Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Thrift Talk, Part Two: When You've Lost Your Mojo

It happened again this week. I thrifted an otherwise-nice blouse that turned out to be too tight under the arms.

Blame the lack of fitting rooms. 

Maybe I should just stick to non-clothes for awhile. After all, I did a good closet-clean-out-and-fall-check-in recently, and I could really get along for quite awhile without buying much. I was given a few donations by a daughter, and I also have a few colder-weather things I found at the end of the winter that got stored and sort of forgotten.

But it can be frustrating to feel like you're on an un-roll. How do you win back your thrifting confidence?

Well, consider first of all that you might already have enough stuff. Really. Because if you're looking for something you really need, like a pair of jeans when your last ones are wearing out, you're more apt to put your heart into looking, care more about what you find and get it right, than if it's a random blouse. The blouse was mostly my fault: I should have looked more carefully at the size tag, I was probably going too fast. Sometimes choosing something quickly is okay, but other times it's a sign that you're just adding too much to your salad bar plate. There are definitely times to take a break.

If you have a bunch of things that you've already thrifted (or yard-saled, or swapped) and haven't really used, this is the time to dig them out and give them some appreciation. I read somewhere recently that buying something brings a certain commitment along with it. By buying a book, you're showing that you have the intention of reading it, right? You buy a game, and that implies that you want to play it; a puzzle, that you want to put it together; some fabric, that you like it enough to want to sew something from it. You buy the bread machine or the smoothie maker because you want to make pizza or drink healthy green things. So have you done those things? That's not meant to be a guilt inducer, but a fun, creative-juices approach that might make future thrifting a little clearer. If you use the fabric to sew doll clothes or pillows or stuffed toys, that might give you ideas for future projects that also need fabric, or trims, or patterns, or sewing gadgets. But if you can't bring yourself to pull out the materials and make something, that's a good sign that your sewing days are done: don't buy more.

You can switch to a different category of things to look for. I never used to look at table linens much, but over the past couple of years I have put together a collection of placemats, napkins, and runners, plus assorted candles and holders, because my husband and I enjoy making dinnertime a daily "event," even if it's just leftovers. This turned out to be a good thing when we weren't able to go out to eat for a long time.

You could help somebody else thrift, or library-sale, or whatever it is you do best.

If you have enough self-restraint, you could look at things and learn about them, but don't buy anything. Look at the art up on the walls, or the silent-auction or other premium things you usually pass by. Enjoy looking at the colourful dishes, even if you'd never use egg-cups or Bunnykins bowls. That's pretty much what I do when we visit antique markets: occasionally I buy something, but most of it is just looking, admiring (or not), helping my husband look for old radios, and remembering an uncle who liked clown pictures, a neighbour who had those same funny canisters on her counter, or a friend who had that coveted Barbie carrying case (but I had the Country Camper). Patience pays off: we looked at and said no to a lot of old chairs before we came across the ones we bought last month.

So, yes, in the end, patience is probably the big thing. Keep looking, and stay open to adventure.

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Your mother was a hamster

Here are the questions to this week's Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back here  to add your link to the party. See you there! 

From this Side of the Pond
1. Four words that tell us something about your July?

I got my hair cut.

2. Four of your favorite summer foods?

Cherries, ice cream cones, blueberries, watermelon.

3. What were you doing at a quarter past four yesterday? 

It's way too complicated to explain here.

Briefly, trying every which way to get through the gate of an online castle that preferred to keep me out. (I'm not a hacker, it was all very legitimate, but try explaining that to the kniggits on top of the walls.) But we eventually figured it out. Thank you to my husband who kept an eye on the pizza in the oven while I dealt with the cyber dragons.

4. fore!, four letter word, four sheets to the wind, ten-four, 24/7, four eyes, these four walls....pick a 'four' phrase and tell us how you relate currently

Four eyes? Yes, I did get to the optometrist last week and did a computerized peripheral vision test (jacked-up version of the thing you do when you get your driver's license). I guess all those rounds of Space Invaders paid off.

5. Something you own that is four years old? 

Something four years old would be whatever we acquired the spring/summer that we moved from our house to the apartment. So that would include the mundane stuff like the clothes drying racks, but also the little table we bought at Ten Thousand Villages, and the painting of a local farm that is now hanging over our bed.

