Many questions come my way. One keeps popping up, “What should I buy at thrift stores and what should I leave?” Here’s a quick list of Golightly’s top ten keeps and sweeps from your shopping cart at the thrift store. Other thrifters, please chime and comment.
Keep Holiday & Birthday Gifts: Purchase gifts in advance to avoid that nasty gift pinch where we end up spending more than intended out of panic to deliver on time. Box and store gifts in one place so they so don’t get lost in the household mix. Shopping ahead provides time for a meaningful thought to be attached to the gift. It is my belief that, “It’s the thought that counts” has been replaced with “It’s the amount of money spent,” as described in “Wow! This is so you! What’s Happened to the Art of Giving?” Americans are letting retailers do the thinking when it comes to gift purchases. Let’s take back that choice since we know personally know the gift recipient and retail marketers do not.
Keep Other Gifts: Be gracious. For a hostess, teacher or an unexpected event, purchase items in advance and have them on hold. For example, whenever I find “Gift from the Sea” by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, I snag it. That’s a great book for girlfriends in all kinds of situations. I feel that classics are better served up either vintage or in anniversary editions. Having these gifts al a thrift saves money and when thoughtful, express gratitude, something we probably do not do enough of these days. If not a gift, a hand written note can deliver the same intent – prefabricated cards don’t make much of a difference in my world. Stationary can also easily found at thrift stores for that meaningful and personal note. Even better, hand make cards using thifted paper.
Keep Cookware & Bakeware: Make certain it’s quality. Copper should be heavy and have secure brass handles. Never mind if it’s horribly tarnished. Barkeeper’s Friend and a lot of elbow grease will fix that. Vintage enamelware is wonderful and one of my favorite finds. But Calaphon and Kitchen Aide and other modern products are in supply. There is always a huge assortment of bakeware. I feel the best cookware is vintage cookware because it’s haunted.
Keep Rare Finds: Like my husband’s Givenchy tux, he may not wear it often but he has one and is ready to go. Besides this might open up opportunities to use it. For $8.99 in its in beautiful, perfect-fitting condition, it’s worth it. Or my piece of America, my suede covered “Song of Hiawatha” that I imagine some pioneer keeping it close to read and read again while exploring the new west.
Keep Picture Frames: There is always a great selection of picture frames in both size and style and they can be painted in any color. Just remove what’s already in the frame and replace it. However, there are times when we just might buy the frame for what’s in it.
Keep Items For The Classroom: With chronic budget cuts, teachers are always in need of supplies. Ask teachers for lists. Items could be staplers, three-ring hole punchers, scales, books or craft supplies like yarn, ribbon, crayons – all available at thrift stores.
Keep Jewelry: Look in the glass cases by the cash registers there is always a mix of new items, vintage items and artisan items.
Keep Books: New release, old and rare are readily available at thrift stores often in the $2 range. For more information see the post On Books. Children's books are usually sold for a lower price - another item that classrooms need and teachers appreciate.
Keep Tabletop For Parties & Events: Punch bowls (buy two, one for spiked and one for tame), pedestals, vases, candlestick holders, pitchers, plate stands are available at thrift stores. This is the place to shop for dinner parties. And baskets, there are baskets a plenty at thrift stores. There's a funny story about my preparations for a semi-formal baby shower and acquiring such items in the post "Where's the bait & what's the switch?"
Keep Items Easily Lost: We often lose mittens, gloves, hats, scarves and sunglasses. It doesn’t hurt so much when our children lose a pair of mittens that cost a dollar instead of ten. For example I bought six pairs of new Dana Buchman sunglasses for $12. I saved hundreds. Some sunglasses store did an inventory dump at a thrift store and I was happy to be there.
Sweep Things We Already Have: If we have 10 dress shirts, do we really need four more? Depends on the lifestyle. Sweep Items In Need Of Dry Cleaning: Unless we absolutely love it or need it, like a suit, leave the stuff that needs to be dry-cleaned.
Sweep Moth-Eaten Items: Be certain to check woolen items over. However, the fabric can be recycled into mittens and other items when one knows their way around a sewing machine. I have a friend who takes thrifted wool sweaters and washes them in hot water for boiled wool and makes the warmest mittens imaginable. She even lines them with recycled fabric from thrift. She's a saint, known to us as Joan of ARC (after the many ARC Thrift Stores that dot Denver). Some people even take sweaters and unravel the yarn to reuse. Sounds tedious but quality yarn isn’t cheap and if we’re going to invest loads of time into knitting something, shouldn’t the yarn be quality?
Sweep Cheap Reproductions: Be patient, originals pop up at thrift stores. I’ve seen several reproductions of Wedgwood and have also found the original, a cake stand in perfect condition for $3.
Sweep Chipped Items: Dodge chipped items unless the chip is hardly noticeable and the item is of a fine maker, like Limoges. However, I understand that some chips in crystal can be sanded smooth.
Sweep Items That Create Projects: That bookshelf is amazing but needs refinishing. If the project queue is full, will the bookshelf ever be refinished? Or, will end up being donating back to the store? If the project list is short and there is time, go for it!
Sweep New Items Still In The Box: A new item still in the box at a thrift store is a score but happens more than one might think. Unless needed, leave it. Items still in the box make many appearances at thrift stores – a lesson in how wasteful Americans have become.
Sweep Baby Furniture: Laws on many baby items have changed. Investigate specifications online.
I Sweep Underwear & Swimsuits: Perhaps it’s because I was an only child and didn’t receive super personal hand-me-downs. However, new swimsuits and undies can be found with tags still dangling in thrift stores. Besides, I think we are fooling ourselves about new swimsuit purchases. I seriously doubt all women follow the rules and leave on their panties when they try on suits in department stores. And that little plastic panty liner? Like that is some assurance! Plu-ease!
Sweep Seasonal Impulse Buys: Sweep fondue pots, spinning popcorn poppers, chocolate fountains and other seasonal impulse buys from years past. Should you decide you suddenly want one, you can always find it at the thrift store. It’s where impulse items go to die.