Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Frugalista has a sister. Environista!

For months I’ve been brainstorming a sister for frugalista. I’m a proud frugalista. But, it’s not just frugality that drives my thrift store pulse. As mentioned before, Shopping Golightly is also Shopping Go Green.

I’ve been hard pressed to find a word that describes a person who “shops with the intention of reducing their personal carbon footprint.” I’ve thought and thought and thought. I’ve banged my head against my desk. I went on a week-long vision quest in Death Valley without water, food, clothes and sunscreen. (Well, okay, I did that my dreams.) I even got punchy and fell into Rob Schneider’s SNL Copy Guy persona, “The Greenster, the Eco-ater, the Green Meister savin’ the planet, protectin’ dolphins. Greenorama, Green!”

I tried eco-thrifter on Wikipedia and the wiki police eventually gave that humble attempt the boot. Admittedly, I didn’t think it all that great but had to try something.

Then it hit me, environista! It rolls off the tongue just like frugalista! I quickly searched the Internet and found an environista on the web. But, you know what? We need more environistas! We need a whole lot of environistas!

I kindly ask you to comment to this post and pledge that you too are not only a frugalista but a smart and beautiful, handsome environista too! Okay?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

You’ve gotta get yourself a pair of Snake Eyes!

This Snake Eyes technique is, well, its wow! No! Beyond wow! I just had an incredible day.

I’m not ashamed of Snakes Eyes. When my daughters are present, I select one of my three pairs of new Dana Buchman sunglasses that I picked up at Goodwill for $1.99 each so that I don’t embarrass my children.

I’ve dreamed of finding Limoges porcelain. I’ve found Wedgwood many times, but Limoges is the crème de la crème. I finally found my first piece of vintage L. Bernardaud & Co. Limoges at the Broadway Goodwill in Engelwood! Say it like the French, lee-mawzh. This white and gold (probably 22 karat) covered dish was $4.99. I’ve yet to find a match for it on the Internet but, be assured, I will. (I say that with Dwight Schrute certainty.)

Why was I after Limoges porcelain? During World War II, my grandfather was a very young soldier in 12th Armored Division better known as the Hellcats. During this time, many families in Lunéville, France offered hospitality to these soldiers awaiting orders to march into Germany. Kathryn was the matriarch of the family my grandfather stayed with and they grew to be dear friends. He has since been back twice with my grandmother to reconnect. Someday, I plan to take my family to meet Kathryn’s. I know they are still living in the same house, the family has lived there for many generations than I have gray hairs. This is a journey I must take. It’s in my blood. I will bring this Limoges covered dish as a gift and bring this beautiful piece back to where it truly belongs. What else would I show up with? Corelle?

I need a moment to dab the tears with my vintage hankie. Okay, composure.

I went to the ARC on Federal and Hooker. (Yes, there’s a street in Denver named Hooker.) On went the Snake Eyes. The treasures flew off the racks and into my cart! I didn’t even need to touch them! Well, maybe I touched a few but I walked away with another like new, if not new sweater from Anthropologie for $3.99; a cashmere sweater from Sax for $4.99; and an Echo purse with price tag of $88 still dangling for $4.99. And I purchased a very rare book published in 1917, “A Treasury of War Poetry.” It was $3.99. (I know a certain bibliophile.)

While at this ARC, I found today’s tour de thrift, a ceramic decanter that looks a lot like Droopy Dog with a bandage tied round his chin, the stopper being the knot of the bandage. This lovely piece, in pristine condition, sits a top a ceramic music box and spins round to "How Dry I Am." This makes Dogs Playing Poker look like a sweet sixteen party with pink poodles sipping Shirley Temples with paper umbrellas. I’m offering this up to Bill Geist of CBS Sunday Morning in hopes he’ll come thrift with me, Snake Eyes style. I’m shameless.

