Do you have a hobby or favorite past time that you started in childhood? I never kept up with gymnastics or ballet, but I have maintained my love affair with thrifting! Read on to see how it all started & how it’s evolved.
Once our state mandated non-essential businesses to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic, thrift stores were among those deemed non-essential. This meant I had to get my thrift fix via digital sites like Etsy, Instagram, and Ebay. I bought some very lovely things that helped tie some of my rooms together and met some sweet sellers in the process. Receiving those packages in the mail was always a bright spot on a quarantine day.
As businesses began to re-open, I wondered if thrift stores would be too. A few weeks after retail shops opened, I Googled a nearby thrift store and sure enough it was open! I planned a morning for my son and I to go. We masked up and arrived early. While we waited we looked in at the window displays and made small talk with others waiting to enter. Once the doors opened, we all stood in line to be counted to comply with the new maximum occupancy in place. Everyone was respectful of space and just as enthused as us to be back! My son and I found some great things. I may have gone a little wild and let the adrenaline get to me ha ha.
Since that day I’ve been thinking a lot about the impact thrifting has had on me. A few times in my life I’ve been lucky to live/work within walking distance to thrift stores. In middle school, we moved not far from our old place but there was a thrift store in the neighborhood that we had never been to before. Funny how you can drive down a street for years and miss what is around! It was about three blocks away from our house and my mom would let me walk there on my own. The building was on a triangle lot & the building was sort of triangle shaped to accommodate this. Upstairs there was some sort of photo studio that seemed vacant. The tiny store occupied the first floor & was run by retired ladies. Prices were good for my bare bones budget & it seemed to be “undiscovered”. I would buy Chinese tea cups, vintage men’s corduroy O.P. shorts & old polo shirts (I was a tomboy at the time) candle holders, books, vintage purses etc. The tags were color coded & certain days meant mark downs for a particular color.
I would bring my finds to the counter & sometimes the cashier would ask what I planned to do with it all. Or they would point out to the friends behind the counter the interesting things I had gathered. Most of the time I didn’t know exactly what I would do. Once I got home I would style the items on my bedside table or dresser. An old saucer would be a trinket dish, the Chinese tea cup would hold small odds & ends. After college I revisited the thrift shop & it was sadly over run, but I still managed to find a nice Danish baking dish! The store seemed to have been discovered by resellers and the like. Sigh.
Around the time that we moved when I was in middle school, vintage clothes were very trendy. Shops selling flannels, hippie skirts, bowling shirts, and other curated vintage goods popped up all over. There was one particular stretch of thrift shops that had been around since childhood. Within a couple blocks there was a Goodwill, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, and a vintage shop that sold pretty frocks and accessories including some that had been part of movie studio wardrobes. We experimented with our wardrobes, some of us more daring than others. Across from the thrift shops there was a frozen yogurt place where we ended our trips to recap our finds. As trends shifted, some of my friends lost interest in thrift shops, but I just never did. I wish I had more of the clothes I used to wear! There were some doozies, and some things that I would still wear if they fit!
If middle and high school were my fashion thrift adventures, college years and after were my home decor thrift adventures. My first apartment after college was one building over from a huge thrift shop! It was amazing!! It was close to a movie studio & I often wondered if the pieces had been props on film sets. I had no roommates and was able to decorate just as I pleased. I did live with my boyfriend, now husband, but other than teasing me about knick knack acquisition, he accepted my second hand habit. Those early years helped to build my style and knowledge. If there was ever anything that I didn’t know how to use like a random archaic household object or a brand I didn’t know, I would research what I could. Sometimes I would buy things and realize they didn’t suit the look I wanted, so I would give them away or if they were too cute to part with, I would keep them for future use.
It was and is fun to imagine the life an object had before me. What was the owner like? What style house was it in? Was it a gift or purchased by the owner? There are so many ways to find second hand items now, but a brick and mortar thrift store is still so special to me. Part of it is nostalgia, memories of going to Goodwill with my mom, goofing around with my friends on a thrift adventure, feeling independent in choosing my own wardrobe, and later my own home decor, and of course the hunt itself!
Now going thrifting with my son is creating a whole new set of memories. One of the last things we did with my family before moving from Los Angeles to Seattle was go to a flea market. My mom suggested it, and now that I look back, it is pretty fitting that the last family outing involved second hand shopping! My son was just a few months at the time, so everyone took turns holding him while we wandered the seemingly endless rows. Once we moved to Seattle, I dragged him along to different neighborhoods to explore and of course check out the second hand shops. It seems like my son genuinely has fun when we thrift. Of course he loves the toys, but he always finds things to interest him while we browse the other sections. What will his style be like? Will he have an affinity for second hand like me? Will he let me help decorate his first apartment with thrift finds??? For now I am just so happy that he is so patient to indulge me in one of my favorite hobbies! There you have it- an ode to thrifting and all the fond memories I associate with my dear past time.