What makes a thrift store great?

It’s no secret that I am a Thrift Store enthusiast… I call them “the shop you go to, to get something you didn’t know you wanted until you saw it”. A bit long-winded I know.. I never use one word when 10 will do the job!

My Thrift Store “addiction” is a bit of a running joke in our household. It is no secret that I can’t get through a week without at least one visit. My answer to every ,”Oh, that’s nice. Where did you get it?”  is so often “The Thrift Store” that friends and kids have stopped asking. Now it’s more like “Which Thrift Store did you get  THAT from?” …or in the husbands version, “..that JUNK from”  😉

The funny thing (ironic funny not ha ha funny) is that lately when I have dragged him to a TS for some recreational retail therapy, he has found so many great bargains, now he suggests we go “Thrifting“. The fact is, what I spend in a TS in a month, is what most people spend  just on the taxes on their purchases in a mall. Thrifting makes me happy. I only shop in a mall when I am in a bad mood already! I don’t HAVE to shop thrift stores, I just chose to reuse, recycle and save $$$ – and redirect the dollars I save to more important things like..oh…my kid’s secondary education and paying down my mortgage.

Lately I have started “rating ” TS (Thrift Stores) in my own mind. I started to think about what makes a TS  really great?  Some just “check all the boxes” and draw the people in in droves, yet others are dormant and like ghost towns with nary a customer in sight.

I live near Nanaimo, and frequent the SOS TS in Parksville, BC …fondly known locally as “Our Big Box store“. That place is always humming with activity, and finding parking within a block radius is sometimes a problem. It just has such a positive energy, and evidently has a huge turnover. I was in the elevator with an elderly couple recently, and they commented on my cart FULL of awesome deals – typical – everyone talks to each other there. I laughed,  “I get such great stuff here!”, and they chuckled,” So do we, we love this place”. I overheard a woman telling a friend that she drives from Port Alberni (70 Kms away, over a mountain pass) once a week just to shop there. Many people like it so much that they specify in their wills that SOS inherits their estate (it may, however,  be because they support the programs SOS sponsors). The only downside is that it closes at 4:00 pm so working people can often not get there during working hours….but I understand..it is mostly staffed by volunteers,and they have their own lives to get home to.

On the other hand, there is another store within 10 km’s of SOS that is pretty much deserted every time I have been there. When I was there last, a harassed young lady was packing boxes of goods. She had been hired to box goods, ready for someone to haul them to SOS. People had donated the salable goods to them to support their cause, but their prices are so ridiculously high that most seasoned TS shoppers would not go there more than once. The inventory has hardly changed in the year I have been going there. It is crammed to the ceilings with great, overpriced stuff that , quite frankly, has passed it’s “best before” date because the place doesn’t smell so fragrant . This gives “Thrift Store” a new meaning…they prefer to STORE the donations they are given, than sell them for a reasonable price. Then they have to spend hard cash to hire someone to box it and haul it away – a nett loss. I’m no businesswoman, but that just seems a little cockeyed to me.

What are the most important criteria for a great TS  in your opinion? Accessibility? Prices? Shopping hours? Odour control? Inventory changing often? Management? Percentage of profits to charity? The cause or programs it supports? Other?

Let me know what you think,



“Getting my stone back”

Welcome to my musings about fashion and home decor DIY. I may occasionally stray  into comments about learning disabilities (especially ADHD), which is my other, professional, interest …er .. passion, but I’ll try to keep those to a minimum. (I can hear my kids laughing out loud at this point).

My aim with this blog is to post ideas on how one can create clothing and decor items by recycling found materials. I have sewed for 40 odd years, so I have a few tips on how to save time and money that I’d love to share. Please feel free to add your own!

I try to avoid using overly complex sewing techniques that may discourage people from attempting a project. Basically, to master this skill, you just need to start sewing, learn by trial and error, and not be too hard on yourself if you make a mistake – that’s what fabric rippers are for! (In South Africa we call them “quick unpicks”… Mine is never far from my hand when I am sewing.)

It makes sense (to me at least) to start sewing with a $1 remnant, rather than pay $15 a meter for fabric and feel awful IF you mess up – it happens! The nice part is that if I am trying some new craft or technique, I can make a mistake and not be “held back” by the fear of it costing “an arm and a leg”. Often my “mistakes” turn out to be pretty great unique designs.  I will also try to post free patterns so you can make my designs yourself . If you use them, I’d love to see pictures of the end product, and get both positive and critical feedback.

My inspiration is my uber talented late Mum, Joyce Jay (just call me “JJ”), whose design talent and technical sewing  skill I can only try to emulate. I get my kicks from sewing for my 21-year-old daughter (and sometimes her friends), who keeps me up to on the straight and narrow with the latest fashion trends.

Mum’s favourite saying was a variation of the old adage  “to kill two birds with one stone” – meaning of course to be efficient and get the best return on one’s effort , money or time. (My apologies to bird lovers everywhere )   When she felt she had done VERY well, she would always add – with a twinkle-, “and I got my stone back !”  That is how I regard  upcycling/recycling/re-purposing ; it achieves more than one useful outcome at once.

I love to design and create unique clothes and home decor stuff, and am MUCH more motivated to reuse and recycle unique vintage pieces and fabrics I get from thrift stores,  than to buy new. I may as well admit it – I am a thrift store junkie. I get such a rush of adrenalin from finding cool things, and then again when I make something useful or unique with it.

I hardly ever shop at a mall – somehow the “sameness” of it all just bores me to tears, but somehow I can never drive past a thrift store. … the “Favourite Locations” on my GPS system is populated by all the thrift stores in a 50 Km radius. Somehow my car just turns towards them and stops of its own accord! I’m still trying to work out whether I craft things because I feel I have to justify my “thrifting” addiction, or if I go to these stores for supplies to be able to fund my crafting addiction!  I even have a private “rating system” for Thrift Stores in my head…do you too?

I am really starting to seeing lots of ties between my ADD need for novelty and stimulation and my thrifting addiction.  (I think there is a thesis in there somewhere..?)

I really am starting to mix my metaphors here, so I’ll say, “Hamba gahle” till next time.

Hope you enjoy yourself, and stop by often.