Thrift scores

Sometimes, I go to the thrift store, and there’s nothing there that’s on my list, and nothing that’s all that interesting to me.  In those cases, I usually don’t walk out with anything anymore, since I’m trying to simplify things around here.

But then sometimes, I stop by, and when I walk in and it’s like the stars have aligned and the heavens have opened and the most awesome stuff is right there and waiting (sadly, no auras or halos of light though).  And then, after a good browse, I walk out with one of these, because I was looking for a new knife:

And one of these for kombucha:

And one of these for tomatoes, which I have been wanting for quite awhile now:

Grand total?  $15.

All in all, it’s been a pretty good month for thrift things (more on that in my Independence Days update).  Once September and the start of school roll around my time’s going to be a good deal more limited, so I’m doing a bit of second-hand shopping now to pick up the things that I need and want.  I’ve wanted a few things to build up my work wardrobe, and managed to get some nice jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, and boots for only a few dollars each.  I’ve added a few bits and pieces to the kitchen as well, and found a few books that I’ve had my eye out for. It’s taken a bit of time, and a bit of money of course, but overall I’m pleased with my purchases, and looking forward to making room and clearing out the non-essentials to make way for these useful things.

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Back-to-school thrifting

Today is a holiday in Canada, but the local thrift store was having a sale – 50 percent off on all items with certain colour tags.  It’s fairly rare that I head to the thrift stores now, but I headed out with my eye on picking up some new clothing for school and replacing some of the meh stuff I have kicking around.  I love thrift stores, and will sing their praises to pretty much anyone who will listen.  I do have some issues with the culture of consumption that allows thrift stores to flourish, but so long as they do, I’ll keep buying used.  For me, it feels much more frugal and environmentally responsible than any other shopping option.

That said, regular thrift store visits have gotten me into a bit of trouble.  These routine trips have enabled me to fill the apartment, which has necessitated this weekend’s purge.  Much of what I own was bought for pennies on the dollar – it would have cost a fortune to buy new, and a lot of the older stuff is better quality and more durable than newer goods.

One of my biggest problem areas (and one I’ll be tackling today) is clothing.  For a long while, my tendency was to buy what was cheap, so long as it fit okay-ish.  This was a bad idea.  It’s really, really easy to justify clothes that don’t fit so well when they’re a few dollars (or less).   This meant that I wound up with a bunch stuff that, while not unwearable, doesn’t fit or look all that great.  (In the interest of full disclosure, the height of “oops” for me is probably a pair of pink pants – the fact that they were only a dollar still doesn’t make this purchase anywhere close to okay.)

I’m trying to overcome this mindset and buy only what fits really well.  I haven’t bought any clothing at all this summer beyond a sweatshirt that I wear a lot.  But now, I’m on a bit of a mission now to replace some of the things that I’ve bought that I don’t really wear and to pick up a few new things for the start of the school year that are teaching-appropriate.  For what it’s worth, I’m aiming for at least a one to two ratio – for every one thing that comes in, at least two have to be donated.  While this does feel a bit wasteful, it seems even more wasteful to me to leave a bunch of stuff sitting in my closets and drawers that just isn’t being worn because I didn’t shop like a reasonable person.

Heading to the store, I knew what I wanted – my usual teaching style is a t-shirt layered with a sweater – preferably a long-ish cardigan – with a nice pair of jeans, so I focused on those things.  I tried everything on, and considered it carefully.  If I loved it, I could buy it.  If I didn’t – for any reason – it had to stay.  I tried on eight pairs of pants and came home with none.  I tried on 16 different tops, and came home with five – three t-shirts and two cardigans – all of which I love. They were also all half off, so all five items cost me $18.50.

I also seem to have discovered a little shopping tip (that is likely remarkably boring for everyone else).  I can’t usually find t-shirts that fit properly.  I have a long torso, and an average t-shirt tends to bare my stomach, which is really not the look I go for when I teach.  It turns out that the answer might just be maternity t-shirts.  The three t-shirts I bought today came from the maternity section – they’re cut long to accommodate a baby bump, and they seem to stay in place and hold their shape better.

But the really good part of today’s trip was the footwear.  I wasn’t looking that hard, but there, in with the men’s section, was a pair of what seem to be unworn L.L. Bean winter boots.  They weren’t on sale, but I was still happy to pay $17 for a pair of boots that I’d had my eye on for awhile and that should help keep my feet warm this winter.

