Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recent Finds - Letting the cat out of the bag

It's been awhile since I let the cat out of the bag on some of my recent thrift store finds. This afternoon Petite Poe took a few photos.

The above was a serious score. This three-drawer letter press box now holds my jewelry. When I found it in the thrift store it was stocked with vintage buttons, still on their paper from the store. 

Little Pie in a darling sweater from Anthropologie, $5.

My favorite hand knit sweater from Nordstrom, $5. Necklace from Sundance, $1.50. Jeans and blouse, $8. The sweater initially retailed a couple hundred bucks.

Little Hippie Pie. The skirt is thrift and the blouse and riding boots are hand-me-downs.

Vintage curios. But what's really cool is the table.

This antique drafting table takes prominence in our living room. It was $3.

Summer blouse and skirt, $5, with my favorite old Rocket Dog boots - they give me serious attitude.

Handmade Italian shoes for Little Pie, $4. I was worse than Cinderella's red-eye mean step sister trying to make them fit me. The little black dress was $3 from Divided at H&M.

Enjoying some three buck chuck in my great grandmother's Baccarat tumblers. Life is rather sweet when your smart and cheap. Note the copper ring, $4. I wear it to remind me that pennies count.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Am I a grumpy old lady before her time?

I cracked yesterday.

I went to the price club and loathe going. At the end of the shop, I’ve a cart hauling about 500 lbs of merchandise; so heavy this cart needs to be hit dead on with a 50-yard sprint just to get the darn thing moving. Strategic parking is mandatory, a straight line from the exit. Maneuvering a cart that heavy would be like parallel parking an eighteen-wheeler with no power steering. I don’t have the upper arm strength to manage that nor do I want it.

The irony is I go to the price club because it lessens trips to the grocery store. I don’t like grocery stores either. The bright lights, white walls and white linoleum makes me think of other places that we really don’t want to associate with food. An ER? A surgery room? Let your mind wander and it won’t go to a happy place. I actually heard “I want to be sedated” by The Ramones once in a grocery store. How apropos.

I pine for the open markets shown on travel shows on PBS. I imagine the aromas, the bartering and the colors. I think, “Now that is living.” And, how cool is it to meet the person who baked the bread or sun dried the peppers? Imagine the knowledge they impart to their customers and the pride they take in their product.

Regardless, I’m still trying to reconcile what happened yesterday.

Television has never been front stage in the Golightly home. It is only on when we watch it. We don’t have cable and probably watch about five shows a week. To me, television is not an experience. It doesn’t need to be high definition or huge. I don’t need a home theater. I get more from a good read. Really, I do.

Again, yesterday I cracked.

I pushed my behemoth cart into the first section of le price club, electronics. Down the canyon of televisions I drove and in less than three minutes picked up a 19” flat screen LED television/DVD player and casually tossed it in my cart. It was $200 (40 times my Flinch Point) and weighed less than the box laundry detergent on my list. Just about a year ago it would have probably cost three times more.

In a trance I came home and hauled our 10, possibly 15-year-old television and DVD player to the thrift store. My oldest daughter was thrilled to have a new television but showed a deep concern in witnessing this from her mother. Karma did catch up with me for in my state, I forgot to remove the DVD in the old player and had to go back to the thrift. It’s fine to donate my items, but I don’t think it’s right to donate things that don’t belong to me like a DVD from the Denver Public Library.

Mr. Golightly saw the new television and told me it wasn’t big enough. So off he went to the canyon lands of electronics. Now we have a 36” giant. To me, that’s huge! I don’t like it. I am so sorry to have ever acted so impulsively for I know there is no turning back without family dissent. Guess I got what was coming. Now when in the room with the electronic beast, it’s all I see.

It's in a small, cozy little room in our 111 year home. With the old furniture and lamps mixed with funky curios it screams, "I don't belong here!"

Then there is this other part of me that struggles with what my daughter’s feel when they go over to the homes of their friends. Do they notice the hu-gantic televisions? Do they like them? The Wii? The Xbox? Does my frugality and want of a simple life embarrass them?

It’s frustrating. I know my daughter would hands down want to ride a real horse over a virtual. Given we live in downtown Denver and don’t have a stable out back, a virtual horse would be more convenient. But what would a virtual horse give her? Skills? Just some hollow un-experience?

I struggle almost daily with expanding technology and how the products on the market indicate our cultural priorities. What will my great grandchildren be doing or eating? Just how far can we push the limits of technology before we lose the things that once brought us satisfaction, pride and worthwhile skill?

Oh, I can’t wait to get my girls off to summer camp in the Adirondacks! For four weeks they will genuinely live in an honest moment and they won’t need a phone, text, television, computer, Ipod, GPS system or radio to do so. They want action? They play real games. Music? They sing. Navigate? Orienteering with a compass. Write? Use a pencil. Converse? Talk face to face.

In the meanwhile, we’ll watch movies on the electronic beast that now resides in our home.

I’m certain many people think I’m over reacting. I’ve been in homes where the television truly takes up half the room and the people on the TV are larger than life and they think it wonderful.

