Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Love Letter to Thrifting

  Sal of Already Pretty asked the hardest question in the world the other day:

omg. I spent an hour thinking about this.

  I think even if I make a living wage some day, I will thrift for the rest of my life. This horrifies my mother. :D


  I discovered thrift shopping in my twenties and it was like discovering a comforting world of old and laid back. No frightening kiosk people* approached me with aggressive mind-game sales tricks. The stores were never stuffed with crowds, throbbing with headache-inducing club music, or gleaming with oppressive fluorescent light off endless expanses of glossy surface.

There are 10,000 items in here. I will not like any of them.

  Before, I never bought clothes until it became strictly necessary. Even then, when I'd venture out I'd often find that nothing sold that season/year suited by body type or personal taste or element protection needs and a day would be wasted searching through stores filled with things I didn't like. Who has the wherewithal to time her shopping trips on season or to keep track of some narrow window during which you might find something blue? I am just not into fashion in that sense. (Ups to you if you are, though! I just don't have the head for it.)

  Thrift stores don't arbitrarily restrict options to a few colors per season. I didn't have to look like a pissed-off Easter basket if I happened to run out of clothes in spring. They carry a lot of styles, too; I could find clothes even if everything sold in retail that year, or for several years in a row --I'm looking at *you*, skinny pants-- was terrible on my build, instead of wearing my existing clothes to faded shreds.

 Thrift store employees don't care if I buy anything or not, either. At one of my favorite places, they cheerfully greet you, and leave you to shop while they sing and dance to their rockin' soundtrack. You are also welcome to join in**.

  So I realized in my late twenties I really liked personal style and clothes. I just hate retail. :D

And more!

  Sal's question made me realize that my wardrobe is the least of it. My apartment is a thrifted wonderland. I was raised in a single parent home, so I grew up money-conscious, and there are a lot of things my father didn't "get" about domesticity***. As I've gotten to know my mother too, I realize neither of my parents are homemakers, so decorating my apartment has been an adventure of discovery and exploration without a blueprint.

  My jewelry chest? Thrifted. Handmirror? Thrifted. The decorative dragonfly candle was my first thrift purchase when I moved here. It was 99 cents. :D I think the ceramic Hello Kitty shisa was originally for toothpicks.

  I don't have a clue when it comes to artwork, but until I become a grown-up in that sense, I have found pretty thrift wall hangings that make me smile.

  I deep fry karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) in a thrifted narrow pasta pot that isn't actually any good for boiling pasta. I roast lamb shoulder in a thrifted Dutch oven. My mugs are a thrifted collection of various Asian restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. I drink tea out of thrifted teacups, I eat my tea cookies off thrifted plates.

  When I answered Sally's question, my mind was full of the magic of the lovely Elie Tahari dress and how it's the treasure nested in my wardrobe. Really though, my home life is built on thrifted items. I mean, when I plop my butt down in the main room after a long day, it's on a free sofa:

Thanks, craigslist!
  My friend R when three of us wrestled that sofa bed up to the 3rd floor: "We are better friends than you deserve."

  I love the things I've made my apartment out of, and I love the stories and the memories that each one has. It's kind of hard to look for a favorite thrifted thing in this context, so my new answer to Sally's question is: my life. :D

*Whose bright idea are those things, anyway? I made up a list of excuses I could say while backing away, including “I left my oven on.” and “I don't talk to people that frighten me.”

**What's the legality of naming specific thrift chains? I don't know, so I'm going to call it “FineResolve” and say the logo looks like a LEGO® person peering around a corner.

***Seriously. Furniture that was not torn/broken was a new concept to me when I made my own home.


  1. You hit the key points about thrifting. It takes the pressure out of buying clothes. No pushy salespeople; no feeling of failure if you don't find exactly what you want; and a wonderful sensation of victory when you discover an unexpected gem. Plus the price!

    Thrifting was a life-saver for me because it allowed me to move into buying female clothes as an activity without any of the pressures of retail-shopping. And, due to the low cost, it allows me to experiment wildly with no downside. It doesn't matter if a dress won't fit or looks bad if I spent less on it than a cup of coffee.

    1. Exactly! It's so much easier to experiment if you know you're out only $5 if something doesn't work out.

      A friend and I were talking about the difference in customer service styles today. Customer service in the US and Japan kind of wigs me out, because it's friendly and all up in your business. I prefer the 'could not give less of a crap' style I get at the Chinese market where the lady doesn't change facial expression, puts your stuff in a bag, and hurls it down to the end of the conveyor.

      Maybe these two extremes illustrate how personality types that are shyer/more outgoing react positively to less/more scrutiny and interaction.

  2. It's always been one of the reasons I love thrifting. I am notoriously hard to fit. I've always been picky about my personal style. And I've pretty much been poor all of my life.

    Now that I'm on the other end of the sales counter, I definitely try to keep in mind what I like in shopping. I work very hard to provide a comfortable shopping experience. I hate being pushed into things. I hate having people follow me while I shop. Being able to provide that ideal shopping experience for other people, help if it's needed, but space if it's desired, is exciting for me.

    Also your couch rocks!