop is one of the best of the classic hometown thrift shops. It has variety, friendly staff, lots of space, and good deals. Check it out next time you are passing through, and know that you are also giving back to the community as you shop.

Expect the Unexpected

February 12, 2010

You Find What You Want – Just When You Aren’t Looking For It

This past fall, I was on a kick to clear a small section of our woods. Once it was open enough to see through to the stone wall, all I wanted was an outdoor bench to sit on and enjoy my new space.

I looked at all the yard sales, the classifieds, and craigslist, but nothing was turning up. So I decided it was time to take a trip across the state line.

I headed to White River Junction, Vermont, to the ReCover Store. This store is the Thrift Shop version of Home Depot.  It is a nonprofit that helps to fund home repairs for disabled, low income, and elderly residents in the area. Since I was sure I would find the bench of my space-in-the-woods dreams, I drove our minivan so I could bring it home.

At the store, I had a great time browsing and dreaming through the housewares, books, cabinets, furniture, windows, doors and assorted building materials at The ReCover Store. But I did not see an outdoor bench. Hmmm. I finally bought a book on writing, and left, somewhat disappointed.

All was not lost, though, because I had looked up other thrift stores to visit while I was in town so I happily hauled the van around to explore. I found that the Second Hand Rose at the church was having a bag sale. I found the local Listen Thrift Store, a store that supports victims of domestic violence. And lastly, I found SEVCA (Southeastern Vermont Community Action) Thrift Store.

When I walked into SEVCA, I looked to my right and immediately forgot about my outdoor bench quest. There I saw a loveseat that looked like it was made to fit the space vacated by our piano six months ago. I casually (and cautiously) walked over to it, looked at the colors (brown with green tweed – nice), looked at the price ($100 for Pennsylvania House in excellent shape), and took out my measuring tape (just right). Could this be the one, after all this time?

I walked away from the loveseat onto the rest of the store. I found some pretty blue yarn (enough for a scarf), a pair of small binoculars, and a shirt for work. I paid for the small items and noticed that the store accepted charge cards. I walked over to the loveseat once more. I sat down on it.

This is the the loveseat. I added the pillows.

Understand – I don’t spend $100 easily. I reweighed the pros and cons of this purchase. Then a lightbulb went off in my head. I remembered that I had driven the van! I could see then, that all the pieces were in place for this purchase to happen –  and just when I least expected it.

How to Deal with Loss

January 25, 2010

Much to my family’s frustration, I have a tendency to lose things. Sometimes I lose big things, like my purse (Boy, was that a bummer.), but mostly I lose small things. I lose keys, sunglasses, reading glasses, hats, watches and gloves to name a few. There was a time when this caused me a lot of stress, but now I rely on Thrift Shops to ease the pain.

My attitude change came after leaving my gloves at a rest area coming back from a faraway family Thanksgiving celebration. (Argh!) As soon as I could, I visited all the local Thrift Shops to find a replacement. This caused almost as much strain as losing the gloves because of the hit-or-miss nature of Thrift Shops. I just couldn’t find what I wanted (and needed because it was cold!). But I would not consider buying retail. To me, that would be a double loss – the money and the item. At last, I did find a suitable pair, but the experience altered my thrift shopping practice.

Since I am aware that the sunglasses I’m wearing today may disappear tomorrow, I wander through thrift shops these days keeping an eye out for such elusive items. The great thing now is that while I am looking, I am under no pressure to buy. I am choosy and only buy the good stuff at a good price. I will buy almost any quality item that I, or my children, might lose.

Yes, this practice can lead to excess, but it is also very freeing. I have collected enough hats and mittens to lend out to the neighborhood – and I wouldn’t care if I ever saw them again. The larger lesson I have learned is that nothing is permanent; nothing lasts forever. That’s why I stock up at the Thrift Shop on all the items that are transient in my life, so that when they leave me – and I know they will – I don’t mourn their loss.

A Breath of Fresh Air

January 17, 2010

Shop Review:      65 Roses
                             249 Rt 10 north
                             Grantham, NH 03753
                             603  863-3888

Tucked in a tiny shopping center in Grantham, NH in the shadow of interstate 89 is an example of a thrift shop that gets everything right. The not-too-fancy but likeable style of 65 Roses affords a refreshing shopping experience.

