Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Thrifted Life: Tools of the Thrift

Sometimes your average trip to the thrift is spontaneous, a way to perhaps pleasantly pass the time or just one of many stops on the list of daily errands to run. But when you are planning a trip to the thrift, it's always best to take several issues under consideration. Are you meandering the aisles aimlessly? Are you searching for something specific? Whichever your answer may be, it never hurts to be prepared with the right tools for the job.

  • Measurements, Dimensions and a Sense of Spatial Reality. Knowing what living space you have to work with is key before buying furniture and decor at the thrift. This is especially important when your favorite secondhand stores don't have a return policy. Know the dimensions of the room you are looking to furnish before you hit the thrift. And don't forget to measure any hallways and stairwells leading to that room. It would be a tragedy to score that vintage orange couch only to not fit it down the narrow hallway to your apartment.

  • Miniature Tape Measure. Now that you have the dimensions of your room jotted down, it's time to measure that secondhand sofa, coffee table, dinette or roll-up desk.

  • Paint Swatches or Photos. If you are working around a preconceived motif, it's always helpful to have a visual aid to confirm that the shade or design of a particular area will compliment with whatever thrifted treasure you're admiring.

  • A Basic Knowledge of Textiles. This is, admittedly, a skill I am still striving to learn. But having an annotated understanding of fabric could help you make fashionably sound decisions in the future for both your thrifted home and yourself.

  • A Small Assortment of Batteries. Testing battery-operated electronics can prove impossible when the batteries inside have long-since died. I find the most commonly used battery to be four AA. But it also couldn't hurt to have four AAA and two 9V to test items before you buy.

  • Your Smartphone. Having the combination of a camera and your contact list is an invaluable resource. Snap a quick picture and send it to your husband, best friend or roommate for an immediate second opinion of the item. Or have yourself a laugh by sharing a funny find you would never, EVER want in your home. Want more information on the manufacturer of that camera? Want to know if that Barbie is more valuable than the 99 cent price tag? Open your browser and let Google do the dirty work.

  • A Notepad and Pen. You never know when a bolt of inspiration will strike you. Be it an idea for a blog entry or a craft project, take a hot second and jot down the gist before you forget.

  • An Open Mind. Don't think you have the physique that can pull of a poncho? Not sure if a lime green end table will overwhelm the living room? You'll never know until you try. Take a chance with style and have fun flirting with new ideas that could broaden your appreciation for thrifted fashion, art, decor, furniture and lighting.

  • A Fixed Budget.  Have a budget, either on an item-per-item basis (x amount of dollars for a couch, x amount for a dress) or a along a timeline (x amount of dollars per month). Justifying the purchase of mass amounts of thrifted finds because the low cost is comparative to standard retail is a self-defeating mindset. Regulate your spending by saving receipts and make changes accordingly.

  • A Sense of Clarity. Keeping a fun and frugal home clutter-free means knowing just how much is too much when it comes to the thrift. Don't let cost be the only deciding factor when assessing your secondhand needs and wants, or you will find a way to rationalize every single purchase. Consider living space and utility. Is the item useful? Does it serve a purpose? Will it be used or displayed in manner that doesn't involve staying in storage until you can "make room" for it? Keep your thrifted treasures clean, neat and organized so you and your guests can better appreciate your frugal find.

What tools do you use when scavenging the aisles of your favorite thrift?


a.M. said...

Thanks for posting this! I passed it on this afternoon to friends who wanted "learn how to be better thrifters". :)

Jackie Jardine said...

Well thank you for the endorsement. I do hope your friends find this post helpful. I think it's always better to have a game plan. Though sometimes, spontaneous thrifting yields some truly amazing finds.

<3 Jackie

Lakota [Faith Hope and Charity Shopping] said...

Great article. I would also suggest knowing how much cleaning and alterations cost at your local drycleaner. If you're not handy with a needle and think you'll only wear something if it's shortened, taken in etc, it's good to know what the true cost will be and whether it still seems like a bargain.

Jackie Jardine said...

Oh good idea, Lakota! Knowing a general price for alterations/restorations before you buy would be helpful. Keep the good ideas coming, everyone!

Vanessa said...

I think I follow each and every one of these tips, excellent guide.

It's already been touched on, but thrifting more has taught me to be very selective with what comes home. That's where "the sense of clarity" comes in. When everything's cheap, it's easy to bring home too much!