The joys of thrift

Treasure Trove was the name of the thrift store I frequented as a child.  We’d load up in the van and drive to McLean, one of the wealthier cities in the metro D.C. area where I grew up.  My mother was classically frugal and seriously practical.  McLean was where rich people got rid of good stuff and where smart and thrifty people, like us, could find their wonderful cast-offs for cheap.

I remember the thick cream blouse with a deep beautiful Peter Pan collar and long full sleeves.  We didn’t like the sleeves so we bought if for $2 or so and carted it home where we cut those sleeves off and hand-sewed them into a puckered style that I later copied my wedding dress after.  The shirt was beautiful and I felt like a princess in it. I wore it with an also-thrifted, full and pleated, calf-length yellow flowered skirt – full on Laura Ashley style, which was a positive in those days! I still remember that skirt with great fondness as one of my favorite clothing items.

I didn’t often have new clothes or toys as a child, but I don’t remember that worrying me much until my teenage years.   Our home had basics: bazillion classic children’s books, a well-loved record player and many used and scratched vinyls, a set of worn blocks, army soldiers, and our special stuffed animals.  My favorite childhood activities included reading, galloping around our basement family room on an imaginary horse to the sounds of Tchaikovsky and mothering my stuffed animal/baby, Christie-bear, who I changed twice daily, nursed, and dressed in my old baby clothes.


Then of course we had our yard and the nearby bike path and parks.  I’d coax my little brother along and insist we play “orphan child” at least several times a week.  Alone and abandoned in the woods, we’d forage for food and household items and make a way for ourselves in the great wide world.   When we weren’t imagining, we were inventing new games to play on our homemade swing set, hunting the bike path greenways for blackberries, or hurtling down our hill on a red wagon.

Today I still try to fill my life and home with as much outdoors, good used items, and magic as possible.  Thrifting is one of my favorite past times and most items in my home can be traced back to my favorite “old lady thrift store”, craigslist, a yard sale, or our local facebook classified page.

Thrifting should be about finding practical solutions to real needs with second-hand alternatives that are not only cheaper but often more beautiful or interesting.  Instead of storing threat and needles in a drawer somewhere, I thrifted a full set of wooden spooled thread (over 200 spools, so I resold more than half) at a yard sale for $4 and keep them in a big old pickle jar along with my pin cushion.  This collection lives on a shelf and makes my home beautiful while providing for my frequent mending needs.  And it all cost less than a few spools of thread from Michaels.

Come on over and you’ll find the pages of a thrifted Webster’s dictionary torn out and pasted onto my living room wall as a kind of impromptu wall paper. You’ll see the two velveteen armchairs I bought for $10 each, fully intending to paint or recover.  Instead, they continue on in all their dusty-pink glory, holding up the walls of fort and serving as luxurious beds for napping cats.

I don’t thrift because I’m cheap, I thrift because joy is priceless.  The joy of finding, the joy of bringing home, the joy of beauty, and the joy of ingenuity – of finding new solutions to old problems.  All these joys provided, by simple thrifting.


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