Sara Carr started this store in April 2007 to raise funds for the Cysitic Fibrosis Foundation. Her son has the disease and, when he was little, told his mom he had “sixtyfive roses.” Hence, a great name for a shop dedicated to a great cause.

This shop wins high marks for its variety and layout.  As you wander the one large and two small rooms, you will consistantly find a good selection of quality clothing, shoes and housewares. But they also have furniture, books, linens, videos and baby items. All of this is organized in such a way that carries you comfortably from room to room. Be aware, though, that because 65 Roses accepts a wide variety of items, the selection will vary with every visit.

This store employs unit pricing for adult and kids clothing. One must look high on the wall to see the printed list of items (pants, sweaters, shoes, etc.) with a reasonable price for each. The linens, housewares, furniture and other unique items are individually (and also reasonably) priced. Noteworthy are the book prices: hardcover books are 50 cents each. Paperbacks are ten for one dollar. Yes, that’s right. 10/$1. All day, everyday.

This store will have occassional, but not regular, sales. The sales are advertised in the local weekly shopper’s publication. Unfortunately, this can result in learning of the sale after it has started. So, if you enjoy being the first in line for a sale, get the inside scoop by giving the store a call during their business hours.

Besides being attractive and having a variety of great stuff, this shop has a special appeal. The devotion of a mom to her son is woven through every aspect of this store. With each donation, each customer and each purchase, that energy spreads and is shared by all who visit this fine shop.

Why Thrift Shops Beat Out Walmart

January 2, 2010

Let’s say you get a brilliant idea. You think of the perfect gift for your mother-in-law, or you invision a small shelf that would complete the laundry room. Now the way to act on that idea is to purchase the item. But where do you look first? I’d like to make a case for checking out your local thrift store before the discount stores.

 The first reason to shop at the thrift store is the price.  I know. That same claim is made about discount stores. But the real advantage to a thrift shop item is value. Let’s face it, the stuff you buy at the discount store is cheap. By cheap, I mean of poor quality, smells like polyurethane, and is primarily plastic. Yuk. The things you can buy at the thrift shop tend to be quailty items that have proven their worth and are ready for a new life.

A second reason to devote much of your shopping to thrifts stores is convenience. For example, I live in a rural area and my commerce choices are limited. I would have to drive 15 miles to the nearest Walmart.  But I don’t have to (or want to), because within a ten mile radius of my house, there are at least ten thrift or second-hand shops to serve my needs.

The final and best reason to choose to shop at thrift shops is the experience. Thrift shops are just plain fun. Discount stores are so predictable, boring and the lighting tends to give me a headache. At thrift shops, on the other hand, there is always something new and colorful and interesting on the racks and shelves. And chances are you will find that one item that will fulfill your brilliant idea.

How to Start Thrift Shopping

December 28, 2009

My friend, who is not a thrift shopper, asked me how to get started in the thrift world. The question was odd to me at first. Like, what do you mean? It’s easy. You just walk in the store and start shopping. But then I thought about it. Not everyone has their thrift radar up like I do. So I am going to share a few strategies I use to find great thrift shops.

 So, you find yourself in a new city and have some time to shop, the easiest way to find a thrift shop is to look in the local phonebook. The Yellow Pages have two useful headings. One is “thrift,” and the other is “consignment.” These two headings should give you a fairly comprehensive list of the thrift shops in the area. Not only that, but you also get the street address and the phone number. (Definitely call first to find out if they are open.) Under the “thrift” heading will be stores run by not-for-profit organizations, while “consignment” will list stores that have single proprietors. Other useful Yellow Page headings are “clothing” and “resale.”

 If you are taking a trip, plan ahead for that thrift shop adventure. Do a web search for “thrift shops in (blank) city” before you go. This option not only gives you the address and the phone number of each shop, it also gives you a map. There may be a fabulous shop right around the corner from your hotel! As with the phonebook, try searching  “consignment” or “resale” for additional shops.

 To find thrift shops where you live, you can employ the above strategies to get you started. Or you can just keep your eyes and ears open. Certainly look closer at the churches. Many towns have a thrift shop connected to a church, so look for those little wooden signs. Once you find a thrift shop, ask the salesperson if there are any others in town. If they can’t help you, the other customers can, and they will surely tell you where the good ones are. 

Good luck! Let me know what you find.