Saturday, May 3, 2008

A Thrifting I Will Go...

It's Saturday, the lord's day. The lord of THRIFTING that is.

Part of my frugal/voluntary simplicity practice is to almost always buy used. Used stuff is great. It's cheap, you know it will last because it outlasted one owner, and it's fun to see what you can find to meet your needs. Used stuff is also recycled, is not generally outgassing toxic fumes (though is occassionally a little musty), and comes with its own history for you to contemplate when you're bored.

Here's my thrift system:

1) The first step is to make sure you actually need what you are buying.
Buying crap you don't need is financially and spiritually stupid even if you buy it cheap. For years I've used the 30days rule. If I think I need or want something, I wait at least 30 days before buying it (obviously this does not apply to food). If I still feel I need it after 30days then I start checking thrift shops and freecycle, or put it on my birthday/christmas list. Occassionally I will pay full price but that is pretty rare. I think the last thing I paid full price for is the sweater I wear about twice a week for 6 months a year. I waited the 30days to decide to buy it...then tried to wait for it to go on sale. It didn't, it just got dropped for the new season of clothes! Since I STILL wanted it the next fall when it showed back up in the catalog, I went ahead and got it. It's been a good purchase because it is wool (lasts well, is warm), it is the perfect color and shape for me, and I wear it constantly. I do buy my underwear new and so far my shoes have been bought new. Otherwise, thrift is my first option.

2) The second step is to know your thrift stores.
There are 4 good thrift stores within walking distance from my apartment. I like to shop, so on many Saturday mornings I get my exercise and my thrift fix by walking to the stores. By shopping a bit when I will not be buying, I've learned which stores have the best selections of various items. The local Volunteers of America store has almost EVERYTHING. I was in there a while back and heard a young man with dreads and a mohawk (and interesting hairdo) exclaiming that this was the best thrift store he'd been in and that there was nothing like it in Seattle. It really is pretty amazing. The furniture room is particularly good as is the selection of kitchenware. I recently got a sushi maker and little sushi plates for 5$. This was an extravagance but it's also been a great way to get my kid to eat more rice and vegetables and to expand his palate for varied spices, dishes, and flavors. And of course it's fun. Another thriftstore, Value Village, has a better selection of clothing and another good selection of kitchen goods. I got a rice cooker there. They also sell bags of candles for ridiculously low prices. I use candles at home and when camping so a good supply of cheap candles is always nice. The Classy Rack is a christian based thriftstore supporting our local mission that cares for the homeless. They have a good selection of kitchenware, some nice clothes, and for some reason a nice selection of craft items and office supplies. They also serve espresso drinks which I find highly amusing. The local Goodwill is not the best of the stores here, but it isn't bad. There are even more thrift stores in Coeur d'Alene Idaho which is just 35 miles from here. I'm there for work fairly frequently and when I am I use my break or lunch to stop at the Goodwill, St. Vincent DePaul, and a couple of other thrift stores. That town has a high population of wealthy part-time residents. These people throw out and donate the most fantastic things. Perhaps more on that at another time.

3) If you have a need, don't expect to fill it on the first trip.
Give it a little time. Once I decided to replace plastic items with metal or wood, I took my time. It became clear that my main cooler was dying. I started looking at thrift stores and antique malls. It took a few months, but eventually I found a nice metal cooler from the '40s. It was not particularly cheap, but it is an excellent cooler, the right size, and has already lasted 60years with little wear and tear so I'm fairly confident that it is the last cooler I will buy. It also gets plenty of attention when I camp or bring it to the food co-op for my frozen items. I know I've converted at least one person to metal coolers so there's a bit less plastic dragging around the world's campgrounds.

4) Be flexible.
When I decide it's time for a new workshirt, I don't decide on the color and style beyond "button down" or "sweater". I just wait to see what shows up. The last thing that showed up was a lovely "travelsmith" brand shirt with the tags still on it! It is in a good color for me, the right size, and it fits. Quite nice really.

5) Enjoy.
If you miss something during your 30day wait, it's OK. Something else will show up. Enjoy the history of the items you buy.

6) Know your limits.
If you are creeped out by the thought that someone else's private parts may have once touched the thriftstore jeans, will that keep you from wearing them? If it will, then don't buy them. Personally, if I wash them first then I feel that thrift clothes are ritually clean and therefore just fine. I haven't bought thrift shoes yet and think it's because I'm so picky about the fit of my shoes. But there is an undercurrent fear of foot fungus too. That may be the real problem with thrift shoes.

Yard sales and craigslist and freecycle all count as thrifting. Enjoy. I'm not an e-bay'er, but I'm sure many good bargains can be had by the careful. I get too caught up in bidding so auctions, whether live or online, are not thrifty for me. I just get too competitive with the other bidders and my good intentions go out the window.

Now I will take my shower and go out to thrift.

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