6. Randomness?

Linked from The Wednesday Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Monday, July 26, 2021

New Treehouse Series: Thrift Talk. Part One: "Chatting Fears"

I've been looking at tables and racks of used stuff, one way or another, for the past fifty years. I just came across a blog post from about fifteen years ago that mentions some of my "early days." Flea markets and church bazaars were pretty much it, though, until yard sales started becoming more common here in the 1980's, and it was also  around that time that I found my first thrift shop. Ask me about the cowboy boots some time...and the vintage record player...and the entire set of antique china dishes that I bought at a yard sale during high school but never did end up using.

Our kids grew up during the peak of yard sales and big church rummage sales, both of which seem to have fallen off a bit in recent years (and not just because of the pandemic). They were also around for the changes in thrift shopping, some of which have been an improvement and some I'm still not sure about. What we've definitely seen over that quarter-century has been (as many have said elsewhere) a huge increase in the stuff people buy, and the stuff they then have to dispose of, and the stuff that the thrift stores now have to deal with.

My own take on what to buy (and what to keep) has changed over that time as well. Amy Dacyczyn's Tightwad advice in the early '90's was, more or less, if you could get whatever it was free or cheap, and you had the space to store it, you might as well hang on to anything that might come in handy. It was a making-do kind of simplicity, and if you were going to use what you had, you needed to have some "had" in the house. In recent years, though, there's been more public...I almost want to say scrutiny...of too much "had." I have to be careful not to mix up current perceptions of "Minimalism" (and its cousin "Essentialism") with my own changing needs as an empty-nester. It would be easy for me to say "you don't have to hang on to so much, look, I don't," but I don't know what your circumstances are and what you might need today or tomorrow. 

I do agree with Dana White's "container concept" of managing your space, and I wish I'd come across it a long time ago; I think it's good advice whether you live in a big house or a tiny one. A  fictional example is a murder mystery called Closet Confidential by Mary Jane Maffini, one of those paperback series where the sleuth is also a florist or a baker or whatever; in this case she's a professional organizer with two clients. One is a rich ex-fashion model who has seven closets full of designer clothes. The other is a middle-aged woman living in a chaotic household, who is gifted a makeover of her small closet (but it has to be on a budget). The contrast between the two is amusing, but it's what Charlotte (the organizer) says to her rich client that is the point here: when it becomes clear that she's just not ready to get rid of much, Charlotte suggests that maybe what she needs is another, bigger closet. Sounds crazy, but this is a wealthy person who lives for her personal image, and she has enough space in her mansion to build an entire clothes library if she wants one. The other client gets a tidy little space with hanging shelves (bought with a coupon). Charlotte has no fixed minimalist agenda for either of these women; she just accepts them where they are. And it seems to me that in our own lives we might go through seasons where we have the luxury of space and of deciding what goes in it; and other times where every inch is precious and we find ourselves playing the old "desert island" game. The trick, as Marcus Aurelius said, is to see things, even shelves and closets, for what they are, and to be grateful and content in either case.

I saw one article recently that went overboard analyzing why you shouldn't buy too much secondhand stuff, because if you do, and you then commit the crime of re-donating it, you're just as much a part of the problem as the person who bought it in the first place. But during the past year and a half, when the thrift stores have been allowed to open at all, most of them don't even have change rooms; so if you're buying clothes, you're going by labels and eyeball, and even that's not always enough. Last week I bought a pair of pants for a dollar and brought them home. The size was right, and they were even the right length; but whoever wore them before me had stretched out the waistband too much, and that was something I didn't notice until I tried them on. So yes, they're going back, no regrets.

Last night I was reading C.S. Lewis's Letters to Malcolm (borrowed from the library), and at one point he quotes a phrase from George Herbert's poem "Conscience": "Peace, prattler." I looked up the rest of the poem and found these also-appropriate lines:
By listening to thy chatting fears
I have both lost mine eyes and ears.

I'm hoping that this series will be about using eyes and ears, but that it won't be too much of a prattling conscience.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Wednesday Hodgepodge: French Toast

Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog then hop back here to add your link to the party. See you there!

