Monday, 24 March 2008

Thrift Store Goodness

It wasn't that long ago that I cringed at bit at the prospect of going into a thrift or second-hand store, let alone actually buying anything from a place 'like that.' I even found second-hand bookstores to be somewhat yucky and distasteful, with that funny dusty-musty smell and all those pre-read books in there.

And, to be totally honest, I was a bit judgmental of the people who shopped in such places. But Gord had no such hang-ups or judgments and I would tag along with him, somewhat unenthusiastically, when he would go into Value Village or other no-name thrift stores or book stores, all the while thinking, "ew" and, "when can we leave?"

Well, all that has changed. It was the bookstores that first got me to come around. Given the amount of books I read, half-price books were very attractive. And once I got over the idea that second-hand was somehow second-class, I started going to more second hand book stores, and I found that they didn't all have that smell, and even if they did, well, so what? Maybe what I considered smelly was just the lack of off-gassing plastic wrappers and the absence of chemical air fresheners.

And once I got over that, it was just a small change in perspective to see all the other thrift store goodness. I had been wanting to stop using my non-stick frying pans for a while, but cast-iron pans are expensive -- except at the thrift store. Gord snagged me this lovely 10 inch cast iron pan at Value Village for 10 bucks! While he was calling me on the phone to see if I wanted it, he said that two other people eyed it and put it back down, luckily for me! After a quick scrub with baking soda, and a little re-seasoning with canola oil, this pan is a non-stick wonder! And no carcinogenic chemicals to worry about.

I had asked Gord to keep an eye out for a baking rack, and lo and behold the next time he was at Value Village he found the one in the picture, for just $1.99! It is a sturdy, well-made rack without a scratch or stain in sight. A little vinegar to clean it off, and it will outlast me, I'm sure. (Oh, and the bread? That's just for decoration, of course.)

I'm now on the lookout for more things from the thrift store, like cutlery (especially butter knives), book shelves, glass storage and canning jars, and a dark enamel roasting pan (to be used in the solar oven I plan to build/make, hopefully to make some of that delicious bread, with free energy!). Why buy these things new when they are perfectly good second hand? I save money, create less waste, and the Earth's resources are not depleted further on my behalf. That is a win-win-win situation if I've ever seen one.

What have been your best thrift-store finds?


CindyW said...

Nice cast iron pan! I am with you about the "ew" factor. But I also hate shopping in general, so we basically just live with what we have until we have absolutely no options but buying a replacement. I need to look into more thrifty shops and get over the irrational "ew" feeling.

arduous said...

Yes, I adore buying used books as well now. I am a sucker for a used bookstore. I can't not buy stuff from them!

I like Cindy hate shopping in general, so other than buying used books and CDs, I tend not to buy anything.

My best thrift store purchases were back a few years ago before I was doing the whole no buying clothes thing. I found a couple designer dresses, one with the original tags still on it, for about $30. That was pretty awesome.

Theresa said...

I actually like doing a little shopping, depending on the type of shopping it is. I don't like clothes shopping, but book and gadget shopping are all too enticing for me. I've cut back on this quite a lot over the past couple of years though, and am more enticed by gardening tools and multi-purpose household items. And of course the books! I still have a bit of an "ew" factor about used clothes, but I'm working on that.

Anonymous said...

I used to think thrift stores were just for "poor people". Thank goodness I wizened up finally!!! I now buy my kids' clothes at Value Village and love it - they aren't wearing the usual stuff, I can find non-brand names, non-cartoon characters, etc. I can't say I've scored anything all that big, but I just don't shop much anymore, period. Thankfully I inherited three cast-iron pans from my mother and I love them!

Anonymous said...

I haven't been to a thrift store in a very long time - mostly because the only ones I know about are quite a distance from me. But I decorated my house using many, many items from garage and yard sales. In fact, all the side tables and side chairs in my living room, along with the old trunks used for end tables and for supporting the television are from a yard sale.

DC said...

What a great find. That pan will last for decades, and if it ever cracks, it can be recycled.

