The Gift of Thrift
When Brad & I were looking to invest all the money we didn’t have in a house, I was dead-set on getting an older home. Luckily for me, Pittsburgh is lousy with old homes, and it’s nothing to find a perfectly affordable place that’s over 100 years old and full of great character.
And by “character,” I mean “termites.”
Of course, the main problem with the older homes that were within our budget was that…they were old. And within our budget. And most often required things like new roofing, new plumbing, new wiring, new foundations – BIG stuff that made our little apartment-renting heads spin and our paltry savings account lose bladder control.
Do your Kegels, yo.
But eventually, after much searching and hoping and deals with the Dark Lord, we found our house – our perfectly old and structurally sound house that was (pretty much) within our price range. And there was much rejoicing.
Of course, those lovely old houses are quirky – what with their tiny bathrooms and drafty corners and STAIRS STAIRS STAIRS EVERYWHERE STAIRS and, perhaps cruelest of all, their complete and total lack of modern closets.
Y’know – CLOSETS. Those things that are so wonderfully freeing to come out of. I’m just sayin.’
Yes friends, my house is gifted with a grand total of 2 actual, built-in-1900, original closets. And if you think that sounds reasonable, allow me to share that these are not your fancy modern closets, but the shallow, foot-deep closets that were meant to house just a handful of outfits – outfits that were hung on a hook on the back wall of the closet so that they faced you when you opened the door. Those turn-of-the-century mother-scratchers simply didn’t have a whole lotta clothes to call their own.
Mostly because they didn’t have Old Navy’s 6-bazillion-for-$20 t-shirt sales.
They also must not have had a need to store, well, ANYTHING. Can I tell you how creative this bitch needs to be when she buys toilet paper in quantities greater than one? Or has a humidifier/blanket/sewing machine/photo albums/blow-up doll/fucking useless framed college diploma that she doesn’t want stacked in the corner of a room? Now, we do have a couple bastardized closets that were built into the nooks of different rooms by previous owners, but still. Closet space is at a premium in our house, which means Brad and I are forced to share a closet.
My darling, I will never leave you, but so help me, if you hog all the good wooden hangers for your t-shirts I will break your goddamn teeth.
It’s not actually that bad, since we had to share closets in all of our previous apartments. But it does mean that I am an absolute hard-ass when it comes to weeding out the “always wear” clothes from the “never wear” ones, and putting together a huge haul to take to Goodwill at least twice a year. It’s amazing the amount of clothes we have to drop off – especially considering that neither one of us is any kind of clotheshorse – but the bulk of the donation this time was made up of shirts, suits and pants that no longer fit Brad, because he did that highly annoying male-weight-loss thing. You know, that thing where a guy says, “Hm, I think I’m going to lose some weight,” then stops drinking Coke and has a salad once a week, and suddenly drops 5 inches from his waist?
Can you tell this is especially irritating to the pregnant lady who cannot button her winter coat anymore and devoured scrambled eggs, orange juice, toast and a bagel at 11pm last night?
ANYWAY. This past weekend I decided to take the two large bags of misfit clothes to the thrift store. The decision was made mostly because I was sick of seeing the bags of clothes sitting in the spare bedroom, but also because Brad was out of town and would not be forced to suffer through my post-donation thrift store walk-through. See, Brad is not a fan of the thrift store. He does not have the patience for the sifting through racks of secondhand clothing or shelves of warped tupperware, and gets downright skeeved out by the shoe section. He’ll go with me when we drop off clothes, but as I’m examining vintage sugar bowls I can hear him getting impatient while he waits for me over by the door. And because he is the same man who made me the aforementioned late-night breakfast buffet (at breakneck speed, no less), I am more than happy to overlook his distaste for the world of consignment.
OH HELL YES.
So, me and the clothes (minus Brad) drove out to a large Goodwill about 20 minutes from our house that I’d never been to before. Actually, I only learned of its existence because it was one of the filming locations for the movie Smart People, that was shot in my city last year.
A seriously terrible movie, but they filmed scenes in Brad’s office building and also at a house, like, 5 minutes away from mine! EEEE!