I really am shameless. I ended the day playing salon for reals with my daughters, Poe and Pie, and a box of Revlon Frost & Glow. That’s right. I put on the ugly plastic cap and my daughters took turns pulling strands of hair through the plastic with the crochet needle thingy. Pie, my youngest was truly dedicated and adept to the task. She loves stuff like that. She even knits, which reminds me that I picked up a bag of at least 20 pairs of knitting needles (metal and wooden) at the Goodwill on Broadway and Archer. Anyway, my daughters actually did a nice job. But, I do miss the salon and I don’t think Snake Eyes is going to work there. But, having my daughters tend to my hair was a bonding experience; one I know they will laugh about when I’m too old to know what they’re laughing about and then I’ll do something like pee on their couch, a sort of unknowing poetic justice.

To see Snake Eye's watch this segment "Little Big Guy" from Little Big Man. Now get on over to a mirror and start practicing!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dispelling Thrift Store Myths

I can’t count the times I’ve heard, “Thrift stores only want poor people shopping their stores. When you’re not poor and shop thrift, you’re robbing poor people of items they need.” Those words never set right with me and sound so utterly snobbish.

Though charitable thrift stores serve many needs, it seems to me their primary purpose is to make money to fund valuable programs that support the organization's mission. How about this? The more people that donate and shop at thrift stores, the healthier the profits! And can shopping be any more poetic? Profits from the sale of re-purposed products re-purposing lives? I love that!

I touched base with Goodwill Denver and follows is their response:

“Goodwill welcomes all shoppers to its 18 stores across the metro Denver area,” said Tim Welker, Goodwill Industries of Denver president and CEO. “We see everyone from the thrifty, penny-wise shopper to the urban hipster looking for unique finds to the green-conscious individual trying to reuse and repurpose goods to keep them out of the landfill. Plus, when you shop and donate to Goodwill Industries of Denver you are changing lives through education and employment options for at-risk youth, and disabled and disadvantaged adults in our community.”

Amen! So, there it is, Goodwill Denver wants your business, no matter what your IRS classification may be. I’ll be checking in with other Denver charitable thrifts for their comments too. I doubt they’ll be any different.

Now in a former life, I worked as a marketer/event planner for The Lincoln Park Zoo in downtown Chicago. This Zoo is one of the last free zoos in the country. Chicago’s elite, the McCormick’s, Pritzker’s, Regenstein’s, Brach’s and Kovler’s visited that zoo as did Chicago’s homeless. Not certain if they still do, but in the winter, the homeless often hung out in the Great Ape house to watch over Dr. Lester Fisher’s famous Western Lowland Gorilla troops to take a break from the brutal wind and Lake Michigan’s near chronic lake-effect snow. I’d often stop by during lunch to check in with these experienced experts on gorilla behavior. They’d tell me things like, “Gino’s mad today because Brooke tried to assert dominance and they got in big fight and almost hurt the baby. Jo-Ray-K’s up high in the ropes with that little baby and has yet to come back down with it. She’s such a good mother.” I don’t think those guys missed a thing that went on with those gorillas and I often wished we had the budget to pay them for their dedicated observations.

So what does the Lincoln Park Zoo have in common with the thrift store? They are the great levelers of society because their doors are open to all. Go out in the parking lots and you’ll see pristine BMW’s parked next to ancient Opals being held together with spit, toothpaste, and duct tape.

America meets on common ground in the thrift store and as long as you’re willing to pay for your purchase, you’re welcome there. Hey, some stores even have coffee brewing for the shoppers!

So what are you waiting for? Get up and start your poetic shopping! Be assured, you are welcome in the thrift store.

Please write me with any questionable things you hear about thrift stores and I’ll check into it.

If you know of someone who buys into this myth, I urge you to email them this post.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Children Want Spending Power Too!

We have an hour before we run over to the neighborhood thrift, the Goodwill at Archer and Broadway in Denver, for the Saturday 50% off day. The whole family goes.

Would you believe me if I told you my children love thrift stores? Believe me if I told you their friends love it too?