Beyond that?  Well, I did indulge a little bit.  I bought a sturdy canvas tote bag – I have a few, but use them all the time – for $3.50.  And, for my whimsical bit of silly goofiness for the day, I found a ceramic cup that’s a reproduction of those paper cups that are ubiquitous in diners.  I have no idea why, but I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and it was lovey to satisfy the urge for $0.45.

Although I haven’t really bought clothes in well over a year now, it was nice to go out and consciously and carefully pick up a few things that I needed.  Everything is in good shape and reasonable quality, and it will work well with what I already have.  Plus, I’m looking forward to getting rid of some more things and freeing up additional space for more things that work with my needs and are what I actually want, rather than just what’s cheap.

Stuff and things

This month, I’m getting rid of stuff.  And things.  Well, that’s the plan, anyway.  I suppose we’ll have to see how things go.  Technically, this was supposed to be an “I’ll do it over the whole of the summer” thing, but…well, that didn’t happen, largely due to a whole bunch of work projects.  But now, it’s time to get down to it and at least make a good start before the new semester starts and I’m spending much of my time dealing with teaching-related thing.

I know – and have known for awhile – that I have too much stuff in this small-ish apartment.  If I want any semblance of functionality, organization, and tidiness, I’m going to have to clear some stuff out.  It’s difficult to put things away (and I’m a tad lazy about tidying up), which means that there’s usually some kind of mess somewhere.  Anytime I want to do a bigger project – like canning or starting seeds, I have to move or clean up lot of stuff up first, which is time consuming and takes some of the fun out of the whole process.  Heck, sometimes I have to do that just to sit on the couch and read.

Part of the problem is that I’ve had this understanding of the world for awhile now that includes scary concepts like climate change, peak oil, and economic collapse.  I try not to dwell on them too much, but I’m aware and making moves to help soften what I usually refer to as an uncertain future.

Unfortunately, this means keeping a lot of things.  Useful things.  Practical things.  Backups.  Things that may not be so easy to find or to replace if things get bad.  I have extra cold-weather clothing and sturdy shoes.  Reference books and food.  Canning jars, cast iron pots and pans, and various fermentation and storage containers.  Yarn for socks and fabric for clothing.  Board games and books for entertainment.  Candles and lanterns.  Bikes, a bike trailer, and a variety tools.  And the list goes on…you get the idea.  Right now, this is all crammed into about 700 square feet of living space.  The bike trailer alone takes up a third of the front hall closet.

This also means that I’m rather reluctant to get rid of things that might be useful (and by reluctant, you can safely assume that I spend a lot of time clutching things and cooing “my precious” when I go through this process).  When I work on getting things, what I usually have in my head is Chile’s somewhat humorous view of the future for those who got rid of too much stuff (in light of her Cut the Crap challenge).  Given this understanding of what the world could be (not that it will, but certainly that it could), it’s pretty easy to assume that anything and everything could be put to use in some way, shape, or form, which makes it more of a challenge to put into the donation box.

And so, the challenge right now is to get rid of the things that aren’t necessary, or that I have enough back-ups for.  I really do need the space this will free up so that I have more room to work on important tasks, like food preservation, cooking, sewing, and exercise. Having a bit more space and a tidier apartment would certainly be helpful.  At the same time, I also want to clear some room for some of my wish-list items that I just don’t currently have space for, and that I think are important to have – things like a pressure canner, grain mill, water filter, and really good quality gardening tools.

Today, I start small, and deal with the overstuffed containers and drawers of kitchen utensils.  I’m reasonably sure that there are at least three sets of measuring cups and two sets of measuring spoons lurking in there somewhere (no, I don’t really know why, other than I make far too many trips to the thrift store), plus goodness knows what else.  After that, I’ll tackle one shelf of the overstuffed “linen” closet (which actually contains very few linens, but quite a lot of a whole lot of other stuff).  Ideally, I’d like to turn that into the main space for storage (food, tools, yarn, fabric, and so on), so the more I can get out of there, the better.  These aren’t huge steps, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed, so a bit of really focused decluttering is the way to go, at least to start with.  Who knows, maybe by this time tomorrow I’ll have dumped half my stuff, leaving only the practical, necessary, and beautiful.  It’s not likely, but a girl can dream…