There are parts of our lives we know we need to change. Unfortunately we opt for an easy way out to awaken that change by taking away or adding small tasks. This works - for about a month. The above photo is of me, Little Pie and Poe a top Mt. Antero, a 14,269 feet wonder in Colorado. Read on and I'll explain.
Honest change involves a radical shift in the mindset. If we can make that shift, then the supporting simple tasks come without planning, they feel second nature.
Some folks tell me they tried to thrift but it didn’t work for them. My guess is they took the retail mindset to the thrift store. Tsk, tsk. Vinegar and oil that is!
The retail mindset is a concoction of advertising, mass media and simple laziness. It’s based in convenience and the capitalistic nature to make money, even if it destroys nature.
Isn’t it convenient that we can go to the grocery store, have our carts and cupboards full in less than an hour? Well, yes and no. It’s rather nice that we can buy a can of diced tomatoes instead of tending twenty plants for five months only to stand for at least two days over a hot stove during the dog days of summer to can tomatoes for the winter. I did that once. Regardless, I still grow tomatoes in our community plot with Denver Urban Gardens because nothing beats a true vine ripened tomato and I want my daughters to know that. I have a three-plant minimum. But I have nicely sized raspberry and blackberry patches which Little Pie’s Brownie troop regularly tends. Want raspberries to bear fruit all summer? Sic a troop of young Girl Scouts on them and they will.
This convenience comes at a cost. We lost our will to plan for the long haul. Okay, we plan for retirement, our children’s education, but we recently learned that is no guarantee. I’ve not peeked at my retirement in over a month. Why? I don’t have many sound options to exercise. I’m stuck waiting for the market to recover so why wallow?
You know what the pioneers did come spring? They started planning for the next winter. Life was a preparation for the next hardship and winter was one hell of a hardship. If we expected hardship perhaps this recession would not be as horrible as it is. Imagine what you'd have today had you not listened to the TV to engage in conspicuous consumption. What if you had saved your money in a diverse mix, part emergency funds and part savings? Hello America! Hardship is a given in life. It's going to happen. It’s good to be strong and prepared. I’m not talking bomb shelters and doomsday. No! I’m talking strength of character and wise choices.
"I ask you to dump that retail mindset. You don’t have to dump it entirely, but in the least put it in the passenger seat or better yet the trunk wrapped in duct tape. The planet and your pocket book will be better for it."Thrifting is a green practice? For more explanation I offer the opinion piece that ran in The Christian Science Monitor, "Green Shopping, Don't say eww to thrift stores" or the blog post "Shopping Golightly is Shopping Go Green."
Ever seen those paint mixers in hardware stores? They shake the you know out of the paint in the can to mix it, mix it good. Confession: I imagine putting America’s retail mindset in one of those machines. That sounds horrible of me but it’s the only metaphor I can think of that’s strong enough to descramble all the synapses that have built this intricate, exquisitely honed mind to shop for items en masse or items that ultimately serve no meaningful purpose while piling credit debt upon credit debt. These synapses are so bold one might confuse it with instinct. Yikes!
Often times when I see tips on thrift, one of the first things I read is “Make Lists.” No! No! No! Shoppers make lists when they go to the grocery store. Making lists is so retail! It’s thrift passé. Why? Because we know that apples, butter and cream will be in supply at the grocery store. Aside from those fondue pots that I keep ranting about, one has no idea what they will find that the thrift store. There is no promise on inventory. There are high likelihoods on many products but no guarantee. So if you put a three pack of mens white undershirts on your thrift list, the odds are dismal so walk away feeling the thrift store let you down and walk right past that beautiful wool dress coat that will be ready for your daughter in six months for $6.99. Fast forward to the day before you are to take your daughter to The Nutcracker ballet and it becomes apparent your daughter is in need of a warm dress coat. On the list it goes next to stockings and men’s t-shirts and off to the department store you go to buy possibly the same brand coat for $89.95. Okay, The Nutcracker is a luxury. But it’s worth it. I still remember when we went in Chicago and I saw Baryshnikov.
When I shop thrift, I’m shopping months out from today and I shop with Snake Eyes and let The Thrift Effect guide me with my $5 flinch point. If it’s a screaming deal, I’ll shop years out. I hit three stores yesterday with no list and picked up a load of athletic/hiking wear for the girls, a holiday gift for my grandmother and a complete set of Beatrix Potter books for Little Pie’s holiday. Much of it was new for roughly $3 per item.
We plan to camp the summer away and get on top of many of Colorado’s highest peaks so the hiking apparel will be worn a lot. Did you know Little Pie hiked Mt. Antero last year? At seven, she did seven miles with a 3,000 foot elevation gain to suck air at 14,269 feet above sea level. Call me crazy but that family experience beats the tar out of some pre-fab theme park experience. And, it involved honest accomplishment. To think there are children who grow up in Colorado who will never plant their feet on top of a majestic 14ner or 13ner but will tell you they've been to Disneyland to ride a teacup. Sure Disneyland is an American thing. But you have to admit things like purple mountain's majesty trump teacups. But that is my little soapbox.
The thrift mindset is a creative one, adaptable, flexible and capable of reaching into the needs six months out from the present. I’d wager that thrift mindsets make great leaders. Leaders with retail mindset are - quite possibly - misnomers. Why? Because they can’t see past the selfish needs of the moment and don’t factor in how those needs will play into the future.
So if you are to grow a mindset, what’s it going to be? Warning, if you want thrift, turn off the TV or at least give cable the boot. All those commercials on childrens networks, even the shows, are building young retail mindsets. Trust me. Children do not need the toys you see in the aisles of chain retailers but Children Want Spending Power Too and the thrift store is about the only place they can actually buy things with an earned allowance. Unless your child earns $20 allowance which seems steep for an eight year old.
I babysat my dear friend’s 10 month old last week. She and I had a great time playing with pinecones from the Colorado blue spruce in the backyard. Their papery texture captivated her.
Or how about the bamboo Geisha shoes I found for $2 for Little Pie yesterday? Walking in those shoes is like walking on stilts. She loves them. However it's opened up what I know will be a month-long conversation as to why she cannot wear them to school - one month because that is all that remains in the school year. Had I procured them in January, I'd have pulled my hair out explaining by now.
Oh, and while you're thinking thrift. How about putting your name on the petition for National Thrift Store month? Give thrift a little lift. The icon link is at the top right of this page. Godspeed.