From this Side of the Pond
1. Tell us about one small blessing you have counted in the past week? 

Going out for pasta on a patio. (Dine-in still isn't happening here. But it will be by the weekend.)

And also a spur-of-the-moment Saturday breakfast on a patio, to celebrate the reappearance of yard sales. (We had to have a reason.) Mr. Fixit had pancakes, and I had...French toast.

2. Bastille Day is celebrated on July 14th...have you ever been to France? Any desire to visit or re-visit, and if so what site or city would you most want to see? (pretend for a minute international travel isn't an issue) 

Does Quebec City count?

I think I'd like to go see Monet's garden at Giverny. And the Marc Chagall National Museum in Nice.

3. A food associated with France that you love? 



And croissants.

But not really poutine.

4. Something you recently purchased where a coupon was involved? Do you regularly shop with coupons? 

I used to shop with (paper) grocery coupons a lot, when they used to be a thing. Not for a long time now, though. But we still use coupons when we're getting hamburgers.

5. You have to give something away this week...what will it be? 

Have to, as in have to give away something I don't want that I wish would disappear, or something I do want and I have to give it away anyway? Trying not to overthink this...

I'm just going to copy our Hodgepodge hostess and say that I have a bag of this and that accumulating, and I should take a look around and add to it, and it will probably go with us on our next thrifting trip, if I remember to put it in the car. Considering that I went for groceries this morning and a) left all the re-usable bags in the car and b) had misplaced my door key, had to borrow my husband's, and then found the key when we got back in the exact place I had thought it should be but swore that it wasn't, I'm not entirely convinced that I'll remind myself early enough to take it along. Maybe a string on my finger.

6. Insert your own random thought here.

As if that wasn't random enough...

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Wednesday Hodgepodge: The Sands Haven't Shifted Much Here

 From this Side of the Pond

1. July 5th is National Hawaii Day...have you ever been to Hawaii? Any desire to visit or make a return trip? Pineapple, mango, or guava...what's your pleasure? 

Have never been, no plans to go, but we just started watching some vintage Hawaii 5-0 DVDs.

2. Last time you were 'thrown in at the deep end'? Explain. 

As in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, sink or swim? I have one of those coming up: a virtual meeting with (hopefully) friendly but mostly unfamiliar people, and I haven't been told much yet about what to expect. I am not exactly what Jan Karon calls She-who-loves-surprises, so I'm hoping some of it gets clarified before I have to take a deep breath and press "join."

3. Sun, sea, sand, salt...your favorite when it comes to summer? 

Right now we are settling for the nearby manmade lake.

4. Bury your head in the sand, the sands of time, draw a line in the sand, pound sand, shifting sands...pick one and tell us how the phrase currently relates to your life in some way.

Sands of time = sanding and waxing time. We recently found two antique oak chairs at a flea market, and we've been working to restore them.

The vendors had put cushions on the chairs to display them, but they didn't include them in the sale. Underneath the cushions were very old, sagging seats made of canvas webbing, which Mr. Fixit pulled out (there were a lot of nails!) We bought a piece of plywood, and cut two seat-shaped pieces to replace the canvas.

We gave the chairs a coat of natural-coloured Minwax, and then bought a can of oak-coloured for the next coat. They will get another wax touchup in a few days.

This is a good time of year to look for chair cushions, because there is so much patio furniture still in the stores. We didn't want something that looked too outdoorsy, but we did consider outdoor cushions because the chairs are a similar size to some patio chairs.

 However, we then got lucky at the local Homesense: these four feather-filled, made-in-England pillows were on clearance. Actually three of them were on the clearance rack, and then we found the fourth with the regular-priced pillows, so we asked if we could get the same discount for it, and they agreed. It never hurts to ask!

So now we have our Papa Bear and Mama Bear chairs in the living room.

5. On a scale of 1-10 (1 = make your own rules and 10=like a warden), how strict were your parents? If you're a parent where on the scale do you land? 

Not even going to land, just going to fly by that one.

6. Insert your own random thought here.  

Since our last Hodgepodge, we've celebrated Canada Day and our thirtieth wedding anniversary. And some other things I can't quite remember. Maybe I was burying my head in the sand.