Have you ever cracked and then regretted it because there’s no going back? What do you think about the expanding technologies and what it’s doing to our children, our pocketbooks and our landfills? Yes, there are pros and cons. But are they in balance? I fear not. Does that make me sound like “grumpy old lady”?

Post Script:
I believe that 36" monster is the root of my new found craving for over-processed empty calories. Now hand over the Twizzlers and Dots. Supersize them please.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The items we value

I’ve lived in many places in this country and never experienced anything like Denver weather. It’s sunny over 300 days a year. Rain is in short supply in much of Colorado. This is perhaps the only city where if there is a 10% chance of rain, The Denver Post whips out a storm cloud icon to mark the day, never mind the 90% chance of sun. When it does rain (rarely as predicted), I swear the news anchors act like they’re on mass suicide watch, like we’ve all fallen into a major depression because the sun is not visible.

Somewhere in Denver, there is a weather switch. Today an anonymous person flipped that switch from winter to summer. Perhaps it was in honor of Mothers Day, the first day of the year when gardeners can be confident their plants won’t be nipped by a frost.

It’s time for The Big Summer Clean Up at the Golightly house. Denver’s a dusty place by nature and the urban pollution from that infamous Brown Cloud that covers the entire Front Range makes for more dust. We’ve a turn of the century cellar (not basement) complete with cobwebs. We fly through filters in the constant battle for our furnace to exhale warm, clean air into the house. Toss in three cats (one is a huge, very hairy Maine Coon) and that adds cat hair and furballs. A person with a lot of allergies would need an iron lung to live amongst this family of four. Oh, did I mention we have an old fireplace and love our wood fires on cold nights? Our little Mount St. Helens. Despite all this dust, I’ve made peace with the bunnies. Dust mites don’t live at 5,280’. Our warren of bunnies is hypoallergenic.

It’s time to wipe down the walls, clean behind appliances and give the house a good shake so we can lather, rinse, and repeat next year. Deep cleaning our home gets me to thinking deep.

There’s an irony in my household. Items I purchased for $5 often have more value to me than something purchased for an easy 50x, sometimes up to 100x the amount on the new retail market. I’ll bet most people who largely shop secondhand are nodding their heads right now knowing that the honest value of an item has little relationship to the cost. We're taught to believe otherwise.

Most people believe that thrifting is the thrill of the hunt or that we are pirates out for treasure or that we’re really just veiled conspicuous consumers. Why else would someone shop second hand in America? Discount retailers now give thrift stores a good run for the money opening up piles of new merchandise at costs no-one would have thought possible a generation ago.

Okay, I’ll admit there’s a little high one gets when they find a something completely extraordinary for two dollars. I don't think it's all that different from the high that happens in conventional retail when something comes along that truly is "so you." But, I do think that if you're a an honest Bargain Junkie, you're going to catch quadruple the fixes in thrift. Please note there is a difference between a Sales Junkie and a Bargain Junkie. I know this first hand. My name is Shopping Golightly and I am a recovering Sales Junkie. Sale used to be one of my favorite words. But one day, I realized that I wasn't buying sales items out of necessity. It was because I thought little me was out smarting big retailers. Is there any sense in spending money to proudly announce you saved it? I stopped cold turkey and have never looked back.

I place more value on my secondhand items because I’m thankful to have them for a cost I wouldn’t ever agree to pay new, or at a cost that I simply couldn’t afford. There is a deep gratitude if an item is both of use to me, and the cost of it allowed me to save more money - or spend it on something more important like a mortgage, or our daughters’ college savings.

Most of my pots and pans are thrift store enamel bought for a few dollars apiece. Enameled cookware does not do well in a dishwasher; many of these pieces were made long before dishwashers became mainstream. This has often irritated my daughter when she’s in a rush to load the dishwasher and tries to slip a pot in for a just-this-time wash. When caught she says, “But this is thrift!” My retort is always, “All the more reason to take good care of it." Besides, if my daughter someday wishes to live in Manhattan, she needs to know how to hand-wash dishes because chances are she’ll be lucky to have one foot of counter space and a low pressure faucet, let alone a Maytag.

It used to be that we paid extra for quality. Now we pay extra for name brands, forget about the quality. It’s nice there’s a market that can offer that old quality for a few dollars.

Not too long ago I was at a meeting and a person was boasting about their new French cookware purchased for a small fortune. I leaned forward, put my elbow on the tabletop with my chin landing in my hand and said, “Really.” I thought of my well-loved haunted French cookware that cost so little.

Valuing something by touting how much more it cost or because it makes you feel self-important because of that spending is one of the saddest ways to treat money and yourself.

Most Americans verbally shun materialism. It's down right stupid to think that purchasing a certain car is going to turn you into an irresistible sex machine. Deep inside we all know this. The truth? Most Americans lack a healthy degree of self awareness.

Next time you shun materialism, think about the items you own. Challenge yourself to really reflect. Do you value the item? Do you need it? Or, do you like that it makes you feel like you've arrived. To what you're arriving is a big question and hopefully the answer is not bankruptcy. There is no pride in going broke.