The Thrill of Thrifting

You probably know by now that I have a soft spot for anything thrifted. I think thrifting appeals to me for a number of reasons: I love making a purchase with a low or neutral environmental impact, I am a sucker for anything with a history or story attached to it, and I adore the aesthetics of decades past. I can’t help myself.

I’ve posted before, though, about having to be careful to wrangle my greedy inner accumulator. It’s an ongoing struggle.

Something I haven’t yet mentioned, however, is how the decision to purchase – or not purchase, as the case may be – can vary between an obvious NO to an epic inner struggle of should I/shouldn’t I/maybe I will/but I can’t/but I want to/but I don’t need it/but it’s so pretty/but what would I even do with it….and so on and so on.

I mentally categorize items before they make it into my basket (if they’re even worth considering). I’m a fan of the following categories:

  • Collections – these are items I actually collect and use, including vintage Pyrex, depression glass, kitchen items, etc.
  • Too Cool to Ignore –ย  something unique and/or valuable that I wouldn’t come across often.
  • WTF – kind of self explanatory.
  • Is this a Joke? – these are the pieces that are way overpriced or shouldn’t be sold at all. I’ll often see items with a dollar store price tag that’s LOWER than the thrift store price tag. How does that even happen? This category also includes things that are threadbare, ripped, or broken beyond repair.

I’m going to just share a glimpse of my inner monologue while thrifting in the hopes that it will help others who are prone to accumulating or fall easily for items that are pretty but pricey or that aren’t really needed at home.

Collections: I have a weakness for depression glass but restrict myself for only picking up pieces in the pink variety. This can cause turmoil when I spot gorgeous collections like this yellow set of ice cream bowls I saw recently.

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Too Cool to Ignore: Case in point, this super cool antique in-table sewing machine.

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For less than $15, it would make someone a super cool conversation piece. The struggle was real with this one. Particularly because I found a similar piece for triple the price in a different shop just a few days later.

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And, of course, we have the WTF category. Is this the creepiest thing you’ve ever seen? The answer is yes. What would you even keep in there? Human hair? Doll heads? Dead insects? So creepy.

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A closely-related branch of the WTF category is the Is this a Joke? category. My favourite recent addition to this category was some garbage I found at Value Village.

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Oh, excuse me. It’s not garbage if it’s recyclable. But yeah, it’s an empty frappuccino bottle selling for the price it would cost to purchase full from Starbucks. Seeing these items make me check over my shoulder for a hidden camera. Maybe the employee in charge of pricing was just playing roulette with the price tags. Who knows?

And sometimes I’ll pick something up and carry it around with me for a while before eventually forcing myself to rationalize putting it back or making the purchase. Other times though, I’ll make amazing finds that actually make it home with me.

A recent favourite find was this vintage Italian Ladi scale. It was amazing and I found it for a steal of a price. Then, because for me the thrill is in the discovery, I traded it with a friend for a couple of beers. It was a real thrifting win-win!

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How to Thrift: Assess, Research, Compare

One of my favourite hobbies is thrifting. I love spotting pieces that have a great history and have fun thinking about the time periods to which they belonged (maybe it’s my inner historian).

Unfortunately, I have a few barriers to fully embracing this hobby – and I’m sure they’re the same barriers for all of us: First, who can afford to spend the large amounts of money that so many beautiful antiques are worth? I can’t! Second, I certainly don’t have the space (nor the desire, really) to just accumulate items for the hell of it.

Thus, when I spot something that really catches my eye, I make sure to spend some research time for accurate assessing. I’ll make an estimate on the value of the piece, think about if it’s popular at the moment, and see what the market is like for similar items.

Research really is key for people who are interested in thrifting and antiquing. Knowing about authenticity and brand is a bonus but sometimes it’s equally important to just know if the aesthetics of a piece are appealing or stylish.

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These Irish coffee/hot toddy glasses are so great. They’d look amazing on any mid-century styled bar cart. The glasses are removable and the gold handles have nice, thick cork bottoms. Value Village priced them at only $2.99, which, according to my Googling, is a steal.

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And speaking of mid-century modern, how fabulous is this coffee table?

photo 2While I can’t say exactly if it was made in the 50s or 60s era (I’m still learning, after all!), it most definitely fits the aesthetic. It’s solid wood with tapered legs and brass feet. A lucky buyer could have picked this little guy up from the store for $14.99. Comparables? $450 and $495! WHAT?

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Sometimes though, a piece might have a great vintage look and might fit the criteria that you’re looking for, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s valuable.

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This green bowl was in perfect condition and was reasonably priced. Seeing the maker and location clearly marked on the bottom of the bowl is helpful for collectors who want to verify authenticity and value.Screen shot 2015-01-19 at 10.32.15 AM

Beyond the bonus of the identifiable features though, the bowl itself doesn’t hold much collector appeal. Identical bowls online were only listed for slightly more.

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That being said, it’s important to check a number of vendors when comparing prices. Between private vendors, Etsy, Ebay, etc., the prices can vary considerably.

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Someone needs to tell this guy they’re pricing too high!

Finally, if you’re buying for yourself, remember to focus on the most important question of all: Do YOU like it? Then, all those other factors don’t matter quite as much.

Happy thrifting!


I Cleaned Out my Closet with ThredUP: An Honest Review

You already know I’m a big fan of vintage and thrift shopping. 90% of my wardrobe is second hand clothing, with the exception of a few special pieces. Still, since leaving my office job when I moved to the US, I realized I no longer had a need for the formal and professional clothing that I used to need for running workshops and hosting meetings.

Usually I would just sack up my clothes and donate them — which I still did with a majority of the spoils of my spring cleaning — but I was also intrigued with the idea of making back a bit of cash on some of my nice and rarely-worn pieces. So, Iย  requested a free clean-out kit from ThredUP and got to work.ย Read More »