Radio Star Volume 2

Well hopefully I said something of value to folks the other day on the radio with Michelle Vandepas of  Your Divine Purpose Unleashed on Live your Purpose Radio/Blog Talk Radio on the 15th.  I was quite nervous, but Michelle was a great host and I think I was able to convey my simple message.  Please take a listen by clicking on my show and let me know what you think!  I’ll be eager to see all my reviews!  Thanks for all your support!


Back to School in Style

Spreading the Good Will

Spreading the Good Will


It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Now those lyrics may normally be heard on the radio around Christmas but for millions of parents across the nation and around the world, these words convey an entirely different meaning…

…school is back in session!

And while their parents may be thrilled at the prospect of shipping off their kids for another fun-filled  year, the students more than likely are not terribly enthused.  The task of finding classrooms, memorizing locker combinations, and piling on hour of after hour of homework somehow overshadows the excitement at returning to the old classrooms. 

The only thing kids probably enjoy in preparation for the new school year is the annual ritual of school shopping. 

Now when I was a kid, it was mandatory to visit the ubiquitous Buster Brown shoe store to be outfitted with decent footgear for the first day of school.  This part, for me, actually wasn’t too bad.  I enjoyed all the fussing of the lady helping me try on my new lace-ups, and certainly secretly thrilled in the smell of the leather.  Buying a pretty new dress also was something to look forward to as my mother and I visited our local department store.  And so it was that on the first day back to school, I’d be resplendent in my red gingham dress, matching red socks, and spiffy new footwear shining in the sun.

Fast forward a few years and now as the mother of an emerging fashion-conscious tween boy, I find myself in the bittersweet position of rejoicing in his starting back at school and feeling the sting as I part with more money than I’d like to outfit him for his new middle school experience.

As I mention in my book, Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, this whole buying-retail thing now, with my years of thrifting experience clouding my judgment on what constitutes a normal price for things, I take great umbrage to the thought of parting with more than $10 for a pair of jeans!  A visit to Sears a while back found me on more than one occasion laughing out loud at the prices displayed on the racks. 

“Avoiding the sidelong glances of the saleslady stacking T-shirts nearby, I muffled an indignant snort or two as I scoffed at the temerity of the store to price a simple hoodie at well over $50.  Are they serious, I thought to myself, looking over the cheap plastic zipper, destined for breakage within a month or two.  The thing looked no more substantial than an overgrown sweatshirt; the only seeming justification of such an outrageous price being the tiny label stitched in the neckline. Did they expect the wearer to turn the jacket inside-out, so as to impress anyone with sharp enough eyes to see the tag?” 

Nevertheless, my son has his heart set these days on certain brands and while I could afford that $50 hoodie, quite frankly it’s more often than not that I have returned from a thrifting run at my local Goodwill, bag full of clothes, (some of those very name brands he so covets),  paying LESS than $50 for at least five outfits.  And they’re outfits he can wear with pride, labels and all, and no one is the wiser as to how much actually got spent on them.  He’s cool for one-quarter the price, at least!

Seems I am not the only one out there checking out thrift stores these days for back-to-school fashions.  Check out this link.  Fox News apparently has latched onto the idea as well.

Now that’s what I call stimulating the economy!

Goodwill Hunting Volume 2

The New Hot Store in Town

The New Hot Store in Town

What has amazed me is the national media just now getting on the junktiquing bandwagon.  All of a sudden what some of us have been doing for years has transformed into the New Thing To Do. 

Now it’s not just the thrift store Regulars haunting the aisles, but a whole slew of newbies are entering these hallowed halls, some out of curiosity and others more likely out of necessity.

And it’s our job as Regulars; the old school players of thrifting, to show these rookies around. 

According to MSN money’s website, author Melinda Fulmer notes the following,

“Driving this boom at the nation’s estimated 25,000 thrift and resale stores are big jumps in demand for clothing, especially work clothes such as dress shirts, suits and skirts, says Lauren Lawson, a spokeswoman for Goodwill Industries International.”

It’s no longer the diehards in the aisles.  It’s all of us. 

So to the Regulars, if you see somebody sporting a bewildered look as they march through the doors of your local Goodwill, take the time to clue them in to some important tips.

It’s not likely that some of these venturers will know how to navigate the aisles, how to spot a great bargain, and, most importantly, how to hang onto the item they discover and not put it back on the shelf, as one fact remains true of thrift stores.

There’s not a huge back-stocked inventory of duplicate items in The Back if they aren’t fast enough to grab what catches their eye.  And while this may prove frustrating at first, remind them that once they’ve got over this shock, they’ll actually find a vicarious thrill in whisking special treasures in their cart, drawing longing looks from other co-shoppers. 

And by the way, remind our new friends that if they find a fabulous coat, groovy pair of jeans, or smashing pair of heels, they’d better get it right then, because it won’t be there if they leave and change their mind.  Had I heeded my own advice a couple of years ago, I’d be snuggly warm in a gorgeous wool jacket rather than borrowing my husband’s slightly moth-eaten parka for another season.

So whether you’re a old-timer scouring the shelves for another trinket or a thrift store virgin, have some fun, relax, but be sure to hunt wisely and well. 

Since we’re all in this for the long-haul, like it or not, we might as well have a good time and help each other out.  Isn’t that what a compassionate society does after all?

Welcome, friends!

Let’s Get Cooking!

Just grillin'

Just grillin'

One of the many benefits of shopping at places like Goodwill, besides the obvious price-point issue, is that many times you can update your kitchen and literally feed your inner Rachael Ray just by paying close attention to the cookware aisle.

Check out this pan. It’s an All Clad 12-inch grill.  Borrowing directly from the website, the description says it’s a “high-performance grill designed with a heavy gauge, hard-coat anodized aluminum exterior for efficient, balanced heat conductivity and long wear. Quantum-coated nonstick interior. Solid-cast stainless steel handle. Carries the All-Clad limited lifetime warranty.” 

Sounds great doesn’t it?  If you only had the $49.99 in your pocket, plus shipping!  And that’s a bargain, compared to other sites, which list it as high as $89 and above! 

Now most of us these days can’t shell out this kind of cash for such a fine piece of cookware.  But as this lucky Goodwill shopper found out, with a little perseverence, occasionally these gems can be unearthed beneath the stacks of plasticware and mismatched cutlery.  What did I pay for this fabulous All Clad grill?

Three dollars.  Yes, you head that right.   For a whopping three George Washingtons, less than a footlong sub at a famous restaurant, I whipped that bad boy into my cart and home faster than you could say panini sandwich! And was this beautiful grill in a sad state of affairs to find itself wedged in between an old turkey roasting pan and a juice extractor?  Nope!  Probably because it was an All Clad, it was sturdier than its less-expensive counterparts and able to withstand the trip to Goodwill most likely jumbled in a large donation box.

See, thrifting is not what you think.  With a little patience, knowlege of product value, and luck, sometimes the most amazing things can come into your life that up to now may have been cost prohibitive.  Sure, we’d all like to be able to trek to the local gourmet cooking store and walk out with thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise, but as I see it, that trend is morphing into one of a simpler outlook.  Now even those on the most modest budgets sometimes can come away with items of superior value, intrinsic or otherwise. 

So next time when you’re in the market for a new frying pan, swing by your local Goodwill.  You just might be amazed at what you find.

Bon appetit!

Thrift Store Divas Unite!

Where all true divas shop

Where all true divas shop

Divas unite!  Budgets notwithstanding, we can all look great.

Check out this cool article….

Patriotism In the Dump Bin


American Flag

American Flag

Patriotism in the Dump Bin Twin City winter living is a dichotomy of natural beauty and dodging that beauty when the mercury dips beyond 20 below zero. It’s visually breathtaking taking in the aftermath of an ice storm yet one’s breath is literally sucked out by the frigid air. You spend much of your time dashing from car to office, from car to supermarket, from parking lot to home, all in a quest to keep your various appendages from developing frostbite along the way. The residents either fall into one of two categories: Those who are undaunted by the arctic blasts and those who venture out only when absolutely necessary.

The former types, most likely native born, seem to possess an extra layer of toughness that enables them to carry out their daily routines in temperatures that would make a polar bear pause. I’ve seen bundled-up citizens of St. Paul gamely trudging, albeit gingerly, on the ice-covered sidewalks, sidling up to igloo-like bus stops, shopping bags clutched in mitten-clad hands, steam pouring from below their icicle-laden scarves. There’s camaraderie of sorts in the true Minnesotans, for whom a drastic dip in degrees only serves as a challenge.

As a transplanted Canadian via California and most recently the balmy climes of Atlanta, it was in this setting one afternoon that I found myself in conversation with a kindred soul.

Admiring my bus shelter companion’s wooly boots, I commented that as a newcomer to the Twin Cities, I’d need some warm footgear soon or I’d probably have to donate my toes to science. Laughing, she said, “Well you could spend a pretty penny on boots around here but if you’d like to be in on a little secret…I got these at the Salvation Army just down on University.”

Now she was speaking my language.

“Oh, really?” I exclaimed. “There’s one so close by?”

Now being the typical Minnesota-nice lady that she was, Kirsten, as her name turned out to be, promptly dug in her purse and produced a local map. Circling the street and scrawling an arrow, she said, “You can’t miss it, dearie. It’s three stories high and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be shopping there all day!”

I climbed aboard my bus that afternoon, sneaking glances at Kirsten’s boots from time to time, wondering what else I would uncover at my newest shopping venue. Meeting my new husband, Alex, at the bus stop, I plunked myself into the careworn bucket seat of our vintage Toyota and eagerly told him my news.

A recent convert to thrift store shopping, Alex smiled, “Do you think they’d have some nice pants for me there?”

That Saturday morning found us parked outside the most monstrous thrift store I had yet witnessed. As Kirsten had proclaimed, it was indeed a three-story brick building nestled underneath a highway overpass, its Salvation Army insignia on the 30 foot sign proclaiming its domination for miles around.

This was going to be good.

I darted across the small parking lot, dodging upended shopping carts and scattered sheets of ice, Alex in tow. Marching through the glass doors, my eyes took in the wonders before me.

An enormous room, clearly a converted warehouse, chock full of seemingly endless racks of clothing, invited me to browse. The soaring walls, covered with latent velvet art and various posters of bygone days, led the eye to a second level where a sign pointed out “Books, Records, Tapes, Baby.” To the left I noticed, amid bent orange racks of every type of plastic ware imaginable, haphazard stacks of coffee cups. One caught my eye. Along its pink side declared the words, “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.” Amen.

We decided to try the book section first, being avid readers and having discovered that paying full price for books on our newlywed budget was not feasible. Alex and I had already found hole-in-the-wall secondhand bookstores and were happy to come across another source of books. Noting a lack of elevators, we climbed the linoleum-clad stairs two at a time, eager to see what tomes awaited us on the dusty shelves.

Splitting up, Alex as usual headed for the magazine section, looking for those pertaining to his favorite topics of pop culture, history, and cars. We already had amassed a considerable collection of National Geographic magazines, and enjoyed looking at the vintage advertisements and laughing over the archaic lingo. We agreed to meet downstairs in half an hour in front of the shoes.

I perused the riveted shelves for a while, finding a copy of Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man, a favorite from my childhood. Clutching it to my chest, I gazed down the mismatched collection, ranging from diet books, to coffee table books, to obscure computer-programming manuals. Finding nothing else compelling, I decided to return downstairs and look at shoes while I waited for Alex.

Passing a young man in dreadlocks, I had to smile. His T-shirt, clearly a joke, read “Outrageous Granny.” Meeting my smirking gaze he shrugged, as if to say, “It was cheap!”

At the bottom of the stairs, before turning right towards the rows of shoes, I noticed another sign. This one, scrawled in Magic Marker on a dingy piece of cardboard, said, “Bargain Basement Below.” The hand-drawn arrow drew my eyes down another flight of stairs to what seemed like a cavern.

Not wanting to lose sight of Alex, I waited for what seemed an eternity amid the shoes. Almost tripping over a pair of glittering gold-lame high heels, I finally spied him and waved him over.

“Hey, it says ‘Bargain Basement Below’, let’s go!” I could barely contain my excitement. A bargain basement in a thrift store was an added bonus. Peering over his shoulder at the sign, Alex took my hand and we descended into the depths.

What met our eyes next still reverberates in my mind today. Reaching the basement floor, spread out before us lay the largest collection of junk I had ever seen, haphazardly strewn on white tables, bric-a- brac aplenty jutting out at every angle. It resembled a tornado only with the debris field contained in one room. For what seemed like miles lay the remnants of society, tossed aside by one to be considered yet again by another. The fluorescent lights, intermittently blinking on and off, cast an eerie glow over the entire room. Children darted around and underneath the tables, mothers scolded while holding onto half-mended shirts, grunge kids crowded around a pile of LPs, and seasoned thrift store veterans established themselves at stations at various sites, carefully examining each careworn item in turn, seeking the value in the vastness.

I was in heaven.

Splitting up again, I left Alex to mingle with the grunge kids while I made my way toward a likely looking first table. The only other patron there, a wizened man in too-short overalls and red flannel shirt glanced up from his inspection of a CB radio microphone to smile at me.

“Nice day,” he grunted. Agreeing, I carefully set to work a respectful few paces away from him. Grasping the first item that seemed promising, I turned it over. Stuck inside a wad of ages-old corner lint, sat a thimble from Niagara Falls. Only a small chip marred its bottom rim. Dusting the lint on my pants leg, I considered it’s value but then I noticed no price tag. Looking about for a clue to unlock the mysteries of this bargain bazaar, I saw a sign taped to a support post behind my elderly partner.

“All bin items 10 cents CASH only. NO RETURNS. You Broke It you Bought it. Shoplifters will be persecuted.”

Taking this information in, noting the reasonable price and the standard warnings, amusing misspelling notwithstanding, I decided the terms were fair and continued on in my quest.

Regretfully returning the thimble from my home country, mentally noting to acquire a tube of super glue for just such an emergency in the future, I returned to the bin before me. Digging through tangles of telephone wire, pushing aside a half-clothed dolly, her blonde locks shorn to stubs and missing a finger or two, my fingers brushed up against those of my gentleman shopping partner.

“Oops! Sorry about that.” I said. “Didja want that mike over there?” he asked, pointing at another CB radio microphone hiding below a blue plastic Las Vegas visor, its frayed cord patched here and there with electrical tape. “Gosh, no, it’s all yours,” I said, and slid the mike over to his digging burrow. “Oh, good, thanks. I collect these. Remind me of the days on the road.” His blue eyes twinkled with glee as he began unraveling the cord from around a shoelace.

Finding nothing more at this table of particular interest, I waved farewell to my ex-trucker friend and proceeded along the cracked concrete floor towards the back of the basement where a sign read, “Jewlry and watches 50 cents each.” Nimbly jumping over a purple jump rope strewn in my path, I scanned the area for Alex. Still bent over an enormous collection of vinyl, he seemed quite content. I turned my attention back towards the jewelry table when I stopped dead in my tracks.

The stripes poking out beneath a one-eyed doll called to me. Walking over to the table, blissfully unmanned, heart pounding, I hoped that what I thought I saw was indeed the real thing. Setting my book aside on top of a broken wrench, I grasped the fabric’s corner. Pulling it slowly so as not to usurp a chipped teapot, I gathered the fabric into my trembling hands.

The brass grommets gleamed in the fluorescent light. Turning it over, I read the still-intact tag, “Defiance, Reg US Pat Off, 2 ply Moth Proof, Bunting.” Between the grommets, barely discernible, was a name, “Andersen.”

Counting the stars on the field, I found only 48 individually sewn stars, the patina of age only making the flag more intriguing and poignant. The frayed halyard edge, its fibers unraveled only slightly, still bore marks of attachment to a pole. There were no silk-screened stripes here. Only lovely alternating red and white intermingled in the basement’s harsh light. A single tiny moth-eaten hole marred the field, near the topmost left star. I brought it close to my face, touching its fabric to my skin and breathed in the ancient air.

Whose hands had sewn these stars so precisely? What winds had fluttered this beautiful flag? Where had it been before its untimely and unceremonious end here in the dump bin deep in the bowels of the Salvation Army thrift store? What Andersen had seen fit to donate such a memento rather than preserving it for future generations or retiring it properly? And why, as a Canadian citizen, did I seem more touched than the other shoppers around me by this hapless vintage flag?

Drawing it to my breast, I gathered its folds gently and ambled over to Alex, now holding a copy of an obscure jazz musician’s last LP.

“Look at this.” I held out the flag.

His eyes widened at the find. He took it from me, carefully ensuring that it would not touch the floor, unfolding it fully for the first time in probably a decade. Dust entrapped in years-old creases fell at our feet. Alex drew his finger along one carefully handsewn seam and whistled. “Wow,” was all he could say. His eyes caught mine and we knew we had to have this flag, insulting at a cost of 10 cents yet priceless to us.

We brought it to the cashier, along with my book and his record. Ringing us up, the pockmarked boy stopped for a moment upon seeing the flag.

“It’s ripped. Do ya still want it?” He paused over the register, waiting for our response. Silently we nodded, paying our total bill of $2.58 and took our flag home.

Later research led us to discover that this flag dated somewhere between July 4, 1912 when the State of Arizona was admitted to the Union and July 4, 1959 when Alaska joined the United States. This beautiful old girl had flown during the presidencies of eight men from Taft to Eisenhower. The history she had seen from her vantage point atop a pole resonated in our minds.

The Andersen flag, or as we came to call it, “Salvation Army” flag once again flew proudly at each of our homes until this past winter when a sudden ice storm ripped it in two. Heartbroken we gave it a proper sendoff. We brought it to the American Legion and we participated in a flag retirement ceremony.

And as the flames transformed our flag to smoke, no one was prouder than I was.

Rules of the Road for Dump Bin Items: Never be afraid to get your hands dirty.
From: Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, copyright 2009 Dawn Edwards 



The Dot-Com Millionaire and the $4 Shoes

Not Florsheims but still cool

Not Florsheims but still cool

Fashion is a truly subjective thing. Adorning one’s body with the latest garments from top designers to some may be the be-all and end-all of existence. Others seem quite happy to outfit themselves with simple clothing from local discount stores, oblivious to manufacturer name or lack of pedigree. Some pour over the fashion magazines, eager to get a sense of the trendiest styles and hopefully emulate those able to afford high-priced clothing. Each season’s clothing line from the top fashion houses becomes a sought-after goal; perhaps in a quest to prove one’s intrinsic worth through the wearing of exotic garb. Indeed, a trip to any major city around the world will provide many with inspiration, not only from the historic architecture and fascinating sights, but also from observing the attire chosen by the local residents. From those high-flyers strolling down Broadway in New York, clad in silk suits, patterned dresses, and toasty warm woolen overcoats, to the debonair criss-crossing Michigan Avenue in Chicago, wrapped up in the finest scarves known to man, self-expression can be found in all forms of clothing.

Perhaps one’s preference leans more towards tie-dyed T-shirts and leather sandals; in which case perhaps a visit to Berkeley or San Francisco may prove fruitful in the search for such garb. The farmer or construction worker may find value in a sturdy pair of work boots, while a teenager from Sydney may gravitate towards suede and shearling clogs. As different as each of us is, it seems there is a special style that we can call our own; an identifier of sorts, separating us from our neighbor and establishing our uniqueness in society.

We all strive to cover our nakedness not only out of a sense of modesty but more likely a need for practicality; most of the outdoors can be harsh on our skin and thus clothes and shoes are essential to our very lives. Unless we find ourselves in the outback of Australia or in the rain forests of Brazil, needing mere loincloths or body paint, a more complex array of protection and expression becomes mandatory. In modern Western society, we therefore must seek out and establish a method for adorning ourselves in order to properly interact with others. Thus, the clothing industry is born.

And so we shop.

Notwithstanding the ability of some more affluent of us to travel to Paris or London to attend the annual fashion shows, a more basic requirement for decorating ourselves presents us with a quandary unique to our financial means. Listen, I’d love to go to a fancy department store and plunk down over $5000 in one visit! However, nobody’s subsidizing my shopping trips, so alas I find myself remanded to the more modest venues for my clothes shopping. Of course, having been a lifelong thrifter, I have developed a rather warped view of the value of things and thus perhaps might not possess an accurate perspective on what one should typically pay for garments. I take great umbrage to the thought of parting with more than $10 for a pair of jeans, so a recent visit to Sears on a quest for Christmas presents found me on more than one occasion laughing out loud at the prices displayed on the racks. Avoiding the sidelong glances of the saleslady stacking T-shirts nearby, I muffled an indignant snort or two as I scoffed at the temerity of the store to price a simple hoodie at well over $50. Are they serious, I thought to myself, looking over the cheap plastic zipper, destined for breakage within a month or two. The thing looked no more substantial than an overgrown sweatshirt; the only seeming justification of such an outrageous price being the tiny label stitched in the neckline. Did they expect the wearer to turn the jacket inside-out, so as to impress anyone with sharp enough eyes to see the tag?

I have a confession. I have not always been this cheap. Thrifter or not, during my teenage years, when money poured fairly easily from my poor mother’s purse, for me price was not a concern. I recall many times giving her the “eye,” (my lame attempt at a puppy-dog look) virtually begging her for the latest designer jeans. All my friends had their behinds covered with designer jeans! How could I face the world clad in lowly off-brand dungarees? Perish the thought! More often than not, my indulgent mother would shell out, albeit reluctantly, the money, and before I knew it, I too became a high school fashion diva. I felt ALIVE in my snazzy jeans, worthy of respect and admiration (or at least not the target of teasing for wearing something uncool).

That changed when I moved out of their house and had to pay for things myself. All of a sudden, the luster of such an expense dulled and my high fashion sense took a back seat to survival. Whereas before, money was no object to me, now the thought of parting with my hard-earned cash for such an extravagance as designer jeans seemed abhorrent. Thus, my “cheap” sensibilities resurfaced and once again I found myself scouring the dusty racks at the local thrift store, seeking high fashion wedged amongst the polyester muumuus. A $5 pair of slightly ratty, “worn in” jeans seemed quite suitable when I was faced with paying for my own electricity and rent. And so a thrifter was reborn.

Fast forward many years. A married lady now, with a husband possessing the same frugal mindset, I frequently scanned the shelves at our local resale shops for duds for my dude. He seemed quite happy with his secondhand sweaters and pre-worn pants. These items were easy to find; however, it proved more difficult to shod his feet. Similarly outraged at the exorbitant prices for men’s dress shoes at local department stores, he and I would often return to the thrift stores, looking for suitable substitutes. More often than not, we’d come away empty-handed; it seemed these were the Holy Grail of the secondhand venues. It was as if there’d been a run on fine Italian leather wing tips just prior to our arrival and all that remained were scuffed sneakers and careworn slippers in his size.

This continued to haunt us until one day when on one of our usual thrifting jaunts, I heard a familiar voice calling my name. Whirling about, almost upending a rack of leather belts, I peered over the rows and rows of men’s clothing to see my husband waving me over, his hands clutching something dark and mysterious. Curious, I ventured towards him, smiling at his childlike attempt at a jig in the aisle.

“What’d you find, Elvis?” I laughed. “Better,” he smirked, holding his treasure, “how’s about a size 10 and a half Florsheim Imperials in cordovan?” He plunked himself down on a dented metal lawn chair and proceeded to pull off his sneakers. After a moment of wriggling and tying, he stood up, beaming. “What do you think? Can I wear these to the office?” he asked, pointing at his feet. I had to admit, he was a vision. Clad in his dusty jeans, an old sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and the shiniest dress shoes I had ever seen, he was adorable. “How much?” I asked. Holding one foot aloft, clutching the wall for support, he produced the price tag on the bottom. I was impressed. For a mere $3.99, he could walk the streets of Corporate America with pride. We brought them home and he wore the shoes proudly to work every day, his coworkers never suspecting the source of his fashionable footwear.

A funny thing happened shortly after that day. Attending a party with some of our oldest friends including a pal Alex had known from childhood who had become a “dot-com” millionaire, the dinner conversation turned to shoes. Admiring the thrift store wing tips, our friend Tony exclaimed how similar they were to his own $500 pair. He wanted to know where we had bought them. Sharing a knowing smile with me, Alex turned to Tony and held up his foot. After a bit of confusion, Tony squinted at the tiny, somewhat scuffed but still legible label. He sputtered, red-faced, and snorted, “$4? You’ve gotta be kidding me! I would have had enough left over for a night on the town if I hadn’t plunked down this ransom for mine!” Slapping his back, Alex smiled, “I guess you’ve been hanging out with the wrong crowd!”

Rules of the Road for Thrift Store Fashion: Coolness doesn’t always come with a big pricetag.
From: Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, copyright 2009 Dawn Edwards











Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road

Window to the world

Window to the world

I am in the process of marketing my book, Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road.  In my humble opinion, it is a one-of-a-kind, poignant, sometimes humorous, extremely timely collection of essays documenting my forays into the world of all things secondhand.

Tell your friends, tell your neighbors, tell your boss, tell the mailman, tell anybody who’ll listen….it’s the quintessential companion to all of those remanded to the aisles of thrift stores as we all face our unique travails in this brave new economic world!

Come read some excerpts and let me know what you think!  Be honest!

Thrift Store Etiquette

Thrift Store Sign

Thrift Store Sign


Steering my wobbly wheeled shopping cart down an overcrowded aisle one Saturday morning, I abruptly came upon a thrift shop employee putting items onto a shelf.

Maneuvering around her, barely avoided beheading a chicken kitchen decoration, she barked, “No picking off the cart!”

I turned around to offer a wan smile to the clearly frazzled woman who guarded her wares as jealously as a miser oversees his gold. I wasn’t sure whether the remark was aimed at me in particular but muttered some halfhearted apology anyway. I hurried off down the aisle towards a display of Halloween costumes, but not before I noticed a small hand had snaked its way towards the battered green plastic container, a dinosaur toy jutting just beyond reach in the cart.

Just as the T-Rex was about emerge from the mass of merchandise, a voice bellowed, “Luis! Leave the cart alone until she’s done!” The little boy snatched his hand back as if from a hot stove, stung by the rebuke, eyes brimming with tears. Luis had learned the painful Rule Number One of thrift store shopping: Etiquette is Everything.

As Luis learned, there are rules to this thrift shop business. First and foremost of them is the often unwritten but widely understood “Rule for Picking Off the New Stuff Cart.” Some thrift shops post this rule, others don’t, but it doesn’t take long for a shopper in one of these establishments to learn it hard and fast.

Even with the great social leveling that thrift shops provide, some basic niceties and rules apply to those perusing secondhand stuff. Lessons that Emily Post herself could have written loom over the shoppers, young and old alike and the sooner the lessons are learned, the better.

One cardinal rule is this: If you don’t want to aggravate the nice thrift shop employees, don’t under any circumstances pick stuff from the cart of things they have wheeled out From “The Back.”

The Back is the Aladdin’s cave of thrift shops, usually a large room designated for sorting and pricing new donations. Several times a day, employees will bring out new items from this mysterious place and put them in their proper areas in the store.

At most thrift stores, you’ll find the Regulars situating themselves at the swinging doors of The Back. They wait like lions at the Colosseum for their next great find. Whatever is in The Back compels the Regulars in a way that vastly overshadows anything already on the shelves. The emerging stuff on the rolling carts appeals to the hard core Regulars as a jackpot in a casino.

Most stores have discovered that this enthusiasm for stuff emerging from The Back can translate into a feeding frenzy, with the poor employees practically diving for cover as the Regulars descend upon the new stuff on the carts like a pack of wolves.

Apparently in an attempt to protect the employees, not to mention the new cache from the lair in The Back, the rule has been established that nothing is to be pinched off the cart until it has been put on its proper shelf. The Goodwill I most frequent has this rule, and it is clearly posted on signs on the shelves, walls, and even on the rolling carts themselves. Woe to the soul who dares touch anything prior to it leaving the cart!

Instead, the Regulars and not-so-regulars must patiently linger until each and every last commemorative coffee mug, dinged telephone, or half-filled package of tennis balls makes it onto the shelves. Then it’s fair game, and it’s often not unusual for a shopper, Regular or not, to follow the hapless thrift shop employee about the store, stalking the cart like a famished cheetah.

I’ve seen people scurry off, clutching the new merchandise close to their chests, victorious smiles upon their faces, as they finally catch their prey. Their patience paid off, they skulk to a side area away from the cart and savor their victory. They’ve learned the hard way: Picking off the cart prematurely leads to nothing but reproach and oftentimes an invitation to leave the store from a frazzled employee. But to the victor goes the thrift store spoils.

This is the tip of the iceberg with regards to Thrift Store Etiquette. Other rules, expressed or implied, include:

No taking other people’s stuff out of their shopping carts while they are indisposed in the restroom or otherwise not smart enough to guard their things at all times. This will lead to consternation on the part of the hapless person returning to their cart only to discover that their copy of the Best of Bread is now in somebody else’s possession.

While this would probably never occur in a “normal” store, I have seen people gazing longingly at someone else’s items piled high in their carts and more than once the temptation has been too great to bear. Before the unsuspecting shopper returns, his cache has been raided and someone else has stashed his or her ill-gotten gain below a pile of other junk. This probably stems from the one-of-a-kind nature of thrift stores. Each item is unique and there are not 10 more copies of it in The Back.

This leads to another cardinal rule of thrifting. If the ticket for a large item has been removed, then that thing has been sold, and even though you may really really want that 1972 Schwinn Breeze with the awesome green handlebar covers, if that ticket is missing, you cannot claim it.

This ties in with another hard and fast rule of thrift stores. If you do buy that 1972 Schwinn Breeze with the awesome green handlebar covers, you’d better bring it Up Front and remove it immediately from the store or it is fair game to be sold again.

I recall one day practically frothing at the mouth, gazing at a lovely, albeit battered, dresser complete with dovetail joints, sad to discover that Mrs. Johnson has not answered her page that “the lower half of the yellow ticket for the $10 dresser is missing and if the owner of that ticket does not appear at lane #2 in the next five minutes, it will be sold.” So close and yet so far.

I have waited for what seems like an eternity for Mrs. Johnson to return to pick up her dresser, (or perhaps a burly young thrift store gentleman with a hand truck), only to then learn that she’s left the store with the lower half of the yellow ticket and now the item can’t be sold until they take the dresser to The Back to be reticketed. In most stores, this usually means a long wait; the Back is a solemn place not to be messed with.

(For what it’s worth, in retrospect, I am glad that nice Mrs. Johnson remembered her dresser ticket and ran back in all a flutter, as I noticed while patiently leaning on said dresser, that there was a quite pungent cat pee smell and I had considered myself lucky to have lost the opportunity).
This leads to another Rule of Thrifting. I call it the Rule of Transient Ownership. It goes like this: If somebody with much quicker reflexes has just grabbed that incredibly low priced and barely chipped Corningware set and chooses to stand in the too-narrow aisle, blocking your way, turning the item over and over in their hands while you silently curse them to eternal thrift store darkness, you MUST wait until they are absolutely, positively, unquestionably not going to buy that item and return said item to the shelf.

Then and only then can you be at liberty to snatch it up yourself for your own inspection and possible purchase, most likely aggravating the next potential buyer not two steps behind you, who has most likely cursed you for your incredible luck in grabbing that Corningware set. There are no double grabbings allowed of things. You can’t ask somebody, “Hey, do you REALLY want that?” That’s just not done. Here it’s all about patience and reserve.

Thrifting is a complicated process. It doesn’t involve just showing up one day and taking anything willy-nilly off a shelf and thinking you can just buy whatever you want whenever you feel like it. It’s a delicate dance of give and take, steadfastness, perseverance, and restraint.

These same rules apply to garage sales, flea markets, estate sales, and rummage sales. Those nice church ladies expect and deserve respect. The Rules apply to the rich and poor, old and young, seasoned shoppers or newbies. Luis learned them; you’d best learn them too.

 Rules of the Road for Thrift Stores:  Don’t assume it’s yours until you’ve got it home.


From Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, copyright 2009 Dawn Edwards





Garage Sale Nation

9-9-2006-261We have become a Garage Sale nation. Each year, homeowners (and others without garages – read “Yard Sale” in this case), across the United States begin a ritual of summarily decluttering their homes, attics, basements, etc., in a frenzy of spring cleaning. It’s as predictable as the customary harbinger of spring; the robin’s return to the garden in search of hidden wormy treasures, and like the red-breasted avian, thousands of us dive into our accumulated stuff, seeking to whisk away the cobwebs of winter and start anew. No sooner does the last frost coat the budding trees than we as a nation seem to emerge from a long, drawn-out winter solstice, eager to divest ourselves of last year’s dust and face the sun, in some areas a deeply missed friend.

And in that sunlight we emerge, cardboard boxes in hand, bringing forth the unwanted Christmas presents, the too-tight pants, the slightly broken toys, the lonely gym equipment, all aimed for one final destination known as……

The Garage Sale.

Call it what you want: Yard Sale, Rummage Sale, Moving Sale, Estate Sale, or the perennial biggie, Garage Sale, it’s all the same: It’s us shamelessly displaying all our unwanted junk over driveways and on lawns, on tables and under awnings, all in an effort to clean house maybe make a small profit along the way.

We plan for these things months in advance, simultaneously watching the calendar, the weather reports, and gauging the competition’s ads in the paper.

 There are detailed plans to draw up in the process. We have signs to make, advertisements to write, price tag labels to be made, change to be stocked, and neighbors to survey to see if they’d like to contribute some of their junk in the off chance that we don’t have enough stuff to set out on sale day. Prior to this, of course, the stuff for sale has to be acquired, dusted off, fixed if necessary (or labeled “make offer” if not), washed, sized, and assessed for sale-worthiness. It’s almost a job in and of itself.

Some are better at this than others; I’ve been to garage sales guided by beautifully crafted signs, having read extremely detailed advertisements, and seen wares set out the likes of which Sam Walton would have been impressed. Boxes and boxes of carefully set up records arranged in alphabetical order greeted the customers at one such sale.

Another lady, clearly a garage sale expert, had racks and racks of clothes, all categorized by size, gender, color, and price, complete with stern instructions on how to properly try on said clothing and reminders to take the items off the hangers. Someone who clearly had a lot of time on their hands had individually labeled tiny glass Christmas ornaments with dates of manufacture, quality, comparable prices, and relative value on auction sites such as eBay. Another mother, clearly proud of her organizational skills with six children, had each toy lovingly set in category order, some still in boxes, some still with instructions, and even had a testing station complete with batteries.

Sometimes the items for sale are there under difficult circumstances, and parting is bittersweet. One older gentleman, having apparently amassed a sizeable collection of tools over the years, had on display wrenches, screwdrivers drill bits, hammers, sockets, and other gadgets known only to the serious handyman. He had these separated by brand, quality, price, and category, and had gone so far as to polish the tools so they shone in the morning sun. He was so proud of these tools on display that I wondered why they were even for sale, until I noticed the slight tremor in his scarred hands.

Perhaps it was time to pass these relics on to a younger generation. Perhaps retirement had proven inauspicious for hours spent in the garage or maybe his wife worried for his safety. All I can say is that when the first hammer exchanged hands and was carted off, those tremulous hands seemed to have difficulty in pocketing the dollar they earned.

There are different genres of garage sales too. You’ve got your run-of-the mill junk sale with the usual suspects of Tupperware, Christmas ornaments, and trinkets. There are the kid’s clothes sales, and those sometimes even sub-categorized into age group; I’ve seen ads in the paper saying “baby items,” versus others saying “cool teen gear.” I personally appreciate the specifics of a good garage sale advertisement so as to attend only those with stuff I really want.

There are the “antique” sales with local ephemera and remnants of local county fairs of years gone by, newspapers documenting famous events, and rarely seen, ancient toys (read: no batteries required). This latter type of sale usually is geared towards the prospective buyer’s nostalgia and a yearning to return to simpler, familiar times.

Then there’s the sale, which I personally have had difficulty in comprehending, based on the amount of work that goes into putting together such an event: The Perpetual Garage Sale.

These savvy sellers, seemingly with a never-ending supply of castoffs, put on virtually weekly sales, turning their driveways into mini-malls. Each time the sale is presented the same: The same advertisement appears in the local paper practically word-for-word a copy of the previous incarnation; the same items appear in the same spots on the driveway or within the garage on tables; the trusty cashbox is set up; and the same signs appear stapled to telephone poles or pounded into the ground all over town.

Having hosted a meager two garage sales during the entire time these sellers have put on easily ten times the amount, my hat’s off to these intrepid folks; clearly they possess greater degrees of patience or they make a living from this form of commerce.

But for me, between the setup, anticipation, fear of a rainout, and the inevitable junk-run to the local thrift shop of the leftovers, the novelty has worn off at least in the hosting department. I wish my more tenacious competitors all the best – they’ve got the spunk and strength of character to plod on beyond the initial sale and as a result they probably make more money than I’d ever see in one weekend sale!

I’ll stick to carting my kid from sale to sale each weekend, pay my respects to my tough neighbors, and hopefully find a bargain along the way.

From: Second Hand Roses: Lessons From the Junktiquing Road, copyright 2009 Dawn Edwards