Sunday, November 14, 2010

Up Front about my First Time (... at a Thrift Store)

My first memorable find at a thrift store was a battered copy of Bill Mauldin's Up Front.
"Up Front" by Bill Mauldin
It's a treasure that can never be surpassed in my heart, even though I've since learned that it's a very common item, with hundreds of thousands of copies in circulation (and probably as many now returned to wood pulp.) It was my first find, and it's a great book besides: highly recommended!

I found it at the Volunteers of America store in Everett, Washington, where I'd probably been dropped off after working as a counselor at their summer camp in Sultan and was waiting to be picked up to go home. That basement bookstore was my first, and as such, remains the standard by which I measure all other used book stores: crowded, chaotic, fun!

Today, when I want tools, clothing, books or housewares, the source of choice is a thrift. While there are some things you just can't get there, and I'll also buy new if I'm in a hurry, for most things it makes no sense to buy new when for a lot less money you can get them nearly new (...and sometimes actually news; more than once I've gotten clothes with the original store's price tag still on it!)

For example, my collection of a dozen Hawai'ian shirts was very inexpensive, yet brings great joy to me and is very practical - you can wear a Hawaiian shirt almost anywhere, if you have the right attitude!)  I also like to get hand tools at thrifts. I recently got a wrench that was probably as old as I am; it was made of real, solid metal all the way through, not the cheap pot-metal that cracks when you crank on it. I have every confidence that this wrench will outlast me ... and when I go, I don't want it buried with me. Give it to a relative, or donate it back to the store!!!

I also like the random nature of the assortment of goods at thrifts; you find odd things that you just can't find anywhere else. You have to be open to the opportunity when, for example, a cigarette lighter in the form of a golf-club head appears. That turned out to be the perfect gift for my father-in-law, a man who can pretty much get whatever he wants or needs for himself, but who quite naturally likes to be thought of during the holidays; this very idiosyncratic gift was all the more perfect for being not available elsewhere.

One of my favorite items that you can count on finding is baking pans. Why pay full price for something made cheaply when, with a little patience, you can snap up solidly built pans that served proudly for more than a decade and, with a little care, will serve you just as long? Some pyrex baking pans, a red clay cooker, and a couple of cast iron pans make our kitchen completely well equipped for serious food, and all for the cost of one pan, new!

From time to time, I discover that something I bought at the thrift just doesn't work out at home. I can be tempted by a gadget the same as anyone else, but if it sits on the shelf for a year, at some point I have to admit that I'm never going to use it. But this is No Problem because it was so inexpensive in the first place, I don't mind just re-donating it where I bought it! Shopping at a thrift can mean that even when you screw up, you don't have to suffer monetary regret.
But that's not a primary motivation. I love saving the money, and I am happy that I'm contributing to a good cause, but mostly ... I love the hunt!

Today's post was inspired by this week's Change The World Wednesday Challenge:
"This week, visit a local thrift/2nd hand store. Browse around to see if there are slightly used items which you could buy rather than purchasing new. After all, the environmental costs of creating the goods sold there have already been paid, so they are really light on the planet (that's the reuse part). To make this trip even more meaningful, bring something to donate (that's the reduce part).

Or ...

 If you are a thrift store/2nd hand shop connoisseur, tell us about some of things which you have saved from a "landfill death" ... and any tips/ideas you might have for shopping at these venues."
Now, I love shopping Thrift stores. Mostly, it's the thrill of the hunt; you can always go to a normal store and pick up what you're looking for - the downside is that you pay full price. But a thrift store stocks only what people donate, so it is impossible to predict what you'll find. You have to keep your eyes open, and also your mind!

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