Friday, December 30, 2011

Wrapping Paper Nut

A friend of mine recently went to an estate sale she lovingly refers to as “The Pencil Sharpener Nut Sale.” This is because the house contained approximately 3000 pencil sharpeners, all proudly displayed upon rows and rows of shelving built specifically to hold them. In addition to the pencil sharpeners, the house had hundreds of thimbles and knick-knacks, all meticulously logged on a gigantic Rolodex. I kid you not:

I’m left to wonder, at what point does collection become obsession?

Once a year, there is an explosion of vintage Christmas wrapping paper, ribbons and bows so densely covering my living room floor that even my cat has a hard time getting through. Some people enjoy hobbies such as sports and watching movies. Me? I like to play with my wrapping paper collection.

This was one of those guilt-free, easy-to-start collections. Wrapping paper is small and flat. It’s functional. I can buy it knowing it will be a temporary resident in my home. For a while, I had it limited to one large Rubbermaid tub. Eventually, I had to separate the Christmas wrapping from all other paper requiring me to expand to 2 large containers. And still, trying to fit the lids on is akin to sitting on a suitcase to close the zipper. And let’s not forget about the ribbon bins. And the overflow area. It’s a good thing I love giving gifts.

If you’re getting a gift from me, however, don’t expect anything extraordinary. My best wrapping is reserved for those who appreciate it; those who carefully remove it without tearing and fold it up to be reused. If that’s not you, don’t worry. We can both be happy knowing that the paper you tore off, balled up and threw aside was nothing too special. It’s a win-win.

At this point, I like to believe my interest in wrapping paper lies safely in the collection category rather than obsession territory. Now, once I start logging my wrapping paper in a giant Rolodex, I’ll know I’ve gone over the edge.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Yardstick of Craftiness

I have an affinity for things of uniform size. I’m not sure where this lands me on the OCD spectrum, but anytime I see another vintage yardstick for sale, I want it.

I like the way they look. I like the promotional messages: There isn’t a farm job going we can’t lubricate and One stop shop for all your sewing needs. I like the idea of them all lined up together and their upcycling potential. Plus, if you want to cut them up and glue them to the top of a dresser, there’s no need to measure!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Breaking the Rules

Due to my perpetual fear of crossing into hoarder territory, I have 2 simple rules to follow when thrifting:
Rule #1: Do not buy anything you don’t have a specific use/need for.
Rule #2: Do not buy anything bigger than a breadbox, ESPECIALLY if you don’t have a specific use/need for it.
That’s it. The rules are pretty simple. Today I broke them both:

When it comes to impulse buys, some people buy candy. Apparently, I buy bikes.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Proclaiming a Collection…Gulp!

I’m scared. I think I have a new collection, but I don’t want to admit it. If I say it out loud, it will be real and then there’s no stopping it. People (myself included) will buy me this item as a gift. I will suddenly be neck-deep in this useless thing, gasping for air. Every time I see a new one, I will have to evaluate: Should I get this? Does it pass muster? Do I really have room for one more thing? Oh, the anxiety!

I’m not sure the number at which something officially becomes a collection, but if it’s at least 6, then I’m afraid I’ve got a collection of trophies. There. I said it. Gulp…

I collect trophies.

I’ve got 6 and I want more. I love old trophies: the shiny statuettes, the ornate bases, the engraved nameplates. I love imagining the story. Was there a ceremony? Did everyone cheer? How did someone’s achievement end up in this thrift store for $1?

And why do I want this trophy now? Am I so starved for success that I need to collect someone else’s? Or is it like taking in a stray animal? No one else is going to love this trophy so I’d better give it a good home.

Whatever my reasons, I have come to accept this new path. I will bravely march forward into this dangerous new world, scanning the thrift store aisles as I go.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

They Would Want Me to Have It, Right?