Would you believe me if I told you my Pie loves receiving hand-me-downs from her sister Poe? Pie loves anything from Poe because she loves her, looks up to her, and thinks she’s the coolest. Poe is truly an idol in Pie’s crowd. Many of these girls have asked their parents for a Poe, like she’s a commodity. (Note: I’m tired of writing oldest daughter and youngest daughter so from now on I refer to them as Poe and Pie.)

Would you believe me that these notions of children wanting only new things is a retail-based strategy with the sole intent to drive sales to meet predicted quarterly gains on the stock market?

They did a damn good job of pulling the wool over America’s eyes in having us think if “it’s not new its EWW!” Or how about this one, “if it’s not new, it’s unfair!” Okay, sure if it’s a ratty t-shirt, who wants it? But if it’s a beautiful dress coat, who doesn’t? Wait, scratch that comment on the ratty t-shirt because there are many children in third world countries who would want that t-shirt.

My girls love thrift because they can afford it and they know it is good for the planet. When we were young (back in the old days when we walked five miles to school barefoot in the snow, uphill both ways) our 50-cent allowance had spending power. It really did. How sad it is that today a $5 allowance buys squat or junk that falls apart the day of purchase. Do you think the store really cares that the thing fell apart after two hours of play?

Take the children thrifting and they can buy sweaters, CD’s, purses, books, jeans, jewelry, scarves, shoes, dresses…I think you get the point. And they do this with their own money; Mommy doesn’t have to swoop in and save the day with a few extra dollars. The children are empowered. They don’t need help and often they don’t want it. Check out the slide show of some items children have purchased with their own money, third slide show down on the left, "What Kids Buy."

Children want their very own purchasing power. Is that too much to want? Hey, us adults want that too. Wouldn’t it be a bummer if there were loan officers in the corners of stores ready to receive applications from those who need more money to make a purchase? Oh yeah, we kind of have that already; it’s called maxing out the credit card and we usually don’t max out just one. “Oh, that card didn’t work? Well, let’s try this one.” If the second doesn't work, then fill out an in-store application for a store credit card and get 10% off your purchase. It amazes me how creditors are willing to take money we don't have. Is this only in America? I know their are readers in other countries out there. Can you comment?

Many years ago when Poe was four, she received $5 from a grandmother and was so thrilled about the prospect of having her own money to spend. Stupid me took her to Target. This was before I got smart and started thrifting. Poe’s shoulders slumped when she saw the prices. Seeing your child's shoulders slump is heartbreaking so my shoulders slumped too and my heart sank. It was a giant let down. It was also before Target had the dollar section but, a lot of that stuff is…I’ll let you fill in the adjective. I might say, “unnecessary.” Does one buy this stuff out of honest necessity or is it bought because it costs a buck and so few things do today?

That day at Target, I ended up supplementing Poe’s $5 but it sucked all the joy out of making her own purchase. It really did.

Let’s teach our children how to spend as you go. Give them a healthy sense of purchasing power. If they always have to borrow from mom and dad then they’ll grow up borrowing.

If grandparents must give them obscene amounts of money to buy a birthday gift, children will grow up spending obscene amounts of money.

My crystal ball tells me that today’s children are going to hit the job market with heavy debt from college, especially since 529’s have tanked. Who knows how long that correction will take? Then factor in the years lost on earnings. So, do we want our children to tack on massive credit card debt to their negative economic self-worth fresh out of the gates into adulthood? I think not.

This is one of the hardest parts of parenting. Your children are always watching and learning lessons you don’t think you’re teaching. Remember that when you go shopping. And, you may be surprised to learn that they'd rather be thrifting.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Snake eyes!

Every thrift adventure has a lesson. Most times, I can speak to it like the characters or their continued kindness. But there are times when a loss for words is present. Perhaps those words are hanging out in uncharted territory, a region my mental cartographers have yet to survey. Let’s call it the wild west of the brain.

