Saturday, June 9, 2012

Embrace serendipity

My Grandpa was the original 2ndhand Moon.  He collected vintage tools and farming/gardening equipment and had gorgeous old car the make and model of which currently escapes me.   His house, too was full of fascinating old treasures - everything from a victrola to an antique metal and marble ashtray/stand to a very cool collection of arrowheads.

Grandpa's cool old stuff fascinated me, as did the flea markets he freqented.  And while his were real antique and vintage treasures, I also learned from him and others in my life the value of just general thriftiness.  Of using something until it wears out, of giving new life to other people's old junk.  So when I first bought my house, I proudly furnished it with hand-me-downs from my parents, a couple of chairs from St. Vincent de Paul, and several items picked up on Big Trash Day (one of which is the wrought iron floor lamp sitting beside me right now).  

All of this to say I came by my love of old junk honestly, and really had no choice but to embrace it.  Still, it hasn't been that long that I've been reselling, and I'm not exactly raking in the dough yet.  With far more successful resellers out there, I'm not sure I'm qualified to give advice on thrifting, necessarily, but here it is anyway, totally unsolicited:

In thrifting, as in life, embrace serendipity.

My #1 most important rule of thumb in thrifting also just happens to be a major part of my philosophy in life.  If you go out with too specific expectations, you will almost always come home disappointed.  That may sound pessimistic, but in my experience, it's true of most things.  A simple example:  I recently watched the movie Cowboys and Aliens:
Honestly, it's sinful to use that fantastic name, those actors, and teasers like this and then put out a product with so little wit.  They should have saved the name for Pixar if they weren't going to have any fun with it.

Based on the frankly fabulous title and the actors involved (Indiana Jones/Han Solo!  James Freaking Bond!), I was expecting an action-packed movie with a tongue-in-cheek wit about it, and maybe a touch of kitsch.  Had I gone in without expectations, I likely would have enjoyed the film much more.  Expecting a sense of humor and a quick pace left me disappointed. 

On the other hand, my favorite type of getaway is the road trip with no destination.  I pick a road, I ease on down it, and I see what there is to see.  I have very rarely failed to have a totally satisfying adventure, from stumbling upon midwestern street festivals to exploring abandoned places: 
And so similarly, while I read frequently in thrifty blogs about having a plan of attack when you walk into a store, and a BOLO list of items to Be On the LookOut for, my strategy for thrifting is basically this:  Go to the thrift store.  Wander around.  Look at everything.  Let colors and textures and patina call to you.  And (this one I've learned with experience, the rest is gut) if you don't love it, don't buy it.  Just because something is vintage, and a good deal, and you think you maybe could sell it, doesn't mean you need to.  Conversely, if something speaks to you, and the price is right, sometimes you have to just go for it!  If you walk into a thrift store intent on finding this:

1950's unabridged Webster's Dictionary
Or that:
Cheery yellow telephone

You may well wander the aisles frustrated and go home grumpy.  Both of the items above are things I thrifted that I adore, but I wasn't looking for either one.  And had I been looking for the telephone, I might never have noticed any of this:
And who doesn't want a high-five hand, blue people and some hipster mice?
With eyes peeled for a particular item (or even a particular type of item, like little black dresses, vintage barware or high-end linens), you are less likely to find success on any given day, and more likely to miss out on the surprise treasures your eyes skimmed past in search of something specific.  So while I'm not sure it was Grandpa's way, my advice is simple: embrace serendipity and see what your Fairy Godthrifter might bring your way!


  1. I completely agree. I don't resell yet, hope to by fall,but as long as I buy only things I love I will never regret if they don't sell. I find the neatest "junk" that way

    1. Exactly! I wish I had learned that lesson from the beginning, but I'm much happier now that I have.

  2. sound advice. i too dont resell but plan to. i like how you embrace serendipity in your life, i can see it brings you smiles all the way always :)

    1. Oh thanks! And good luck to you AND Cheapchick if/when you start reselling - that first sale is Such a Rush!