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. 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfsQOOPcC0Y

Now that’s what I call stimulating the economy!

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Sharing the Wealth

One man's trash...

One man's trash...

I just read an amazing story about a postal worker from New Jersey who took the time to visit his local thrift store and procure items for his relations back in Ghana.  He was just honored by the National Association of Letter Carriers for this wonderful deed….

….On the Chicago Tribune website, from AP-  “National Humanitarian of the Year, Emmanuel Anim-Sackey, 50, of West Orange, N. J., who sifts through northern New Jersey thrift stores and yard sales to find used clothes, shoes and school supplies to send back to impoverished families in Abetifi-Kwahu, a village in his native Ghana.”

What a beautiful, yet so simple thing to do.  His time, money, and efforts may have won him some acclaim here but I’d hazard a guess that he’s even more of a hero back in his native country.  See, this gentleman took a look around him, realized that we as a country are truly rich by most of the world’s criteria, and decided to share the wealth. 

Now that phrase, “share the wealth,” was bandied about for a while back during the presidential campaign last  year.  But for all the outcry and debate, truly what is wrong with helping our fellow man; to give from those of us who have so much to those for whom clean water is a luxury rather than a common happenstance?  Isn’t what we all learn as children?  Sharing, cooperating, caring, having empathy, compassion, and love are all values instilled early and hopefully traits we carry over into our adulthood.  Whether it’s lending a neighbor a hand with felling a dead tree, bringing a casserole to a new widower, or even shipping a box of clothes to distant lands, it’s this spirit of altruism that connects and binds us all as a society, a race, a community, an amalgam of all things human. 

In these hard times, we’ve all tightened our belts, cut back on luxuries like vacations (preferring the new-cool “staycation”), and some of us have even learned from our grandparents to grow a Victory garden to supply us with food from our own toils.  Giving to others may seem impossible right now, as we are faced with dental bills, threats of layoffs, rising costs of living, and worries about our own circle of friends and family.  All the charities are taking a hit these days as donations are down.

But taking a cue from Mr.  Anim-Sackey, the time to consider the welfare of others even as we pray for our own salvation may be, curiously, the best time to share the wealth.  It doesn’t have to be in the form of a huge monetary donation.  We usually always have a half-hour a month to set aside in the service of others; be that serving food to the homeless, tutoring a struggling student, or collecting clothes to clad our far-flung relatives. 

Anne Frank may have put it best with her simple reminder, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

Sharing the wealth may ultimately reap riches on us all.

To learn more about the other inspirational folks delivering our mail:

www.nalc.org

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.

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!

http://tinyurl.com/thriftstorescore

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 Amazon.com 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!

Goodwill Hunting

It's affecting us all

It's affecting us all

This economy has taken its toll on all of us, some more than others.  People are taking notice and at 9.7 percent unemployment, more people should take a second look at an area heretofore left to the “fringes” of society….thrift stores. 

Seems that people are having to cut corners everywhere in ways that even six months ago perhaps they would not have imagined.  One contributor to the “Speak up!” section on Goodwill.org says that she’s having to learn how to use her microwave a lot more.  Others must get creative in different ways in order to cope with the widespread financial mess that pervades our society these days. 

Even those of us fortunate enough to still be employed are seeing the proverbial forest for the trees and resorting to venues up to now not considered for our budgets.  In my trips to my local Goodwill, for example, it’s been in the past year or so that I have noticed many different customers coming through the doors for the first time; some out of curiosity and some more of necessity.  Bad economy or not, employment status questionable, it’s still a fact that kids need school clothes and that coffee won’t brew itself in thin air.  Gone is the heyday of cruising the malls and parting with hundreds of dollars on life’s essentials.  Now we’re all having to trim the fat and until this situation improves, I foresee many more folks coming to this previously dark corner of commerce. 

There’s no stigma in saving money; in fact one could say that it is wise to bargain hunt when possible as while there may be some leeway in clothing allowances, the gas bill or the car insurance won’t likely go down anytime soon.  Something’s gotta give.

Check out this interesting article from Goodwill Industries and perhaps you can contribute a story or two of your own.  It’s the only way we’re going to make it these days….by working together and sharing our life experiences.

Come along and try your luck at Goodwill Hunting one day!

http://tinyurl.com/goodwillspeakup

Published in: on 2009/08/14 at 5:48 pm  Comments (4)  
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Books books books

Look within the covers

Look within the covers

I just got back from Goodwill and found some fabulous additions to my home library. It’s amazing that for usually under two bucks a pop, I can stock my shelves with some of the greatest literature, the most informative digests, or the trashiest novels known to man. 

Other than borrowing books from the library, I can think of no finer source of reading material than my local thrift store.  How many hundreds of dollars have I saved over the years by merely taking the few extra moments to peruse the jumbled aisles for a treasure or two?  It staggers my mind. 

I am grateful for stores like Goodwill who see fit to lovingly set up shelves for those of us wanting to expand our minds, learn a new recipe, or just while away a few beachside hours.  Without the tireless work of these charities, I’d hazard a guess that many thousands of pounds of paper, not even mentioning the information written uponthem, would head to the landfills. 

And I am even more grateful to those folks going through their home bookshelves, sorting out what they no longer want, and making the effort to transport these books to their respective charity of choice.  Without them, so many others may not have the opportunity to be introduced to the likes of Huckleberry Finn, Jackie Collins, Sherlock Holmes, Julia Child, and even Maurice Sendak. 

So thanks to  you all, for today I decorated my life just a wee bit more, while parting with less than $10.00 for the whole lot.  I’ll brew up a cup of Darjeeling in honor of your altruism while I curl up in my bookreading chair. 

Now if I could just remember where I put my fuzzy bunny slippers….

Published in: on 2009/08/11 at 10:01 pm  Comments (2)  
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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….

http://tinyurl.com/thriftdiva

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!