I was pretty excited at the prospect of digging through the goods at this new (to me) Goodwill – surely I would stumble across a few beautiful maternity sweaters at $3.99 a pop, an A-line wool peacoat perfect for my growing belly, and a couple of priceless pieces of vintage depression glass in the housewares section, available to purchase for less than the cost of a daily newspaper.
Ha. Ha ha HA.
Let me take a moment here to provide you with a little bit of history: we never (that I can recall) went to thrift stores when I was growing up. This was probably due to the fact that I was always having hand-me-downs thrust upon me by my older sister and the neighbor girls. I didn’t mind – in fact, it was pretty awesome, especially the time I got that t-shirt with the kitten and the sparkly flowered background
When I was in high school, the town we lived in had only one small thrift store, and it was pretty paltry – good only for finding the random Halloween costume piece (or for the bizarre experience of seeing your own donated clothes on the racks). But when I went to college in the great state of Kentucky, my eyes were opened to its best-kept secret: Kentucky has the most incredible fucking thrift stores IN THE WORLD. Internet, I bought things at thrift stores in Lexington and Louisville in 1996 that I STILL WEAR, including a vintage red leather Etienne Aigner jacket that was purchased for under $15. I had wool sweaters, imported scarves, one-of-a-kind quirky t-shirts (long before you could buy them by the pound at the mall), and even a windbreaker that was embroidered with my very own name, spelled correctly and everything. Kentucky is where all the amazing secondhand clothes go to die, my friends.
However. Pennsylvania does not seem to be gifted with the same caliber of thrift stores. Either that, or I have totally lost my knack for finding anything worth a damn on the racks. While I’ve come across some pretty sweet housewares in my local Goodwills, clothing-wise I always come up completely dry. What the fuck?
But because hope and delusion spring eternal, I always believe that the motherload is waiting for me with each trip to St. Vincent DePaul, and this weekend I headed out the door with the same happy visions of gently-used vintage cardigans in my head. I drove around to the back of the store, dropped off my donation, parked and headed inside.
It’s always the instant I walk through the door that I’m hit with the very clear realization that I’m a shitty thrift store shopper. Maybe I just haven’t found a sufficient replacement for the awesome Kentucky thrift stores of yore, but as soon as I step in those doors, I know I’m not leaving with anything more than a Viagra-branded toothpick holder for shits & giggles. What the hell happened to me? I used to be so good at this…but now when I look at the faded cotton tops drooping on their hangers, I see only pit stains and wonder how many times the previous owner wiped her nose with the sleeve. When I look at the bins full of cast-off silverware for a knife/fork/spoon set to take with me to work, I get skeeved out thinking about whose mouths they’ve been in previous to mine (nevermind that every fucking time I eat in a restaurant, I am eating with utensils that were in someone else’s mouth MERE HOURS before), and I don’t even want to tell you what I think about when I look at the pants.
There is no limit to the horrors people have committed in their pants.
Internet, I am not a snob. I cut coupons, I buy off-brands, I don’t buy designer shit and I can’t tell you the last time I even bought a piece of clothing that wasn’t on sale. But it seems I’ve lost my ability to thrift. I even gave it the old college try last weekend – I methodically went through racks and racks of sweaters and tops (I found only one faded-ass maternity shirt that looked like it spent about 5 years in someone’s glove compartment), and the only thing I came across that looked half-decent was a mint-condition cardigan from Old Navy that I almost bought…before I realized that its only appeal was that it was in good shape, not that I actually liked the damn thing.
I’m starting to think maybe it’s the thrift stores themselves. Maybe I need to explore some bigger and better locations, and ask my successful thrifter friends where they go. Because once this baby gets here, I fully intend to rely on the power of the thrift store instead of spending $15 dollars on one square foot of soon-to-be-barfed-on fabric in the Target baby section just because it came directly from a third-world sweatshop to me. You hear that, fetus? Your terrible mother is already holding you to standards she refuses to apply to herself. Fantastic.
I draw the line at the thrift store stuffed animal section, though. There simply isn’t enough bleach in the world.
Entry filed under: And you KNOW THIS!.