Last weekend, we watched Little Big Man, the Forrest Gump of the wild west. Unfamiliar with the movie? I recommend it. It hit the full spectrum of emotion and got me to thinking.

Dustin Hoffman’s character Jack Crabb has a wandering life and eventually meets up with his long lost sister. Sister Caroline? She's no sissy, a sharp shooter, a live-without-a-man kind of woman. She reckons it’s about time for Jack to learn to shoot and the secret is Snake Eyes, “to hit the target before even touching the gun.” Jack's not sold but does his best to please his sister. He squints, breathes funny and hits the target first shot. Zap! Jack Crabb is instantly transformed into a genuine gunslinger with a fancy black outfit and his own gunslinger name, “The Soda Pop Kid.”

Snake eyes bit me and grew an idea. I went to the thrift store and put on snake eyes, opened my thrift sense and invited it to flow.

I swaggered up to the long sweater racks with my spurs mentally clicking with each step. Boom! I pulled out a NEW Sundance wool and angora blend sweater, my size for $4.99! I’ve been wearing that sweater for days. I’m wearing it now. My youngest daughter even slept in it one night. And, how ironic for it to be Sundance, a western company! AND, today is the first day of the Sundance Film Festival!

Shocked by such success, I high-tailed it over to the dress rack, prepared to pull before raising a finger. Bam! Out came a vintage Jaeger wool dress in pristine condition made in Great Britain, my size for $4.99. Gorgeous dress. Classic but not conservative.

This was becoming pretty cool so I pretended to ride Old Paint over to the men’s suits on the far side of the store. Ba da bing! A gorgeous Jos. A. Bank suit for my husband, no alterations required and 50% off making it $4.50.

The last time, I didn't even need to think when I yanked out an REI jacket for my daughter for $2.99. It just landed in my hands.

I’m convinced, snake eyes opened up my thrift sense.

For the record, snake eyes ain’t gonna work in a department store. See, the target needs to be in one spot so all focus is honed. Scatter sweaters or dresses and concentration tosses up it’s arms and says, “I am so outta here!”

Perhaps that’s just a bit symbolic. Dump the contents of a life into one bucket and meet it dead on with snake eyes. You actually might actually pull out the right thing before you even touch the bucket.

All this western stuff was probably spawned by the fact that the 103rd annual National Western & Stock Show is on in Denver. Cowboys are running all over this city. Just yesterday, I heard one singing about an “Itty bitty girl born to an itty bitty world” while walking up Detroit. He was a bit bow-legged and really loud. I guess one has to be loud when wrestling up herd of cows. I cannot write about this event without mentioning that my youngest daughter won a slot through Mile Hi Girl Scouts to ride in the revered Mutton Bustin’ competition in the 101st rodeo in front of 14,000 folks. Now that takes some gumption when you’re five years old! Us parents, always bragging.

To see Snake Eye's watch this segment "Little Big Guy" from Little Big Man. Now get on over to a mirror and start practicing!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Breakfast at Anthropologie

The store Anthropologie is to Shopping Golightly as Tiffany’s is to Holly Golightly.

Like Truman Capote’s Holly, I cannot afford the vast majority of Anthropologie’s merchandise but it doesn’t stop me from wandering the Cherry Creek store in Denver to rid myself of –as Holly would say- “the mean reds” and suck in opulence. I was there the other day in search of my simple luxury, scented candles. I buy them on sale. My favorite truly smelled of fresh cut grass, which is great to burn in the winter when that smell is six months off in the waiting. I find a lot of comfort in the faint glow of a candle battling the darkness, a comfort much in need with today’s troubled times.

As I was making convoluted trek to the sale section at the back of the store, a sales associate asked that rhetorical retail question, “Are you finding everything okay?” My polite, programmed response was, “Yes, thank you.” This usually throws them off my trail. That sounds rude, but when I have a question, I’ll seek out an associate. Besides, they often interrupt my thoughts when they ask that rhetorical retail question.

