Friday, October 15, 2021

Thrifting Fun

It took me a long time to find the fun in thrifting.

For a good many years, I didn't get it. I mean, search through heaping piles of other people's cast-off clutter in the vague hope of finding something cool, all the while breathing in the fumes of...what even is that thrift store stench? Do I even want to know?

But once the internet was born and I perfected the art of scrolling past dozens of pics of other people's ridiculously cool thrifting finds, I began to wonder if I was perhaps missing out, and asked myself whether I could possible learn not only to survive but dare I say enjoy the deep and dirty dive. 

The answer? Armed with enough hand sanitizer, and plenty of bleach at home, yes. 

Thrifting - like any sport that involves hunting an elusive prey - is fun. 

Here's what I found on my most recent haul:

A wacky thing that I've learned about this world is that for every person like me, who adores candles and pretty much lights up anything that will burn, there are apparently plenty more who don't. The delightful result of this tragic imbalance is that many an unused candle makes its eventual way to the thrift store, where I happily scoop them up for far less than retail value. 

Also I encounter some intriguing shapes and styles - like these bamboo-encased specimens - that would not otherwise tempt me. But at the thrift store, I'm always ready to embrace the unexpected, if not the totally weird, so I snap these fortress-inspired babies up without a second though.

Let me just say this. The last thing in the world that I actually need to buy at a thrift store or anywhere else on the planet is art. I have art coming out of my ears. My home is fully saturated, my walls can hold no more, yet I still have stashes of art that would embarrass the most ardent pack rat. 

But when I come across an interesting handmade piece in the thrift store, I am powerless to resist. Amateurish art skills? Scrapes and gouges in the frame? Aged and stained mat board? No matter. I love the charming imperfections. And if there's any trace of doubt in my heart, when I flip the piece over and look at the back, I'm sold. Because what I find there are the true hallmarks of a good vintage framed piece: a brown paper cover and old school picture wire. 

It's official - you're coming home with me.

As I've already demonstrated, I'll buy weird, random, semi-outlandish candles from a thrift store. But you know what else I'll buy? Stylish, on-trend, normal-esque candles sourced from an actually cool store. You know, the kind that do NOT necessarily look like they came down to earth from an alien world and collected dust in someone's basement for a few decades before wandering off to the thrift store. 

This soy candle from Target features a sleek amber glass container, a clean eucalyptus and palm scent, and some nifty wooden wicks which have clearly been lit before, but only briefly. She prices out at one-tenth of her original retail value. Score.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, during an era we used to call 'the eighties,' I bought myself a nifty little rattan suitcase. I thought he was really cute. 

I used him for a few years and then, as style trends changed, turned up my young-adult nose at this offensive outlier, and passed him along to my mom. Fast forward many years to the day we crossed paths again, that old rattan suitcase and I, and in that moment I realized that A) trends are stupid and B) this suitcase was still cute. So I brought him home where he lives with me to this very day.

Today at the thrift store, when I spy upon the shelf this darling Cub Scout version of my original suitcase, I suddenly cannot imagine anything as cute as the two of them together. A quick inspection reveals small breaking bits of brittle rattan and a suspicious stain inside, but do you think that slows me down one bit?


An afternoon soak in a bucket full of vinegar water followed by a quick scrub cures the stain and I'm ignoring the low level damage. Which is easy, because my two rattan suitcases are sitting together now, little stacked on top of big, and apparently love each other as much as I adore them myself. 

* * * * *

Okay, that's enough. 

There's a fine art of knowing when 

to stop thrifting, 
to recognize the difference between a true find and a desperate grab, 
to get out of the store while I'm still having fun.

And so it is that I find myself behind the wheel of my Honda CRV, goodies stashed in the back, with my heart still pounding in my ears and my adrenaline continuing to surge.

I want to keep the rush alive.

But I sense that my discernment meter is about to go offline, and I dare not step back into another thrift store.

So I do the next best thing.

I head over to our storage unit, where we have stashed a carefully curated collection of family hand-me-downs and well-loved pieces that are awaiting a chance to come back in circulation. And just for the fun of it, I sort through another 15 or 20 framed art pieces and choose a couple gems to take home with me.

As a fifth grade teacher, my mom was all about the surprise projects and significant events that make a school year special, and for at least a decade she helped organize a Visiting Author week, where the imaginative folks behind high quality children's literature would come round and share their passions with the kids. 

From their largesse, my mom amassed a really cool collection of autographed books, and this - a framed drawing of quirky crocodiles made on the spot for her by illustrator Jose Arego - was her particular favorite. 

I think it might be the perfect addition to a collection of art that my first-born is hanging at her place, so I put it in my go pile.

Another piece from my mom's art collection (she was as obsessed with art as I am), this one features a little black kitten in the snowy woods and that has earned it a soft spot in my heart.

But as I riffled through the pile of frames, another detail jumped out at me. 

The golden crescent moon.

And in case you missed the memo, I am currently obsessed with the moon. (Would you like to hear all about the Apollo flights in excruciating detail because I would LOVE to tell you!) And so, even though I have no idea what I'll do with this piece, instinct tells me to bring it home. And so I do. 

* * * * *

Back home, I tidy my prizes, showing them off to my family, humming with the happiness that comes from a successful hunt. 

And while I'll be the first to admit that I'll never say no to West Elm, Crate & Barrel, and all the other upscale retailers that catch my eye, I'm always down for some thrifting fun. 

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