If you’ve never been to an estate sale, you haven’t fully lived. Why? Because an estate sale means you are walking around the home of someone who likely just died. All of their possessions are priced and laid out on tables, and a bunch of strangers are milling around touching everything. That’s weird. And I’m one of those strangers. A part of me feels like I should be somber and dressed in black when I go to these things, but honestly, I just want bargains on cool stuff. I justify it because I truly love the things I buy. Better those vintage Anchor Hocking glasses go home with me than to Goodwill. Who knows what unappreciative lout they’ll end up with there?

Sometimes it’s the family who runs the sale, and sometimes it’s a company. They’re called “estate liquidation companies.” Clinical and cold-sounding, I know. That’s why they have names like “Caring Transitions” and “As Time Goes By.” They are professionals at organizing, pricing, and executing the sale of stuff left behind when you are gone.

I think of these sales as antique stores without antique store prices. This equation usually holds up: Estate Sale=Old People=Cool Old Stuff

AND the last day is usually half-price. Heaven.

There is one estate sale company in Milwaukee that seems to have the corner on the market. They have a suspiciously large number of sales. They’re called “Prestige” and they’re hardly prestigious. I hate them. Here’s why:

1. They have an “estate sale with antique store prices” policy

2. They refuse to barter. Ever. I’ve tried.

3. They are always having a sale. Ratty orange signs advertising 60% off are an insult.

I avoid sales by this company now, but before I knew better, I would become so irate my blood would boil. Five dollars for this old cookbook?! Are you insane?? Oh, it’s 60% off? Well, in that case…Ugh!

For some unhealthy reason, and for which I am supremely embarrassed, I felt it my duty to steal from these people.

Everything about these sales seemed like a major injustice. I would show them. I would steal this Santa Claus-riding-a-bike-plastic-canvas-magnet and teach them a lesson!

And even now, I wonder if stealing this makes me a horrible person. I mean, can a horrible person even own a bike-riding-Santa-magnet? Is that possible? My brain tells me it’s wrong to steal, but that part of me that feels entitled to a bargain is powerful and it tells me that I’m right. And maybe, just maybe, the dead person who spent an hour of their life creating this Santa magnet would want me to have it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

FREE-lation: Artist Unknown

There must be a formula to calculate levels of thrifting elation. For example, finding a 1960’s spaghetti swag lamp in pristine condition for $40 is kinda exciting, but finding that same lamp and paying $8 and I'm grinning wildly all day. I’m picturing a Venn Diagram that factors in cost, condition, and awesomeness. In the center where everything intersects is the holy grail of thrifting. Needless to say, when I find something super cool for FREE, I’m happily smack-dab in the middle. This usually happens when least expected…

After final exams last year, it didn’t take long for the hallways of Washington High School to clear out. I found this incredible busy/artwork on the floor. What luck! I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect artifact from this urban public high school.

There is so much to love: sparkling grill, blood-drips tattoo, huge square diamond earrings, and glimmering money sign eyes. The faint footprint and maze on the back are icing on the cake.

Elation levels through the roof! Move over Mona Lisa, this is one for the mantle.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

More Weird Stuff I Want: Optimal Video Game Freshness

Other items in the "weird stuff I want" category include things I think I can upcycle. If I can make this super cool, yet useless thing functional, then I will have won. I will NOT die buried under a pile of businessman trophies because I will have made them into a coat rack.

Although my craft room is overflowing with stuff like this, I have had a few successes. Take these beautiful powdery blue refrigerator crispers I found. Useless junk? Certainly not! I don’t know where I was storing my Nintendo games before these crispers came along.

On the infomercial, I’m sweaty and surrounded by piles of unruly video games. I throw my arms up in frustration: If only I had somewhere to store all these pesky games!