At that very moment, a new voice shouted in my head with Seinfeld's Elaine Benes urgency, “No, I’m not okay. Your prices! Well! They’re hurting me!” And they were. Here I stood in this beautiful store wearing one of its brand sweaters purchased for $5 at Goodwill while all the sweaters around me were well over $200. One on sale was $148! That is not okay! I kept the voice to my head and moved on hoping that the rest of the store didn’t hear it because it was painfully loud.

Why was I doing this to myself? Hurting my head with these prices? Because a little luxury from time to time helps.

In the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak forwent the purchase of the sterling sliver telephone dialer and felt satisfaction in leaving their Cracker Jack ring to be engraved by the experts at Tiffany’s. I felt satisfaction in forgoing the purchase of a $148 sweater and leaving Anthropologie with an Aunt Sadie’s Red Delicious Apple Premium Scented Candle wrapped in beautiful tissue paper. I will reuse that tissue as wrapping paper.

However frugal or resourceful we may be, we all receive added joy from a simple luxury from time to time. I think this is healthy as long as we keep it “simple” and “from time to time.” Anything thing else might be obscene.It’s like the difference of savoring one specially picked Godiva truffle versus a 20lb box.

The gentleman at the Tiffany’s counter in the movie offered a genuine word regarding prizes in Cracker Jack boxes. He said, “Gives one the feeling of solidarity, continuity with the past, that sort of thing.” I think he could have just as much been referring to thrift stores. It’s not just the savings, it’s the solidarity.

What is your simple luxury?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On Mr. Cool Threads’ Top 5 of 2008:

A lot is made of how men and women are different, or alike – depending upon which self-help book you spot first while book browsing. Soon after taking care of business item number one (getting a cart) my better half and I shoot off for opposite poles of the thrift store. We favor different thrift outlets, but compatible in one very important way – we both find great stuff for me, regardless of whether she wrinkles her nose at the occasional item I dash towards her with, like a puppy with a newly found bone.

So, of my favorite 2008 scores, I didn’t find them all by my lonesome. And, it is hard limiting the tops to just 5. Some were gifts, but in the end it didn’t matter where they came from, Neiman Marcus or from Goodwill hunting. It matters where they are now.

Note: Click any image to enlarge.

Allow me to come clean. I haven’t been the snappiest dre
sser for all my adult life. Most of my professional environments were full-time business-casual (which in the case of Boulder, CO meant you worked at a business, and you dressed as casually as you liked, with dogs usually allowed in offices). I liked it, but I wasn’t exactly a chick magnet after hours, eyeing the fairer gender with my fellow buddies at the pub with scant recognition. I suppose I liked rejection. It makes acceptance that much sweeter. So, on to the first item surely enough related to - threads.

Item(s) #1:
Fine mens clothing – and I do mean fine. Chicks dig men who are nice dressers – they can very superficial creatures (just like
us men), but I’ll take them anyway. As my first best-find I offer this nice combo of a comfortable 100%-wool Christian Dior jacket, a classy white Alfani cotton fitted shirt, and a fine silk tie – all in like-new condition. The jacket goes with many all-wool slacks I’ve picked up while thrifting. The set shown would run over $300 - easy. It cost $13 for the ensemble, in the same neighborhood as it was to dry-clean. Sweet!

So to all you loser guys and easily impressionable ladies out there, thrifting has made me more likely to turn heads when I walk into a room. The potential to make a better first impression for only $13 is utterly priceless.

Item #2:
An anti
que glass-stoppered cruet, with level marks for vinegar and oil. At first sight, I wanted to invite friends over for a cool dinner just to show it off. I like good food, and I’m partial to red wine vinegar and olive oil – I chide my wife when she drags home store-bought dressing. This vessel reminds me of something from an old apothecary shop (think absinthe), and it dates from the turn of the (er, 19th) century. It’s worth just shy of $100, and was purchased for $3.99. Its value is however, also priceless.