I like buying things used, but one thing I have been wondering about lately is whether when I do so I am making it harder for people who can only afford used items to find what they need. We are fortunate enough to have a choice about whether to buy new or used things, but many people don't have that choice, and there are only so many used goods available in the marketplace.

I have resolved this dilemma for the time being by telling myself that there's no guarantee that if I don't buy a particular used item that it will end up in the hands of someone who really needs it. We also donate everything we don't use anymore to a place that gives the things to people who need them at no cost, and we buy new over used when we can get new items that are made sustainably (e.g., fair trade clothes made from organic fibers).

I am continuing to ponder this matter. If anyone has any thoughts on this subject, I'd be interested in hearing them.

Theresa said...

I was a student for many years and so had lots of used things, usually lent or given to me by family members though. And I'm not averse to making do until I find what I'm looking for - for example I used boxes covered in towels as my 'end tables' until I finally found something suitable last year.

I hadn't thought about that aspect of buying used, dc. I will have to ponder on that as well. It seems like your course of action is a sustainable one, since your family is adding to the overall availability of such things at the same or greater rate than you are withdrawing from it.

Wow! This is such a great example of how things we normally think of as being just individual, stand-alone acts are actually interwoven with other people's acts and choices too! It sounds obvious when I type it out, but it is a good reminder to me that everything we do is connected to something and someone else. Very humbling, and very gratitude-inducing.

arduous said...

DC, thanks for the food for thought but overall, I think there's enough "stuff" in the world to go around. And we all have limited (as in not infinite) budgets. I find that now that I don't buy anything new, I have lots more money that I use to make donations to non-profits.

And I think you made a good point about donating stuff used. The key, is to just not have very much stuff at all. Then it doesn't matter if you buy used or not.

Hippie Girl said...

I have had better luck at garage sales then thrift stores in the past. Shopping for kids clothing in thrift stores is easy - I don't find it as easy for us adults. The tricky thing with thrift is we have to keep going back.....the good stuff gets snatched so quickly. I would have to say the best thing I found at a garage sale to date was a mini trampoline - for $4.

Ruthie said...

Almost everything I have came to me used. :-)

I volunteer at a local thrift store.

Don't let yourself feel like you're taking things away from people who don't have money for them. Thrift stores get tons and tons of donations each year and any money you spend at a thrift store helps it continue to recycle used things. My husband had this feeling when we first got married, that you shouldn't buy things at thrift stores because those things are for people who can't afford new stuff-- but it's not true. Think of how many thrift stores are out there due to how much stuff people buy new and then get rid of it! People should always buy used whenever possible.

Theresa said...

That is good to know Ruthie. Since I have taken some time off this week I have time to go along to the thrift store(s) with Gord tomorrow and see what good used things I can find. We are bringing some magazines with us tomorrow to donate this time.

kale for sale said...

I am currently on the look out for a big canning pot with those big jar pincher things to start canning this summer. My best recent find however was a set of eight matching wine glasses that make the sweetest ping when tapped. All eight for $15 at the Food Bank Thrift Store. Just looking at them makes me happy. I'm with you on the clothes shopping. I would rather mop floors than shop for new clothes.

Simply Authentic said...

used books are the best....i also have picked up all my wine glasses via thrift stores...and lo and behold most of them turn out to be real crystal also. i usually just wait til i need something though otherwise i can get sucked into the "good deal" consuming instead of shopping based upon needs..

Annie said...

Isn't cast iron great? It's great for saving energy through hot-boxes too.My best find was actually a freestore find.I scored a laptop and bag from a graduating student.Recently I got two vintage wool blankets from Goodwill for $3 each.They were marked as doggy blankets because of some hairs.A run through the wash and they were fine.I think scavenging from freeboxes/stores/piles is way more fun than shopping.And by passing on your own surplus it is a cooperative relationship rather than just manufacturer to consumer.

Theresa said...

Hi Annie - thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I still love this cast iron pan, and have since been gifted with two more used ones! I'm really like your idea of a cooperative relationship rather than a buyer/seller one - more of the first kind of connection is what we all need. :)