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.