Item #3:

My vintage Flexible Flyer sled. Some Flyers from this era are
overpriced at antique shops, and similarly range between operating and museum quality. This one cried out, longing for a sweet reunion. It’s not just that I was able to Flexi-sled with my daughters (and my wife I might add) on my back, it bears fond memories of scooting down hills and getting chin stitches. The sled was not expensive, and not too perfect to feel guilty using. It set back my wallet by about $6, slightly more than the price of those green army men little boys always melted in the sandbox. If you’re a male reader you’ll get this inside pre-adolescent pyro reference.

Item #4:

A 1961 Encyclopedia Yearbook (and no smart-aleck comment
s about my um, maturity). It’s one of those “what the world is like now” books. I received it as a birthday gift. It was also a “double gift”, as my wife couldn’t wait for me to open it, and for us to read it – together. It gave us laughs and conversation for hours. Within its pages were illuminating facts, like how “the current scourge of beatniks have made it their mission to destroy the very fabric of American society." Confessed total- $2. It is a perfect example how a thrifted item can be a cherished personalized gift, selected out of thought rather than fleeting obligation (see “The Zen of Thrift” article on The Thrifty Chicks).

Item #5:
There are moments in life when on feels a certain rush of pleasure that comes with figuring out a difficult math or logic problem. Some call it the “AHA!” moment. I don’t know quite how to describe this item, as I’d never seen one before. It’s a total bonus of routine thrifting practice, bu
t it’s an “AHA!” find.

It’s called a Snack Toaster, a name that doesn’t do it justice, so the picture will explain much better. On family camping trips, I bust open a pop-n-fresh stack of biscuits, and sandwich a blob of soft, cinnamony dough within. Add a few minutes of quality campfire time, and no bakery can match the experience. The item bears a stamp from the Federal Mfg. and Eng. Corp, Brooklyn 5, NY. This address code (Brooklyn 5) predates the modern zip code, and is somewhat like the “arrondissment” number used to identify one of the 20 boroughs of Paris. By my estimate this item could well be over 60 years old, and while it cost $2.99, I would never sell it.

This last item can be seen for a brief period during the recent TV coverage on The Thrifty Chicks, courtesy of NBC’s Denver affiliate,

To paraphrase former Texas senator Lloyd Bentsen - I know Shopping Golightly and have gone thrifting with her. Shopping Golightly is a friend of mine. You are no Shopping Golightly. But then again no one is, I suppose.

But, you can shop like her and get your own list of Top 5 finds for 2009, maybe better than hers. I have every expectation that my 2009 thrifting year is going to be my best. And per This is Spinal Tap, may your 2009 thrifting go up to 11.

Thriftfully Yours,
Monsieur Threads

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ms Golightly’s Top Five Finds from 2008

I love butter. Can anything else caramelize onions to sweet bliss? Sauté asparagus or fresh garlic? So imagine my joy to spy a butter crème sofa sleeper in the window of the Broadway and Archer Goodwill. I’ve been fortunate to receive only one traffic violation in my life. But had Denver’s finest been behind me that day, I would have been rightfully slammed a ticket on the spot for swerving at the last minute to unexpectedly park the car. Inside the store was a like new if not new Pottery Barn Michael Gold sofa sleeper with not a mark on it for $250. The cushions were perfectly square and solid. The upholstery was flawless. It didn’t creak. The bed looked like it had never been slept on.

I had a personal rule of not purchasing upholstered items at thrift stores. But this was too good to pass up. To help me feel better, once home I unfolded the sleeper and tossed our three cats onto the bed. If there were any funky business on that mattress the cats would sniff it out. Cats have a nose for funky business. All three cats were completely disinterested in the mattress. Safe! But then I thought myself a bit foolish. How many hotel beds have I slept on? How about those fleabag motels on long road trips?

