As y’all know, I am not a big fan of paying full price for clothing. I’d rather spend my resources on memory preservation and experiences (i.e. going to the movies with my favorite family AND buying beautiful metal prints of my favorite photographs).
Back in the day when I realized that I only wear about 20 percent of what’s in my wardrobe, I said to myself, “Girl, why in the WORLD would you spend that much on something that’s just going to be hanging in your closet for years unused? Duh.”
But at the same time, I did need a few tops for fall. I hope the weather will begin to change soon. And honestly, I don’t have tops for cooler temperatures.
The few tops I can still wear for late summer that I regularly sport day after day have grown thread bare. (Ooh. I hope I spelled threadbare correctly. Is that one word or two? Anyway…). So, with still plenty of room in my closet after a huge de-clutter, but not a lot of cash, I headed to one of my favorite thrift stores.
It’s the one where my 85-year-old father-in-law shops only when he needs something and only on the days when everything’s on sale for 25 cents.
That’s right. 25 cents!
So I purchased eight tops today—one for my hubby, one for my teenage son, and the rest for me. Total price before tax was $2.00.
Here’s a video of me showing off one of my tops with someone’s initials on it. Don’t know what the initials are, and I don’t care.
Okay. Gotta go do laundry!
I’ll post more photos of the haul later, and some furnishings I found that I need for my growing photography business.
Recently, a friend shared on social media that she’s having a very hard time going through her recently deceased parents’ personal items. She feels an incredible amount of sadness having to go through their things, and essentially saying goodbye to her loved ones over and over again. My heart aches for her.
Seen It Before
Her post reminds me of another friend whose mother passed away a while ago. My friend has still not cleared her mom’s house and therefore cannot sell the old house. It sits there, year after year, while my buddy has to pay the property taxes on the place, money that she might use to enrich her own life and travel as she’s always said she wanted to do.
This has always been a fear of mine, that I’d feel so overwhelmed and sad going through my parents’ stuff that I’d be paralyzed to do anything and then pass the task onto someone else, say, my sibling. I think about whether I should take on all of this responsibility since my brother has taken on the lion’s share of our mother’s personal care. I live several states away from them.
I also feel anxious thinking that one day my children will have to cull through my things at great expense to themselves in terms of time, money, energy, and stress.
I know I don’t want that for them—sadness plus anxiety and the work of ridding their lives of what I tried to hold on to.
Horse to Water
While my dad died when I was only 20, and he had very few personal items, it’s another story with my mom.
Now 84, her health is beginning to fail. And while visiting her time after time, I have tried to de-clutter some of the things she obviously doesn’t need any longer. She objects loudly, and I get nowhere. I’ve tried to reason with her that she will likely not be returning to work full-time and therefore she doesn’t need dozens of 1980s pantsuits that are jammed into her closet. I’ve tried to convince her that there’s no need for her to have seven pieces of very ornate, very large furniture in the tiny spare bedroom. You can hardly walk in the room without bumping into the sides of something.
I’ve tried for years, and nothing changes.
I’ll Be the Change
So I’ve decided to just focus on me. Rather than looking around at my mom’s clutter, I have decided to address my own. And sure, I have accumulated far less than she has, but that’s no reason to get on any high horse.
And by downsizing my own possessions, I will master the strategies needed to go through my mother’s things when the time comes. I’ll have learned how to manage the emotions we often associate with material things.
I will have preserved my relationship with my mother now by placing value in it knowing that I can later handle what I so desperately want her to address now.
She cannot and will not, so that’s the first part of my “letting go.”
Getting Busy with It
Here are the things I’ve taken on this week to help stem the tide of junk here at Headquarters knowing that one day, my children won’t have to do it.
My Pre-Clutter and De-Clutter Strategies
Edit everything that comes in
You know I love a thrift store bargain. But today, I decided to walk away from a few really choice bargains at Goodwill because a) sure, I could resell them for much more money after a little clean up but that takes time that I have chosen not to spend b) I didn’t need the item for myself. If and when I do need such a thing, I believe it’ll show up in my life again or that I may find I can do without. I am trying to practice a more thoughtful way of viewing thrift store bargains and even found items in this way.
