Thursday, December 31, 2015

My last Thrifty Thursday of the year (and why I've barely done Thrifty Thursday in the last few months)

I'm squeezing in one more blog post before the end of the year, although it's not a very exciting one.  The thrifting has honestly been a little slow lately.  I don't get out to thrift stores as much as I used to, though theoretically I have way more free time since both kids have been at school.

I think what changed for me was that I read Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" and I started purging my house like crazy.  I didn't exactly follow the Konmari plan by getting it all done in one fell swoop, but that book lit a fire under me and made me obsessed with getting rid of everything that isn't useful or doesn't "spark joy."  Don't laugh, it sounds like I joined a cult, but if you just read the book, you'll know how much sense it makes.  

Anyway, I made a list of items I could really use in my closet, and it turned out, I could get rid of about half my clothes.  I also bought more brand new clothes, especially basics like black leggings and longish neutral t-shirts, which are things you almost always have to go out and buy new anyway.  I mean, you could scour thrift stores for the perfect white t-shirt that isn't stretched, pilling, or stained, but you could also get a nice one at H&M for $10.

But yesterday I felt the allure of the Goodwill as I was out running errands without the kids and I had to pop in just to see what there was.  Well, it was a good thing I did because...

I found this great Eileen Fisher cardigan for 6.99.  I am turning into the biggest Eileen Fisher fan.  I used to just ignore it as a brand because I figured it was for "old ladies."  Actually, the clothes are kind of genius.  They are loose and drapey in an elegant, not sloppy, way.  They are usually very beautiful colors, a little muted, but never drab.  And they are incredible high-quality fabrics that hold up to washing and wearing, so if you find them at a thrift store, they will be in great shape.  Also, they are some of the most ridiculously expensive clothes.  I can't even buy them on clearance when they're new, because a sweater will still be $90.  So it's a thrill whenever I find some Eileen Fisher in a thrift store because I know it cost a small fortune new, and I'm getting a great piece for practically nothing.

This J. Jill cardigan was an awesome find because I was actually wearing the exact same cardigan in purple (and also thrifted) the same day.  I wear the purple one a lot, so it made sense to get another one in a different color, but after thinking it through, I left it in the store.  I really tried to imagine myself wearing red (even this great shade) and I couldn't do it.  This was a Marie Kondo moment, because before, my default would have been to buy it and think about it later, but this time I trusted my instinct that if I was on the fence about it now, I would never leave the house in it.  That felt really good.  

Then I found this other Eileen Fisher cowl-neck dress/tunic for 5.99.  It's really, really basic so I could wear it on it's own as a sleeveless dress, or over leggings, or under a cardigan.  Yes, black is a little boring, but it has potential to be dressed up with jewelry or colored tights, so this is a solid choice for me and I'm sure I'll be wearing it a lot.  

And that's it.  I've had some ups and downs with thrifting this year, and gave up on it a few times.  But the few really nice things I've found have made it worth it.

Note: I'm using the Blogger app on my iPad for the first time, and I haven't got a lot of it figured out yet  so I'm posting this having no idea what it looks like.  

Saturday, October 31, 2015

What's Got People So Angry About The Teal Pumpkin Project?

Last year our family did the Teal Pumpkin Project for the first time after I heard about it from several of the food-allergy groups that I'm a part of.  If you've been under a rock, you can read about it on FARE's website, but I'm sure, if you use social media or turn on the news, you are at least a little aware of it. Unfortunately, extra media attention has brought out some negativity toward what I thought was just a fun idea.  Click on the comments section of any article about the Teal Pumpkin Project and you will see the trolls in full-force because the idea of making trick-or-treating safer and more inclusive is somehow ruining their Halloween fun.  After reading through a few different comments sections, some general themes emerged, so I want to respond to some of the misconceptions I'm seeing.

Is this some PC crap made up by the same liberals who think every kid needs a trophy? Food allergies affect the population across all political lines.  A parent's voting record does not, in fact, determine whether their child will have food allergies.

Why do parents expect that we start doing this?  Nobody expects it.  When I take my kids trick or treating, we don't see any teal pumpkins out there at all.  I figure either people haven't heard of it, or just don't want to bother.  That's OK.  We get so much candy, there's still a lot my kids can have after we've sorted it all at home.  Maybe we'll see our first one tonight, and in that case, I'll be sure to let the homeowner know we appreciate it.