Now this sofa sleeper is something I’d been wanting for a long time but with prices at $2,500 to $4,500 I had to save and wait. I like to think this was one of those experiences where my thrifting spirit was guiding me like in the Tiny Thrifted Miracles post. In turn our old sofa, which was modern and in good condition went to the window of that store and it didn’t sit there long.

An aside, in lower right of the photo is a plant resting on a small folding chair. I have a set of those. Made in Yugoslavia, I thrifted them and they are in my top 10 for 2008. My children sit on them when we play games on the coffee table.

Let’s go back to butter. I thrifted a butter slicer for $0.49 and it gave life in my kitchen a pleasant boost. Here's a fine example of learning to appreciate something small. Do you have a butter slicer? It’s wonderful. Run the slicer over every new stick and BAM! instant pats of butter to grab when sautéing items and you are short on hands, unless you’re like Julia Child. She must have had a dozen secret hands and would have given Vishnu a run for the money in the kitchen. It’s amazing how happy a little pocket change made me. Had I seen this at an upscale kitchen store, I would have passed it over and never known what I was missing. They retail for $10.99. $11 to slice butter? Get out!

For ten years, my daughters shared a room. Mr. Golightly and I thought this a valuable lesson. The girls enjoyed it and it made them closer as they lie in bed and talk about their day before falling asleep. One morning we found them sleeping in the same bed.

But time marches on and my older daughter wanted that word all parents dread, privacy. We live in an old home with funky rooms. My older daughter asked for a small room that we used as an office for the girls. We agreed she could have that this last summer.

Aside from the mattress and the bedding, it was outfitted in thrift. Note, some thrift stores sell new mattresses but it can be hit or miss on the size they have in stock. For $50 I found a solid wood bed frame and a matching dresser and nightstand. A quick coat of ivory paint matched them all up beautifully. I also took that ivory paint to a lamp, a mirrored tray that I hung on the wall and a thrifted tissue box cover (they retail around 30 ridiculous dollars). The photo of her room reveals a secret that I’ve held for years, take old enameled pans and make hanging planters out of them. They look really cool. The room is pleasant and cozy and fits my daughter’s style and she now has her privacy and I do my best to control my fears of where that privacy will lead. But hey, the girl has the right to grow up.

I like a high desk and for years I’ve been sitting at a backless stool and never made one complaint about it. But, I had only one stool so when my daughters and I surfed the web for school one of us was left standing. It was uncomfortable but not so that we were going to go out and spend close to $200 or more to remedy the situation with chairs that I thought okay, not great. Then came the day when I found my two new office chairs for $15. They are vintage and I love them.

Cleo, our thrifted Maine Coone, likes to hang out with me when I write. She’s in the background of this photo. The shelter told us she was a six-week Tabby when we adopted her. I guess she felt a Tabby cat was too small for her soul because she is one big cat with a tail that’s so big and fluffy I could wash the kitchen floor with it. Yes, shop at a shelter and you’re thrifting pets. Cleo and Lily were in my top five thrifted items from 2007.

My last favorite find in 08 is a poncho picked up for $3 at ARC. Though it has no label, I believe its cashmere. We keep the thermostat low in the winter. Having a soft wrap around me sure is a comfort. It’s almost like wearing a blanket but more comfortable. And, it’s pretty darn stylish too. I’m quite attached to it, like my adult security object. However, I can take it out in the world and not look insecure. I look stylish, not childish.

As I end this post I must reflect back to that Goodwill at Broadway and Archer. It’s still fairly new and easily considered Denver Goodwill’s flagship store. The light hardwood floors have a slight tilt and shopping carts tend to roll away from you. But I love that little nuance. For those of you who think thrift stores are stinky, I have a funny anecdote. This very store used to be a fine leather furniture store. When my oldest daughter was three, we went in to check out the store. It had a stale smell to it, something I couldn’t name. Then my daughter candidly whispered in my ear, “Mommy, this store smells like bottoms.” She was right. She has a knack for words. The smell of bottoms is long gone from that store and now it has the sweet smell of redemption.

