for the love of thrift

basket full
recent thrift finds

There's been a lot of chit-chat going on lately about thrifting, so today I thought I'd share a few of my thrifting tips. Perhaps you'll find them useful, or at least familiar. If I had to guess, I'd say that 90% of our clothing and housewares are second-hand items. I love to thrift! What I love the most about going thrifting is the possibility of a really good bargain. It's like cheating but in the best way. When something fantastic appears (like these clogs), it makes all the effort of buying second-hand worthwhile.

Tip #1. Limit the field. I have two thrift stores (well, maybe three) that I love the most. They are close to me, I know their hours, and I know their strengths. My very favorite store sorts clothing by size AND color. Yes. My second favorite always has good, cheap linens and a different sale each day of the week.

Tip #2. Check in often. Every time I drive by my favorite thrift store, I stop in for a couple minutes. I cruise quickly through my key areas (shoes, boys clothes, housewares, linens) and I usually leave empty handed. I only hunt for clothes for Brian and myself when I'm child free and have a little time. N gets TONS of hand-me-downs, the lucky girl. I never shop for her.

Tip #3. Know what you're looking for. I keep a list- sometimes in my head and sometimes on paper- of things I'm looking for. Rachel recently did this with photos from her J. Crew catalog. Smart cookie. I also keep a little piece of paper in my wallet with the measurements of our tables in case I run across a good tablecloth. Here's what's on my list now: a little basket for the top of the basement stairs to catch dirty tea towels and stinky socks (found one this morning- that's it just above), a long but slim neutral sweater to wear belted (found it today- Mark Shale, cashmere blend- woo hoo!), a pair of nice khaki chinos (like these navy ones), classic penny loafers for myself, a coat for J (to replace the thrifted North Face coat he lost- boo hoo.), a v-neck sweater for Bri, a cute little vintage clutch purse (now that I've seen Rachel's.) I also keep a running mental list of things for which I'm always watching: jeans and pants for J, white layering t-shirts, vintage tablecloths and napkins (my one real weakness), shoes for Brian, books.

Tip #4. Be picky. This is a hard one. Look for good name brands and designers that you like. I know that Gap and Banana Republic pants usually fit me well, so I keep an eye out for those. But if it's a great brand but has seen better days- pass. it. by. Try on clothes! Be critical of the fit. Try on shoes. (Some people are scared of shoes, but I'm not. If they are in good shape with little wear, I'll get them. I wash them well with soapy water and spray the inside with Lysol.) Look for cracks and chips in dishes. Ask to plug things in to see if they work.

Tip #5. Don't be too picky. Keeping all the parts of the last tip in mind, know your skills. Small rips in seams can be repaired. Buttons can be updated. Skirts can be shortened. Dresses can be altered into smock tops. Oxyclean is a miracle worker. I've gotten many a stain out of clothes and linens. Wool sweaters (even ones that say dry clean only) can be hand washed and laid flat to dry. Leather loves saddle soap and mink oil.

Tip #6. Be creative about sources. Thrift stores aren't the only way to buy second hand. Craigslist rocks. So does the free section of the classifieds. Garage sales are cool, but occasionally people have a sentimental attachment to stuff and inflate prices. Church sales are awesome in the housewares department. Have a clothes swap with friends. Don't be ashamed of hand-me-downs. Large item pickup days and dumpster diving is cool- not embarrassing.

Tip #7. Don't go overboard. Personally, I have found a direct correlation between clutter and overabundance of crap and feeling frazzled and depressed. No matter what it is, ask yourself again and again, "Do I really need this?"

Happy thrifting! (and weekending too.)