Ah. Much better.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weird Stuff I Want: #1 Businessman

Sometimes when I’m thrifting I’ll see something that just speaks to me. It’s never anything I need to survive, except that in some strange way, I do. Need it, that is. And, if the thing is only a few dollars, the decision is easier to justify. A part of me worries though that I’m one fine line away from officially being a hoarder, so I hem and haw. Usually, I’ll see something in this category and tell myself: I’ll just carry this businessman trophy around for a while and see if I still want it later. Turns out that yes, I did in fact need that:

If I die buried under a pile of businessman trophies, I’ll know I should’ve put it back.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cut Throat

For those of you who aren’t in the know because you haven’t taught in an urban public school, if someone is cut throat, they’re ruthless. For example, “Ya’ll be cut throat stealin’ my Flamin’ Hots!” Someone who is cut throat is sneaky, selfish, and can’t be trusted. Although it’s not my nature, when it comes to thrifting, I need to be cut throat.

Normally I don’t bother with rummage sales. They’re usually full of baby clothes and really crappy knick-knacks. It’s mostly stuff that people buy, and then put out at their garage sale 3 years later. This is not to say that I haven’t had some great finds at rummage sales, it’s just that they’re few and far between. I mean, you can find good stuff occasionally, just like you can find needles in haystacks.

I recently went to one garage sale because it was described as “the contents of an antique mall booth.” Ok, sign me up. No baby clothes here. Walking up the driveway, I spotted 2 fabulous red chairs. Awesome. Totally worth it. They looked like this:

I love chairs like this. They deserve to be nestled under a smooth, chrome-legged Formica table. Convenient--I happen to own just the table! At 3 dollars apiece, these chairs were a steal. I was going to buy these chairs.

I’d just do a quick scan of the stuff in the garage, grab the chairs, and be on my way. No need to worry about those three collegey-looking, Abercrombie-wearing girls over there—definitely not a threat. They don’t like cool stuff. But wait—one is walking toward my chairs. Just be cool…nothing to worry about...AH! She’s calling her friend over! “I dunno, should I buy these?” Should you buy those?! NO!

Ok. Breathe. Think. I casually approach the girls. “Were you gonna to buy these chairs?” I hear myself asking, like a complete idiot. “Yeah,” the girl is saying, “I think so.” I grit my teeth. I am so nonchalant. “Oh, okay.” I walk away and pretend to seriously consider a purse.

Stupid! Not only did I just convince her to buy the chairs, now there’s no way I can possibly have them. Why didn’t I just keep my mouth shut, wait for them to inevitably walk away, and take the chairs I so clearly deserve to own more?!

Except that I didn’t deserve those chairs more. I failed because I was trying to be nice. I should’ve taken them before anyone else had the chance. Survival of the fittest. And if I’m going to be the fittest thrifter around, I need to be cut throat.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gold Medal Thrifting

I go thrifting. A lot. I have routes. Routes that span distances, mind you. Robust routes that require me to rise early and eat in the car just to make it to that final destination before they’re turning off the lights and demanding all purchases be brought to the check out…Now! I know which thrift stores have the bathroom I want to use. I know which ones have the weird hours, which ones are bound to have a sale. And I have opinions. Don’t get me started on the decline of St. Vincent DePaul Thrift Stores. Seriously, I’m really upset about it.

I have a terrible memory. I can’t remember the name of the person who starred in the movie I just saw—actually, the title is escaping me right now, too. It was really good though. I still have to look up my own mother’s birthday, just to be sure. I know it’s in September, but is it the 13th or the 15th? But, ask me to recollect where I purchased that vintage embroidery wall hanging with the swaying tree on it, and I can describe it for you in detail.

It was a perfect summer day. I was on my favorite route, visiting the Saint Vinny’s in Watertown. I spotted it perched high on a shelf amidst a sea of nature prints and religious art and I knew immediately: It would be mine. There would be no hemming and hawing over this one. Five bucks? Hell, yeah. I would’ve paid $15. I would have regretted it forever if it was $20 and I didn’t buy it. I felt a rush of elation the whole way home, as if I had just won the gold medal in an Olympic event.

I really did. I’m starting to wonder what’s wrong with me. But, you can decide for yourself. I love it. Here it is: