Thrift Store Kitty Volume 2

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home


This is my second blog post about a couch getting donated, accompanied by a stowaway kitty.   Apparently couches are the primo spot for hiding for our feline friends.  You’d think the cat would have tried to escape once she/he felt the sofa moving but perhaps the springs were in the way.  However, as this came to pass (again!) I guess I must make a mental note to dig not only for misplaced spare change in the cushions but also to tune my ear for a telltale mewl from within the depths of any couch I may be eyeballing for my living room. 

There clearly must be a gang of rogue cats determined to infiltrate our thrift stores; their true intentions not entirely evident.  Must be an Al-Quatda plot to capture our hearts.

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Published in: on 2009/09/22 at 6:21 pm  Comments (2)  
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What’s Brewing?

 The nectar of the gods, java, cafe, morning joe, espresso, capuccino, latte, mocha….call it what you want, it’s one of the most addictive substances on the planet, yet completely legal and more often than not in our society, a necessity.  I know for myself personally I can’t even face my day without a sip of the stuff.  Almost ritual-like, it’s part-and-parcel of my very existence in the morning and without it I might as well go back to bed.  And that leads me to my next thought on the subject, purely random, I know,  yet quite valid…….how many coffee cups are in my cupboard yet how many do I actually use?  It’s  no lie to say that I’ve probably collected almost 50 vessels for my beverage of choice, and that’s not even starting to count the probably hundreds that have passed through my life up to this point.  I’ve got enough mugs on hand to host a coffee klatch of which any self-respecting hostess would be jealous. 
What level are you?

What level are you?

I’ve got the obligatory hand-me-down 1970s mugs from my parents’ house (yes I still have them all these years later), cute cat images on bone china, a mug I won by writing a winning essay on a website, various cups documenting my interests (from living in San Diego to having pet rats), the obligatory collection of employment-anniversary mugs (together my husband and I have five), one huge “cup” that could double as a soup tureen, and my latest acquisition, the Coffee Hound mug I just got from Goodwill a month ago.  Check it out…

Coffee Hound Mug Coffee Hound Mug

What attracted me to this mug is not the outside (which is cute enough) but rather the amusing graduated-line demarcation inside.  Depending on how much coffee you pour into this mug, you apparently are designated anywhere from “Kid Stuff” to the more likely “Coffee Hound” level I start off with each morning. 

Now this mug, according to some websites dealing in antiques, apparently dates anywhere from the 1950s to 1960s.  What I liked about it was its whimsy; the suggestion that ones personality somehow dictated what volume of the brew ended up inside.  Clearly even 40 to 50 years ago, the addiction to this magical beverage apparently warranted the making of this cup.  Now while most coffee back then was made at home in percolators and sipped at the Formica kitchen table before dear old Dad went off to work, it seems we’ve come full circle. 

Consider this statistic.  In the last quarter of 2008, Starbucks sales went down 97%.  It seems that as the economy took a tumble, so too did the extravagance of sidling up to the local barista for a daily latte.  According to the National Coffee Association, home brewing went up 5% at the same time, as folks revisited the joys of sitting with their spouses and kids prior to leaving for the office.  The benefits of home brewing, aside from the purely economical, also seem to expand into physical well-being.  Coffee can even be good for you.

On the WebMD website, it’s mentioned that “at least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s, with three showing the more they drink, the lower the risk. Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily can translate to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.” 

I’ll drink to that.  In my Coffee Hound mug, of course.  Topped off at the Hound level, thank you very much.

Radio Star

The Old Marconi

The Old Marconi

I’m going to be on the radio promoting my book, Second Hand Roses: Lessons from the Junktiquing Road on Blog Talk Radio with Michelle Vandepas of Divine Purpose on 15 September at 3 PM Eastern.


I am so excited to share my stories of learning from my forays into the world of secondhand and hope you will tune in!

I have a favor to ask.  Can you email me and let me know about one thing you’ve found of special importance at a garage sale, yard sale, thrift store, antique store, or online?  We are all collectors; you, me, and the rest of us in society and while it’s true you can’t take it with you, it’s sure fun to play with stuff while we’re here! 

I truly believe that some of the most beautiful, meaningful items I have found via my junktiquing trips have in their own ways colored my life and enhanced my outlook.  I’d be lost without my precious china teacup found years ago at a flea market; it’s delicate faded paint around the rim only hinting of tea parties of years gone by.  A treasured book sits in a place of honor, having come by way of eBay to replace a childhood friend.  And how would I display my books were it not for the altrusim of others donating their unwanted bookshelves?

I can’t wait to share my experiences in living life fully through thriftiness and I wonder if you’d do me the honor of listening in and perhaps contributing a memory or two or your own?

Thanks and as they say, “stay tuned!”

Junk Collectors

Junk Collectors School

Junk Collectors School


We are all junk collectors.  Even those who don’t outright admit it will testify to their ubiquitous junk drawer choc-a-bloc with rubber bands, pencils, straws, outdated coupons, Chinese takeout sauce packages, matches, candles, or any one of another million of modern society’s objects.  Some, like Jake, in the book above, are experts. And his junktiquing protege, Andy, wants to be just like him.  There’s so much in this world that others have cast off, and oftentimes it takes a special set of eyes to see the beauty in things left unloved and unwanted.  Repurposing and recycling happens to all of us ultimately, whether it starts off as an intended activity or the reusing of an item happens simply by chance.  How many of us have truly bought a new car? Most of us in this economy can only afford used, or as the dealers prefer to call them, “preowned.” 

Isn’t much of what we touch preowned?  Was the first house we bought a pre-fab McMansion in a nice suburb?  I think not.  Life evolves for us in Western society, and we are in a continual state of upgrading and improving our lot in life, sometimes to please ourselves, sometimes to impress others, and sometimes for reasons we don’t yet truly comprehend.  Aren’t the nicest  homes we’ve visited filled not with beautiful new drapes, priceless rugs, or costly fixtures but rather possessing instead the qualities of what we value inherently as a human being? I am talking about basic niceties like a warm hearth, a handknitted shawl, a steaming mug of cocoa, a careworn sofa, familiar books or vintage LPs, a collection of old cards and photographs, comfy slippers, and the quiet familiarity of our oldest friends and closest family.  I daresay most of these things’ value lie not in the pricetag but rather in the warmth and attachment we all feel when sharing them? 

If I am a junk collector because I save some pennies and display an antique photograph of my great-great grandmother, within a thrift-store frame, then so be it.  If I am a purveyor of secondhand and have no compunction in scouring the yards and garages of my neighbors looking for the perfect jelly jar, then I guess I am guilty as charged. 

But like Andy, I would be honored to graduate from Junk Collector School, to share in the wit and wisdom of those traveling life’s path before me, and hopefully gather some beauty along the way.

Published in: on 2009/08/06 at 12:49 am  Comments (1)  
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Back from Souvenir Land

Where's my bobblehead?

Where's my bobblehead?

I’ve just returned from Washington DC.  A fabulous place for all ages.  Before going somebody told me this was Disney for adults, and now I know why.  I lost count how many times I gasped in wonder at each successive vista and artifact or monument.  My son, however, had the best time.  In true ten-year-old style, he said the best part of his trip was all the souvenir shops!  I have to admit, there were almost more collections of made-in-China pencils and kitsch than paintings in the museums but after wading through the usual complement of snow globes, plates, and magnets, there were a few real trinkets worth buying to commemorate our trip.  The best one, I think, is the Barack Obama mousepad now upon which all my future chapters will be written.  It was truly Obamaland there and I, for one, was thrilled.  I’d go back in a heartbeat, and were I to have about another grand or two in my wallet, my kid would make a beeline for the roadside T-shirt stands. 


What a country!

Thrift Store Kitty



Here kitty kitty

Here kitty kitty

There’s a funny story about a woman who apparently got more than she bargained for when she went thrifting the other day. Apparently Ms Mendenhall bought a used couch for $27 at Value Village near her home.
Then the noises started. She looked all over to no avail until her boyfriend felt something underneath him as he sat on the couch. Moving it, he was astonished to find a ravenous kitty cat who had evidently found a hole in the back and stowed away.

Long story short, after bringing the kitty to her animal shelter and contacting the news outlets, the owner was reunited with his cat, having lost all hope of finding her after he had donated his old couch.

It seems the hidden benefits of thrifting sometimes go undetected until much later.



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