If you've been thrifting in 2008, please comment and share your favorite finds. We all love a story of found treasure.

If you're new to The Thrifty Chicks, I urge you to read the previous post from January 1st and view the accompanying slide show so that you can learn how to thrift too. Come January, 2010 you can reflect on your top five finds from this new year.

As always, Godspeed,
Ms Shopping Golightly

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The 2009 Thrifting Gift Guide: A Resolution Revolution

Introducing a new genre of resolution for the New Year.

It does not require a daily battle of will. It does not require a load of upfront money like a gym membership. It is pain free.

This resolution is one of discovery and adventure in an unsuspecting, unassuming place, the charitable thrift store. This resolution activates new shopping tactics that are easy on the family budget and easy on the planet. It even directly serves a charitable cause.

What’s the resolution? Buy 2009 gifts from the thrift store. Reserve one spot in the home to store these items and, if really motivated, box them up as they come in.

To the top, left of this text is a slide show featuring about 90 items to spark ideas. Double click on it to enlarge the item and caption. It is arranged in 10 categories: Children’s Toys, Books, Cookware, Tabletop, Children’s Clothes, Women’s Clothes, Men’s Clothes, Jewelry, Odds & Ends, and Holiday Items. Apologies that all the children’s clothes and most of the toys are for are girls, but that is what I have, two young girls. Also, the toys are those designed for active, imaginative play. After watching my two daughters play for 11 years, I have come to learn that imaginative play is not bought in a chain toy store or at a discount retailer. Imaginative play comes from everyday items. My oldest daughter spent more time with tissues and tape than she ever spent with a Barbie. Parents, do not allow a video game take the place of you child's beautiful, unique brand of imagination!

Some of these items were thrifted BRAND NEW. Some are a century old. The thrift store is a place of many mysteries and surprises and reawakens our foraging skills. We develop more of a connection to treasures found. We take a glimpse at how wasteful we are to throw away so many valuable and unique items. We recalibrate our spending power and prices in new retail market become obscene. We become more creative and self-guided in that we don’t need to listen to television commercials or rush out to fight bargain raged crowds at sales. People are generally very nice in thrift stores. We become more thoughtful and appreciative as we spend a year searching for the perfect gift. Chances are the gift will be treasured in return. And, at the end of the year, we relax and spend our valued time with friends and family, not at an overcrowded mall and in horrific traffic jams.

There is no shame in giving a thrifted gift. If you shop eBay, there's a very high probability the item was found at the thrift store and you're paying the mark up. The same applies to funky boutiques that sell mixtures of new and old. As said many times, Americans need to get over this commercially planted idea that "If it's not new, it's EWW." Let's manage the products already assembled instead of turning to factories on the other side of the world and asking for more. "More" is out of style.
“How to Thrift”, the box below the slide show, offers several posts explaining just that, the zen of thrift. The Thrifty Chicks offer solid advice on how to establish a regular thrifting routine and the best possible thrift store tips on the Internet. I’ve read many tips and they just don’t measure up. Our tips will turn a novice into a master. They are insightful, not rote or obvious because they were written by someone who knows thrift, not a journalist assigned an quick article or a blogger who writes the tips as an aside.

Please know, when it comes to gifts, it’s not so much where you found it, it’s the sentiment, what you do with it, and how you present it. We’ll talk about presentation in another post. But it is essential in gift giving and most new products are presented in very ugly packaging. Oddly enough, most times when I give a new gift, I repackage it.

January is an excellent month to start thrifting. Many people make last minute donations in December for their 2008 tax write offs and they also donate the holiday gifts that failed to fit their personal taste.

Many of these items were picked to meet many tastes and all items are in excellent condition, if not new. If there are people who carefully peruse this slide show and cannot find three items that don’t outright shock them, I ask them to email me personally with comments. I don’t expect very many emails of this nature.

A special thanks to Mr. Golightly for burning the midnight oil to retouch the photographs he so carefully took.

Ms. Shopping Golightly