It’s not about saving money, although often times you can find treasure for just a few bucks.
It’s about color, originality, one item that speaks to you. You set out to find a specific object and come home with another, perfectly clashing with your already intentionally clashing decor.
Repurposed housewares, record players, vintage books. lamp shades from the 1970's and puzzles a few pieces short. It’s euphoric.
Let’s talk fashion. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of articles of clothing hanging on racks in a color coordinated manner sized totally wrong. The thing about thrift store clothing though, you’ve got a 50/50 chance. It’s either the most must-have dress you’ve ever come across or a sweater that’s left you questioning, Dear lord, someone actually bought this the first time around?
Before my husband and I started dating we were ‘just friends.’ Yeah, we all know how that turns out, obviously. I remember the first time I went to his house for a barbecue/ baseball playoffs kind of gathering. Everything he owned was brown and perfectly in its place. There were pictures of quail hanging in frames.
Then there was me. An image vividly clashing with my $4 thrift store neon pink and sequin prom dress accessorized with butterfly hair clips and cowboy boots. I felt as if I were standing inside the pages of Better Homes and Gardens. He was wearing khaki pants, on purpose. He still wears khaki pants.
As I type this I’m sitting on his brown couch that now lives in our home while wearing lama print pajama pants and a ‘no one should ever wear’ shade of yellow flannel shirt. We’ve had so many years to grow into a couple and we still clash. We owe this trait of our personalities to thrift stores.
Have you ever noticed the smell of a thrift store? Like, what is that? It’s the whole world coming together in a small, closed in space and the odor is just not good. It’s sort of a musty and- or rotted maple syrup stench. You still smell it the entire drive home but once the object or objects (most usually plural in my case) are inside your house the smell disappears and blends into your atmosphere.
The most enchanting, and intriguing idea of all those items with paper price tags are their stories. Anything you find second hand has already lived a lifetime. Another time, another place, another person. Sometimes these stories are so clear to us and other times we can only imagine and make one up.
There’s a novelty, you know? A thrift store is its own form of art. There’s wonder and mystery, fabrics and patterns, unnecessary kitchen utensils and board games you’ve never heard of.
My son has an amazingly, hideous sleeper couch in his bedroom where his friends sleep on Friday nights. For the price of $12 its added the nicest touch to his already clothes tossed everywhere, garbage piled up, school books left untouched inside his backpack decor.
The marketing tactic of thrift stores is put a bunch of crap together and people will buy it. It works.
I once bought an old school desk for $7. Old school as in literally. The metal (rusty by the time I found it) type with the chair attached. The desk top has a lift lid where you can place your alphabet worksheets, coloring pages and pencils inside.
It was love at first sight and I knew I had to have it. I brought it home and sanded it, painted it, stained it and weatherized it. I filled it with books and set it out in the yard as a Little Free Library. I was crushed when I woke one morning to discover someone had stole it.
The romance of thrift stores has saved my husband and I many times. Just the other day we had a shit day. I mean the worst. The transmission in our pickup kicked it, our cats dumped my cup of coffee on my laptop and fried my livelihood and we received yet another typical, deepest of cold, dead of winter $500+ electric bill.
We were miserable.
We were angry.
We had been defeated.
I’d like to ask you to go on a date with me to the thrift store in the city this weekend. We can take pictures of each other with the ugliest items we find. It’ll help us feel better, I said.
I’d love to, he responded. It’s a date.