Why is it my responsibility to take care of other people's kids?  It's not.  Have you ever met a parent of a food-allergic child?  We're huge sticklers about reading labels and examining everything that is going into our kids' mouths.  Don't worry.  We've got this parenting thing covered.

Whatever happened to parents going through their kids' candy like in the old days? That has not changed.  Please show me one place in all the articles about the Teal Pumpkin Project that says parents no longer need to inspect their children's candy.

What if it's just not Halloween for me unless I give out some peanutty goodness in the form of Snickers?  Do it.  Parents of very sensitive allergic kids will check first, and not want their kids to touch even a wrapper, in which case they would decline your candy and move on.  It's not the end of the world for you or them.  And FYI: a lot of parents will let their kids take it, and then pull out those delicious Snickers or Nut Rolls for themselves.

How am I supposed to give out a candy that is safe for everybody?  Well, technically, no candy is safe for everybody. Name an ingredient and I have probably heard of someone who is allergic to it. But most food allergies fall into the categories of: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, seafood, soy, egg, wheat, dairy. There are candies free of these "Top 8" allergens like Dum Dums, Smarties, Skittles, and Starburst, that are considered safe for the majority of kids.  If you're interested in participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project, you can give out an allergy-friendly candy or a non-food treat.  There are ideas here.

Why should I have to cater to everybody's special diet?  You don't.  Nobody thinks you are a caterer.  You can hand out whatever you want on your own front porch.  The Teal Pumpkin Project is optional.  In fact, Halloween is optional.

How am I supposed to know which kids have food allergies?  You don't have to know.  You can either offer two separate bowls of candy for kids to choose from, or have a sign posted that there are allergy-safe treats available, or just give every trick-or-treater the same non-food treat.

What if I accidentally use teal in my decorating, but I'm giving out treats with allergens in them?  Will I be sued if a kid dies?  No. Most people hang up a print-out or write on their teal pumpkin to indicate that they are participating, so it should be quite clear.  I believe it's understood that Halloween is an optional activity with some personal risks on the part of trick-or-treaters.  I accept that when I take my kids out, they could trip over cracks in the sidewalk, be knocked over by an enthusiastic dog, see costumes or decorations that scare them, be run over if they run across a street without looking.  We go into this knowing we're going to bring home a bag full of random stuff given to us by strangers, and we will check it carefully.

Why not keep all the allergic kids home on Halloween, if they can't eat most of the candy?  For the same reasons we don't keep them home from school, play dates, parties, and other activities.  Because they can still go out in the world and have fun.  Because not everything has to be about the food.  Because they can enjoy the social interaction and show off their costumes.  Because it's a good opportunity to practice their manners.  Because sorting through candy and reading labels when they get home is a great way to teach them about their own food allergy management.  Because nobody wants to be left out.  Because no kid needs to eat 100 pieces of candy anyway.  Because some families have their kids trade the candy for money or a toy.  Need I go on?

How are these kids going to deal with the real world if they're used to everyone giving them special treats?  Kids with food allergies learn to turn down stuff that other kids eat all the time.  They are used to eating a cupcake brought from home at a birthday party.   They might remember a time when they were exposed to something and had a reaction.  They might know what it's like to rush to the ER, itching, swollen, wheezing, and vomiting.  They've possibly been singled out, teased, excluded, or bullied because of their allergies.  They have to learn at a young age to advocate for themselves.  When they are old enough, they will self-carry their emergency epinephrine, and be prepared to inject themselves, if needed.   It doesn't get much more "real world" than that.

But I heard that some exposure to allergens can actually cure kids with food allergies.  A little peanut in their candy might do them some good.  You're thinking of oral immunotherapy (OIT), done with very, very tiny amounts of allergens under careful management by doctors.  It's not guaranteed to work, and it carries some risks, and while it does sound hopeful for treating some people with allergies, it is not an easy fix for anyone.  It should NEVER be tried at home.  It will most likely cause a reaction or worse.  If you're interested finding out more about current clinical trials in OIT, there's a lot of great information at FARE's website.  But I suspect most people feeling negative about teal pumpkins aren't going to bother reading what actual research has to say.

So why would I want to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project?  To be friendly.  To show compassion.  For good karma.  To put a smile on a kid's face.  To make a parent's night.  To be generous.  To be inclusive. To teach your own kids about being inclusive. To increase awareness.  To show support for families that deal with food allergies.  To give out something different than what your neighbors are giving out.  To generate a little goodwill toward others.  Because it takes little effort beyond what you would normally do for Halloween.

I hope that answers a few of the burning questions.  I can't imagine how the Teal Pumpkin Project is so offensive to some, or why people think it's necessary to go out of their way to leave negative comments about it, especially if they are not personally affected by food allergies.  Haters gonna hate, I guess.  Let's just have a safe, happy Halloween.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Another visit to the downtown Salvation Army store

I've been looking through my old posts and stats and my top-viewed blog post of all time is the one about the downtown Minneapolis Salvation Army thrift store.  So I took another trip there the other day to see if it was still the Island of Misfit Target Goodies that is the Twin Cities worst-kept secret.

The storefront looks just as crappy as ever.  I like to think this is a repellent for the first-timers who drive up and think,"This can't be the place."

So the first thing I noticed, when I got into the "as-is" basement is the giant fans.  This place is notorious for it's year-round hot, stifling basement, and it looks like they're really trying to increase the air circulation.  

There's even this...what is this?  It blows your hair back, and your skirt up from about 10 feet away.

Anyway, on with the shopping.

It's the time of year for Halloween costumes and the selection here is actually pretty good.  Every Disney princess was represented, as well as a bunch of action heroes, plush animals, and pirates.  The prices seemed to be about 50% off of what you'd pay at Target, and these are all brand new, unworn costumes.  I did see a few flaws or missing pieces, so it's important to inspect before buying.  

So much Halloween decor, if that's your thing.

I saw more craft items than I've seen here in the past.  Here's a Cricut Mini for $60.  I have no idea what you do with a Cricut, but I know scrapbookers are crazy about these things.

As the Back To School stuff starts to get cleared out of Target stores, a lot of it gets dumped here.  If you're looking for notebooks, planners, organizers, right now is a good time to shop the Salvation Army store. 

I took a look in the back room where the new furniture is.  I always see a lot I like here because it tends to be small, modern pieces.  Sometimes it's samples from Nate Berkus and Threshold, or any of the other designer brands Target carries.  This console table was $60, though.  I'm not sure that qualifies as a spectacular deal.

The kitchen appliance area is amazing as always.  If you're looking for a Crock-pot, electric mixer, coffee maker, or blender, you can pick one up here for much less than at the store.  Just make sure you test it before you buy it because there are no returns.

I saw an entire shelf of bread machines for $15, which was tempting even though I don't mind making homemade bread the old-fashioned way.

The home decor aisles were more bare than I've seen them in the past, but I noticed a few nice pieces.  Again, this is where you can find samples of the brands Target collaborates with, sometimes things that haven't even made it to the stores yet.

 The thing that intrigued me the most was this unmarked mid-century light fixture.  I'm still thinking about it, but probably won't go back for it because the last thing my house needs is another project. This is going to be an great score for a lucky someone.

You notice I didn't take pictures of any clothes this time.  One thing I've noticed over the years is that there will be a ton of things in some sizes, but not others, and the prices aren't really any better than you would find on the clearance rack at Target.  I still think this is a great place for shopping for baby and toddler clothes, but the selection for older kids and adults is pretty lame.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Monday Morning Roundup 8.31.15

Hey!  It's Monday morning and both my kids are at school!  This means I can get back to my blog, among many other things I couldn't make time for all summer.

Instead of a typical First Day of School picture, the kids wanted to show off their new backpacks.

Here's a few good links I found.

This seems right on to me: The Commandments of Going Out to Restaurants With Kids  We actually don't go to many restaurants with our kids because of the hassle of food allergies, and when we do go somewhere it's pizza or Subway.  I'm hoping some day we will be putting these into practice.

You can't be stressed out while listening to the Cat Purr Generator.

I'm excited to start Apartment Therapy's Fall Closet Cure.  I've followed some of their other home improvement cures before, and I have to say they really break down a big project into doable steps.

Meal Templates for weeknight dinners.  Yesssss.  We already do a pizza night once a week, but here's more inspiration.

Does your family have its own code names for the various Lego pieces?  This made me laugh.

I'm so excited to sit down and write some some real blog posts now. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Storm and the Aftermath

It's been a crappy few months.  So many weird/dumb things have happened to me and my family that I've been thrown off my routine of blogging or doing anything else creative.  The highlights include The Mister getting in a car accident with a city bus, Boo's school principal calling me to say he had a severe bloody nose and an ambulance was on its way, me locking myself and Punky out of the house in our rush to meet said ambulance and having to call a cab to drive us to the school, looking for a new house, thinking we had found the right house, not getting the house, giving up the house hunt (for now), and, just when we thought we couldn't take anymore bad luck, our beautiful Siamese cat, my baby, got sick and died.  Now sprinkle in some bad news from the kids' dentist, a pile-up of medical bills, me having some recurring GI issues, our wi-fi repeatedly going down, my laptop crashing on a daily basis, and an accidental tossing-out of a bag of important papers.  

None of those things would have been catastrophic on their own, but coming at us at a fast pace like they did, made me nearly lose it.  I didn't know how I could be a functional wife and parent when I felt like I couldn't keep it together myself.  I could picture the figurative black cloud over my head, following me everywhere I went.  But like all storms, this eventually passed. I don't know how my family got through it, but I do know I cried in front of a lot of people and I didn't even care.  I let people know I needed support.  I tried to model for the kids some constructive ways to grieve our pet and let them know we can talk openly about death and feelings even though I'm not sure I always have the right answer.   I was humbled, and that was an interesting, uncomfortable, frustrating experience.

In the midst of things, I clung to anything that made me feel better.  I watched every episode of Parks and Rec and then moved on to The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt because I needed something to laugh at. I celebrated with my kids every time a teacher said something good about either one of them, which happened a lot.  I picked up some good books to read, and purged a lot of books from my shelf that I realized I was never going to read.  I even started a new job, something that felt risky in a time of emotional crisis, but it turned out to be the exact thing I needed because it's both challenging and rewarding.
I also got a huge reality check when someone who lives near me told me about a woman, an immigrant and mother of several children, she frequently sees going through the neighborhood trash cans for food.  I mean, this is South Minneapolis, where people drink craft beer and grow heirloom tomatoes and give money to public radio and run marathons, and we still have neighbors, hiding in the shadows, who are happy to get their hands on some past-expiration lettuce that was touching other garbage.  I haven't come across this woman myself, and I don't know her story, but knowing she's out there makes me appreciate how fortunate I am.  A lot of bad stuff can (and did) happen to my family but at least we always have shelter, food, and a support network.

There's a well-known quote by Regina Brett: "If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back."  It's true.  Losing a pet we had loved as part of our family was devastating, but I'm sure it's nothing like having no food on the dinner table day after day.  And even at some point during our string of bad luck, when I was moaning, "when is this all going to end?" the possibility was always out there, somewhere on the horizon, that it would end and things would go back to normal, though minus one Siamese.

I guess this kind of stuff happens to people regularly.  It's part of being an adult, and those who don't have to deal with periods of loss and frustration once in a while are just darn lucky.  Some people have much worse to contend with.  And others choose not to deal with it at all and find ways to temporarily escape the responsibilities life throws at them.  I feel a little bruised, but I toughed it out and I'm ready to move on.  Whew.

Anyway, I hope this wasn't too ramble-y.  I've had time to think about what kinds of things I want to write about in the near future, and I think I'd like to put more focus on self-care and coping skills during times of stress.  I'm excited to put a little more time into researching this topic and sharing what I find out.  So please stay tuned, and I promise I'll try not to step away for too long this time.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: The Dry Spell

Hi friends!  It's been a long time since I've done a Thrifty Thursday post, and the reason is that I'm not finding much of anything lately.  It's not for lack of trying.  I probably make one or two thrift store visits a week during my kid-free errand excursions, but I keep coming up empty-handed.  It's getting really frustrating!  But finally, I got a very small haul at Arc's Value Village the other day.

First, I stopped in the kids' book section.  To my delight, some wonderful staff or volunteer had organized the series books so I didn't have to go digging for Magic Treehouse books for the kids.  I grabbed all the ones we don't have yet.  We're reading them out of order, and it's the kind of series where that doesn't matter very much.

I found a few cute things for Punky that looked like they were in brand new condition: a dress and swimsuit she can wear this summer, and a long-sleeved shirt for next winter.  

Then I dug and dug through the womens clothes, not finding anything good.  I went over to the New Arrivals area, where I sometimes find the best things, and I saw an intriguing pattern sticking out.  It was a t-shirt with a Marc Jacobs label.  Also, the label said XS. So I moved on.  But then I came back and looked some more.  It was cropped, and it was also cut big, so it would be worn very loose on a size XS person.  So I decided to take it home with me.  I rationalized that either it would fit me and I could figure out a way to style it, or it wouldn't fit me and I could use the fabric to make something else.

Somewhere Marc Jacobs is crying, "No!  Only urban, dirty-haired waifs who look like they live in garbage cans but actually have lots of money get to wear my clothes." 

I was still desperate to find something usable for myself so I ended up buying a Max Studio dress.  I think I bought it because it had an interesting retro pattern, but it didn't fit well, and it was in a synthetic fabric I don't enjoy wearing.  I had buyers remorse within 5 minutes of leaving the store.  I went home and tried it on again and tried to convince myself I would wear it, but I finally had to admit that it was a mistake.  Then came the dilemma of trying to return it or just tossing it in my donation bin.  Since I was headed back in that direction to pick up Punky from preschool anyway, I decided to take it back to Arc.  I don't think I've EVER tried to return something to a thrift store before.  Luckily this one has a limited return policy for rewards member and the money gets credited to your account.

I'm glad it went back.  With summer coming, I don't want this drab thing anyway.  

Magic Treehouse books $.79 x 6
Girls Cherokee tank dress 3.99
Girls Land's End top 3.99
Girls Old Navy swimsuit 4.99
Marc Jacob's top 6.99
(Max Studio dress that I didn't keep 12.99)

I had a 25% off coupon because I had donated a carload of stuff prior to going into the store.

Total 18.63

Now I have a little credit sitting there for next time I shop, which probably won't be for awhile, in hopes that the store will be restocked in the meantime.  Every once in a while I run into a dry spell like this.  When people tell me I'm really good at thrifting and finding amazing deals, I emphasize that it's mostly luck.  If I visit four thrift stores over a two week period, maybe I'll find something useful at one or two of them.  And the truly exciting finds, like Marc Jacobs tops, Tory Burch shoes, and Marimekko bags, only pop up once in a blue moon.  The point is, those things DO pop up, and you won't find them unless you keep looking. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Another Fun Appointment with Arc Value Village's Personal Shopper

I scored another hard-to-get appointment with the personal shopper at Arc Value Village in Richfield the other week.  It was a slower than usual day and there wasn't a lot to choose from this time, although I got some solid pieces I could use.  

The first thing my eye landed on, when I entered the dressing room, was this pair of Frye wedges.  I was so excited.  I do not feel comfortable on higher heels, but I can usually walk in wedges, and I love anything by Frye.  

I tried them on, and discovered that they were too big for me.  Not just roomy, but floppy.  My heels completely lifted out of the backs when I tried to walk.  Boo!

I stood around and admired them for a little while anyway.

Then, I tried on this new-with-tags Narcisco Rodriguez dress and it was the WORST.  
I later looked it up and found a picture of Emma Roberts wearing the same dress.  As you can see, it's stunning on on someone with a stick-thin frame.  So this one was an immediate "no" for me.

Then I tried on a really promising outfit.  I can't remember what the dress was, but the cardigan was Banana Republic.  It looked good from the front.  But the dress had some weird ruching on the sides of the skirt that looked like the lining was caught on the inside.  I kept trying to pull it down until I realized it was intentional.  It was not a good look, or a good feeling.  I made up my mind to keep this pretty green sweater, anyway, until I noticed one of the shoulder seams was coming apart.  So another strike out.

One outfit I took home was this Vince Camuto dress with a Land's End cardigan.  I had put in my original shopping profile that I love yellow, and I think it works well with the navy stripes.  The sad thing is that after wearing the dress once, one of the bottom seams came undone in the washer and now there's a section hanging.  It's something I can fix, fortunately, but I'm concerned about the cheap construction of this dress.

There was also this Banana Republic cardigan I really like the shape of.  I pointed out it had a couple small snags, and was able to get the price reduced.  

Then I got these nice layering tanks.  Kind of boring, but I can totally use them.  I usually keep my eye out for fancy sweaters or dresses and I forget you can find the basic stuff at thrift stores, too.  

So here's my tiny little haul for the day:

Banana Republic cardigan 7.99- 50% off for snag
Vince Camuto striped dress 10.99
Land's End cardigan 6.99
Talbot's black tank 3.99
J. Jill tank 3.99

I wish there had been more, and I scoured the store myself after my personal shopper appointment to come up empty-handed.  What you find at a thrift store, especially a good one with fast turnover, might depend on that day's donations.

Anyway, it's always so nice to stand in a dressing room and have someone else do the running around, bringing you things to try.  So even though I didn't come home with a lot, it was a fun experience. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Morning Roundup 2.2.15

Happy Monday!  I am so glad to start a new week after being home with sick kiddos most of last week.  They weren't really feeling all that sick, but sick enough to stay out of school with their constantly dripping noses.

I convinced Punky that some homemade chicken noodle soup would make her feel better.  I think it did, or at least the fun of slurping noodles took her mind off her sinuses for a while.  

Here are a few good links:

From Buzzfeed: 19 Perfectly Emotional "Parenthood" Moments.  I had forgotten about some of these! Man, I'm going to miss that show, but I'll enjoy re-watching it on Netflix.

I attended my first-ever book club meeting last Friday, and felt like I've really fallen behind in my book-reading.  Then I found, from Modern Mrs. Darcy, The 2015 Reading Challenge.  It's totally do-able, even if you've gotten off to a slow start this year.

Racked shows us every piece from Ava & Viv, Target's upcoming plus-size line.  I'm hearing a lot of buzz that this will somehow be different than other plus-size brands, and I'm not sure I see it.  I mean, can anyone wear those jumpsuits?  But because real women were consulted in the pieces Target chose, I do want to see them in person when they hit the stores later this month.

If you are thinking about buying a fitness tracker, you can rent before you buy from this service.  I got a Jawbone UP for Christmas and I love it, but I deliberated between that and a FitBit for a long time.  (Groupon had a deal for the Jawbone, so that's ultimately why I chose it).

Portraits of Mothers Who Have Been Given Makeovers by Their 3 to 5-Year-Old Daughters.  Having been given many a kid makeover myself, this is pretty accurate.  I just wish we could see some outfits as well.

Have a great week!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: Adding to the Stash

One trick of thrifting is riding the fine line between only buying things you need, and buying things ahead so you'll have them when you need them.  I do buy ahead for both kids when I find things I know they'll use in the next season or two.  I limit myself to one bin for each kid and another for shoes and boots.  I also go through them regularly to make sure I know what I have on hand, and clean out anything I don't think we'll use.

I went to Goodwill and found some cute things for Punky that won't work for her this winter, but I can stash them away for summer or another year.

A fun little Gap dress.

This adorable top from Papo d'Anjo, a brand I had never heard of before.  It's a high-end kids line named after a traditional Portugese egg yolk dessert, that I kind of want to try now.

A Naartjie sundress, that I'm not crazy about, but I think Punky will love to wear on a hot summer day.  I just found out that Naartjie went out of business, so maybe I'm not the only one who wasn't a fan of the over-the-top frilliness 

An adorable Mini Boden applique shirt.

A Mini Boden pointelle t-shirt.  Both Mini Boden shirts are size 9-10, which is a long way off, but they are really nice looking so I felt they would be worth it.

Gap dress 3.99
Papo d'Anjo top 3.99
Naartjie sundress 2.99
Pink Applique Mini Boden top 2.99
Pink Pointelle Mini Boden top 2.99

And if I had waited to buy these until Goodwill's Toddler Thursday, all this would have been 50% off, but alas, I had to scoop them up while I had the chance.  

Total cost: 16.95
Total time in store: 20 minutes (sometimes it doesn't take long)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Thrifty Thursday: The Revolving Door

On Thursdays I usually show off my latest thrift store scores, but seeing how this is the New Year and everyone wants to get organized, I wanted to talk about the other side of thrifting, which is giving stuff back.

It's simple math.  If I'm bringing home a shopping bag of stuff (clothes, media, toys, etc) every week, that same volume of stuff needs to leave the house.  My family lives a small house, which is already packed with our possessions.  We are really efficient at using our available storage space, but at some point there is nowhere else to put things.   

That's why I try to picture a revolving door.  As stuff continually comes in, stuff continually goes out. Some people save up all their stuff for one big purge, and have an annual garage sale.  I've found that not to work for me.  For one thing, the amount of time setting up a garage sale rarely pays off in the money you make.  Unless you truly enjoy sorting, cleaning, folding, pricing, and then sitting outside all weekend surrounded by your junk (and if you're doing it with friends, you can make it fun).  The other thing is that you have to keep a year's worth of unused stuff sitting around in your house until it's time for the garage sale.  

I sometimes try to resell things on Facebook garage sale pages, eBay, consignment stores, or stores like Once Upon a Child or Half-Priced Books.  That can be successful with certain items, especially for a nice piece of furniture or name-brand clothing with the tags still attached.  But depending on the level of wear an item has, it might not be worth the time and resources to resell it.  

So that leaves one really great option: donation.  Almost every town has a place you can donate used goods, or an organization that will come by and pick them up.  You can look online to find out what kinds of items they'll take and what the organization does with the profits.  And here's the best part: donating good-quality, usable stuff is paying it forward if you are someone who loves shopping at thrift stores.  I love when I'm shopping and I find unbelievable like-new brand-name clothes.  I sometimes wonder why someone didn't want it, and it's probably because it didn't fit, or it wasn't their style, or they never wore it and wanted to free up space.  If other people are donating those kinds of things for me to find, I can do the same for others.  

The problem is letting go of things, even things we don't use, is not easy.  I love to shop for clothes, and I can look through my closet and tell you where I got everything, why I bought it, and where I wore it.  I have memories tied up in my clothes.  Even the clothes I never/barely wore, are surrounded by the promise of what I'd look like, or where I'd go when I wore them.  

I've watched many episodes of Hoarders and, while I'm dubious that a true, diagnosed hoarder can be "cured" by a couple days of  having a camera crew and a psychologist go through their belongings, I've picked up a lot of great advice for myself from the show.  There's a part of every episode where the hoarder is sitting down and the psychologist is showing them things, one at a time, asking, "can we get rid of this?"  The answer is often, "no, because..." and then there's a bizarre list of reasons that we, the viewers, know don't make sense, but are very real and emotional for the hoarder.  I have my own reasons for not getting rid of things, and it helps me to name them and see how ridiculous they sound.  

Lies I tell myself when I don't want to let go of my unused clothing:

I have so much to go through, it's too hard to start.

Someone I miss gave me this or liked this, so it dishonors the memory of that person if I get rid of it.  

I spent so much money on it that it's valuable.

I got it at such a great deal that it's valuable.

If I get rid of it, it's admitting I made a mistake by buying it.

Someone whose fashion sense I admire told me it looked good on me.

I've already hung onto it for so many years, it's even more special now.

I might need it someday.

It will fit me again if my body magically goes back to pre-pregnancy size.

I'll keep it around for painting/yard work (even though I only paint something about once a year and don't have a yard).

I'll keep it around to sleep in (even though I have actual pajamas).

I'll keep it around to wear to the gym (even though I have actual gym clothes).

If I get rid of it, I'll regret it.

Truths I've learned about donating my unused clothing:

I don't have to get rid of everything at first.  Just fill up one bag now and try again later.

It makes me happy to have more space.

It's more efficient to keep only things I currently wear in my closet.

Someone else will be thrilled to find this.

Someone else will wear this and love this more than I did.

I'm contributing to a worthy cause.

The true value of clothing is not what I initially paid, but the cost per wear.

I've made some shopping mistakes, and I don't need to be reminded of them every day.

I've learned not to buy that color/size/style/brand again.

It's easy to bag it up and drop it all off at one location.

If I magically returned to my pre-pregnancy size/shape, it would be more fun to shop for new clothes than to re-wear all my old stuff from 7 years ago.

Everyone changes size/shape as they age, have babies, change lifestyles.  Having a piece of clothing no longer fit isn't a personal failure.  Move on.

My old clothes aren't my memories.  I still have my memories.

My old clothes aren't my identity.  I still have my identity.

I've NEVER regretted giving away something I didn't need.

I gave myself 30 minutes to do a quick closet purge, and found enough stuff to fill a garbage bag. I probably left a few things behind that I wasn't quite sure about, but that's OK.  Now that I've identified them, I can give myself a time limit on wearing them.  I had a storage bin on the floor of my closet full of clothes that currently don't fit me, and that's where I found the most things to give away.

A retro-looking dress that I bought when I thought I might go swing dancing with the Mister.  This was before we had kids.  If we didn't find time to go swing dancing then, I'm sure we won't find time to do it now.  Plus, it's a juniors size.  Let's be realistic.

A mini-skirt. Yeah.

A blouse from Target that was just "OK" for me until I saw Ellie Kemper wearing it on The Office. Suddenly it seemed more important that it really was, and I've probably been keeping it for that reason.  I needed to admit that, and put it in writing to realize how dumb that sounds.  So, it's gone.

Colorful jeans from the Old Navy clearance rack.  They were fun while they lasted, but I'm moving on.

A Target dress with buttons I really liked.  I never wore it, though.  It's cute, but way too va-va-voom for me.

An Alice Temperly dress that is really elegant.  I wore it only once, to The Mister's office party when I was in my first trimester with Boo and so, so sick.  I remember feeling like the room was spinning all night long.  Not a good memory.  The dress can go.

A cute spring Gap dress I wore to my Grandma's funeral.  I think that's the reason I was hanging on to it, even when it was too snug after having Punky.  I have some nice pictures of me wearing it, and that's enough.  It will be a cute on someone else.

A perfectly ordinary H&M turtleneck, that I didn't want to part with because I bought it in London when all my other clothes were damp from the rain and wouldn't dry in our stuffy hotel room.  I was freezing and needed a sweater, so I ran out and bought this.  It's pretty useful as far as souvenirs go, but it's a little too tight now and I haven't worn it in years.  

I also unearthed a few things I'm not quite ready to let go of because I'm only human:

A Radiohead concert t-shirt from the one and only time I got to see them.

A pile of Gap jeans from between my two pregnancies.  When I found the exact fit that worked for me, I bought a pair in every wash available.  They're too tight now, but I'll hang on to them a little longer with a time limit.  If I don't wear them by the end of this year, they have to go!

And this little fashion trend I forgot happened...stirrup jeggings!  Don't laugh.  How else do you tuck your jeans into your boots without them bunching at the knee?  They stay! 

One more thing.  I had a wool J. Crew snowflake sweater I got for Christmas (about 20 years ago).  It was beautiful and cozy and I loved it so much.  Then I lost some weight (about 12 years ago) and was swimming in it, and decided not to keep it.  I'm not saying I regretted donating it.  I definitely wasn't wearing it and if someone else bought it and loved it, then that's great.  But I often thought about that sweater over the years, and I'd look through the J. Crew catalog to see if they were still selling anything similar.  Finally, last winter, it occurred to me to look for it on eBay in case someone had an old one.  Sure enough, I found it, in a different color, for around $25.  It's just as warm and soft as I remembered, and I'm wearing it frequently.  Obviously it was a very well-made sweater because it's 20 years old and looks great!

My point is that I'm learning not to overthink donating stuff because there will always be more stuff. Almost nothing is one-of-a-kind or irreplaceable these days.  We live in a world where we can track down what we want and have it delivered to our doorsteps, so why hang on to what we don't use and care about?  And what's the point of stockpiling our possessions if they get in the way of living healthy, happy lives?

So, yes, I love to shop, and I'm always bringing home new "treasures", but I have to make sure they don't add to the accumulation in our house.  I've had Elsa singing "Let It Go, Let It Go" in my head the entire time I've been writing this, which could be my anthem for 2015, no matter how cliche that sounds.  I'm going to take that earworm and tackle some more storage bins today.  I've got things packed away in the basement I haven't set eyes on in a year, and I'm betting I can get rid of some of them, too.

I'm wishing you all a very Happy New Year.  Thank you for reading!