Take photos of the items that seem hard to part with
There are a few things in the garage that I think I’d like to hold onto, but honestly, until this weekend, they were things I’d forgotten I owned! So that means they probably didn’t mean much to me. So I’ll take photos of those things, and be done with them. I value the prospect of a clean and uncluttered home over retaining that thing I rarely use or think about.
I asked my oldest child if she wanted to keep my wedding gown. She was honest, and said, no. I’m okay with that. I didn’t even like my wedding gown! So I donated it to the thrift store. I have plenty of photos of me wearing it on our wedding day and on our 20th anniversary. I’m good. There might be others items around here that I can have my kids weigh in on. If yours are old enough, they can make sound decisions about what they’d like to hold onto when you’re gone.
As I’ve been going through these items, I’m telling my daughter a little story about them if there is one attached. For example, I have my dad’s shaving brush, and with that, I can recall how I’d watch him shave in the mornings. Then I got the bright idea to shave my own eyebrows off. I want to keep that brush for now, but my kids might not want to. They’ll know the story behind it, and that should be enough.
You could jot down those stories for them, and add a small photo of the item if it really means that much. Or record my recounting of the story using the audio recorder on your smartphone or computer. Save that recording, label it, and save it on a thumb drive for retrieval later…sort of like your own version of Storycorps. In fact, Storycorps has an app so you and your kids can record stories that will be stored in the Library of Congress.
I’m not saying any of this will be easy, but it is possible to do. And who knows what sweet memories will be stirred during the process. The stories—those are the bits worth keeping, worth sharing.
My husband recently reminded me that the first words our son read out loud as a toddler were, “thrift store.” That’s because back then, I’d have him on my hip (my son, not my husband) as I searched from one thrift store to the next to find bargains, including toys and kiddie couture. Back then, I shopped because I was bored. Now, I have to thrift because my budget is tighter than it was when I was a ramen-noodle-eating college student!
So here are my favorite thrift store shopping tips. You can thank me later:
Tip #1: Get there early
There’s nothing wrong with getting to the store early and waiting in the parking lot while sipping a cup of coffee. The early bird catches the worm and all. This works at thrift stores, but also is key if you prefer yard sales.
Tip #2: Head to the rear
Once inside, head to the back of the store immediately. Just like at a full-price retailer, sale and clearance items are usually in the rear. I’ve snagged a couple of good bargains this way by not dilly-dallying at the front of the store trying to figure out what the discount color of the day was.
Tip#3: Peek in the donations area
If you spot something being hauled in as a donation, don’t be afraid to ask the manager to price it for you. This doesn’t work at Goodwill as much as it does at smaller, church-sponsored thrift stores. It helps if you already have a rapport with the store’s staff. The lady who manages my favorite thrift store has seen me often enough, that we’re practically friends. More than once, she’s priced and sold something to me before it hits the sales floor.
Tip #4: Search high and low
Don’t ignore items placed on the very bottom shelves, the top shelves above eye level, and tucked behind other items. Doing so might require a few deep knee bends, but you’ll never know what you might yield this way. Also, be on the lookout for items placed in the wrong section and likely discarded by someone who changed their mind about purchasing it.
Tip #5: Ask to receive
I’ve never been shy about asking for a discount. Don’t neglect to ask which days are senior, military, or student discount days. You can often save 10 to 20 percent off of already low, low prices this way.
All in all, I use one or more of these tips each time I visit the thrift store. I also remain focused on securing only what I need, such as the dutch oven I purchased recently to replace the one I burned trying to cook oatmeal. I am a horrible cook, but, hey, that’s another blog post…or maybe not.
I found this industrial-style table at my favorite thrift store. A whopping $18.00. I sold my previous dinette set for $45, so I have a new table and money for a manicure! It was set up at its bar height, but it twirls down to a regular standard dinette table height.When I was struggling to place it in my cart, the cutest little four-year old came up to me and ask, “Hey, lady. Whatcha buying that for?” I told him I needed it for my kitchen. Then his mom looked at it, and suggested that I unscrew the top from the base, making it easier for me to place it in the cart and subsequently transport it in my car. I love smart people! I do have two chairs I can use with it, but I think I’ll be on the lookout for two upholstered chairs to “soften up” the look. I have a lot of hard lines and metal in this space, and I think the contrast would be nice. At least that’s what I’m thinking a classically trained decorator would say.