Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to Not Blow it at the Thrift Store

I challenged myself to almost exclusively furnish and equip my new apartment with thrifted items. I once attached a great deal of sentiment to my belongings (more on that some day), but my lifestyle is very different now; I move often and am looking forward to extensive travel (as in not have stuff stored in Minneapolis travel) in the future. This makes me a more extreme example of someone striving to keep things simple in the "belongings" category. However, the trend towards simplification marches on. At first glance, going to a giant warehouse filled with cheap crap other people no longer wanted might seem counter-productive to simplifying. But simplicity and cheap, previously-owned items can co-exist if a trip to the thrift-store is properly executed.

My last thrifting experience was a marathon. It was Martin Luther King Jr. day, which mean 50 percent off at all thrift stores! A few highlights of my day visiting FIVE THRIFT STORES UGGGGH: 
  • $7 pass-for-brand-new toaster over
  • $3 crock pot
  • $5 speakers
  • $4.50 actual-brand-new down pillow
Also, a googly-eyed boy told me I looked very pretty (which was nice of him), that he liked my hair—it looked pretty—(which was also very nice of him), and that he liked my nails—they looked pretty (which was a nonsensical garbled lie since my nails look homeless and not in the hipster or homeless? I can't tell sort of way).

Every item I purchased was done so with discrimination and is already part of my new life routine in my new apartment. So...

Here are a few tips on How to Not Blow it at the Thrift Store:

1. Shop hand's-free

This is not seductively-designed Target, which is a vortex that keeps you circulating from desirable item to desirable item so you can never escape for less than $100 and you're like, how is it dark already? It was only noon when I got here...

This is a different type of vortex: the aisles are narrow. Make you think murder-y thoughts narrow. Stand six inches from a woman who's blocking the entire aisle with her cart while the panicked voice in your head screams, "oh as if she can't hear me breathing on her neck why is she trying to destroy me!?narrow.

Solution: no purse and possibly, dare I say... no coat or jacket. Just:
  1. your means of payment
  2. your car keys
  3. and maybe your phone (if you have kids or something)
Also, instead of pushing my cart I will leave it at the end of the aisle (desirable finds discretely hidden under less desirable) so I can sleekly weave through the masses, unencumbered, as my eyes hungrily peruse the merchandise.

Hands-free will change your life.

2. Dress like a paper doll

Thrift store dressing rooms, as well as their rules, were designed by sadists. Hey! Let's have a giant warehouse as big as Sears and have ONE DRESSING ROOM FOR EVERYONE! Men, women and children alike! Then let us decree that only three items shall pass!

I know what you're wondering and, yes, it is possible to plot someone's death in the time it takes them to try on three items.

If you are shopping for clothes, it will be tempting to just hope for the best and bring it home to try it on. This is what they want; don't let them win! They want you to skip this important clothes-purchasing step because then you just end up re-donating the item and they make twice the profit. Sure, all proceeds go to MS-research or whatever, but that's not the point.

Make certain the item will be of use to you. And to do this, you just might have to try it on. Since dressing rooms are often ruled out, you're just going to have to dress like a paper doll. Ok, maybe the photo is a little extreme, especially if you're just trying on coats, but here are a few suggestions:
  • the fit of a top can be fairly accurately demonstrated over a a fitted t-shirt or tank
  • I may have issues with people wearing leggings as "big girl pants" but, let's face it--they have their place here
  • in warm weather, a sundress is your best friend
  • in cold weather, layers that can be discretely peeled away are your best friend
Just find a mirror in a corner and do your thing. There is no dignity in a thrift store. Nor is there shame. You will never see these people ever again. 

3. A shockingly low price-tag shall not blind your discriminating eye

"Stuff" takes up room and that wastes time, and time is money. So is that $3 shirt really only $3? Be objective. Ask yourself:
  • did this really catch my eye or did I just see the price tag? 
  • would this catch my eye at Target, knowing full-well it was full-price?  
  • would this catch my eye in a friend's closet?
And if you have six black tank tops and stumble across another that is 99 cents, don't you dare buy it.

These are just a few tips that have helped me inexpensively equip myself without the burden of accumulating crap that constipates my life. 

What are some other great thrifting tips and what great finds have you come across lately?


Your comments are why I get out of bed in the morning. Just kidding. But I do like them.