Poppin’ Tags

{Have you listened to Mackelmore’s album the Heist? If not, you must- Its amazing! I am O B S E S S E D.}

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned previously my penchant for thrift and second hand stores. For everything from furniture and decor to clothing and jewelry, I have found amazing things second-hand for next to nothing.  Everything I know I was taught by my mother, who is the queen of thrifting and vintage finds; my parents’ house and closet is a museum of the amazing things she has collected over the years. I still love wandering around and looking at it all, there’s always something new. My friends used to come over and walk around in amazement ( still do!). She has taught me to identify eras in fashion in both clothing and home items, to tell the difference between leather and vinyl, to know any and all brands worth knowing, and to spot a fake anything from a mile away as well as how to identify the real deals. And a few real deals, I have found. From vintage Chanel purses to 70’s teak furniture, you name it, my mom has found it. Including the most fabulous black and white chevron  Dior Mink coat ever created. Not kidding. Similar to this, but not quite: 

But I digress. I just love that coat. It’s the ultimate thrift shop coup.

So naturally, when it comes to start staging this house for sale, my local trio are my first stop: the Salvation Army,  Value Village and Goodwill. There’s a Bibles for Missions store the other end of town I usually forget about, so I don’t get in very often. We also have a few great second hand and consignment stores downtown in our city, but they are a bit more expensive and I don’t pop in nearly as often. Garage sales, church sales and the like are also great spots to find things during the summer- my garage-saleing expertise was passed on from my grandparents ( mom’s parents) who used to take us garage saleing as kids every saturday morning when we were at the cottage with them for the weekend- some of my fondest memories of my grandparents (as you can see, my penchant for this type of stuff is inborn).

But back to the trio. Here’s my take, and what I’ve come to learn about them:

Value Village: Usually, this is my last resort. I’m not the biggest fan of Value Village’s business practices. It is a privately-held for-profit company, as opposed to a charity, and the company partners with local non-profits by purchasing and reselling donated items. The non-profits collect and deliver donated goods to Value Village, which pays the non-profits for the items at a bulk rate. Many of the contracts these organizations sign with Value Village provide a very small return compared to the (perceived) large amounts of money Value Village retains. According to an article that appeared in the Alberta Report in 1996 “According to the Times, for every $1.00 that went to undersigned charities from some Ellison-owned thrift stores, $2.55 went to the Ellison associates” (via).  At Value Village you pay tax on all of the goods you buy even though they are used, and the goods available, especially clothing, have been specifically merchandised. When items are donated, they are  sorted and anything that is designer or of value is not  put out of the floor. I have heard various information about where items of value are sent, including high-end consignment stores, sold online, and even sent overseas where designer goods are paid a premium for, but I haven’t found any of that written down anywhere. What I do know from experience is that you usually won’t find anything designer or of really great value anymore at Value Village. You may find the odd great thing that has been overlooked ( I found a silk Chanel scarf in perfect condition at my local store about a year ago that I’m sure is real, but they probably thought was fake), but for the most part it is run-of-the-mill crap that you can buy for the same price or cheaper at the retail stores in the mall on sale. Generally, I find it to be too expensive for low-to-average quality items.  The odd time you do find something great, it is usually priced so high its ridiculous.

Goodwill: Goodwill is a registered charity operating for over 75 years, and through operating the thrift stores, they create jobs and provide employment opportunities for people who face employment barriers, i.e. the young and the old, new Canadians and disabled persons,  allowing people to work and learn new skills through paid employment. You will not pay tax on any goods purchased, and all revenues fund Goodwill’s core mission to create jobs and opportunities for those in your communities facing barriers to employment.(via) I have read some not- so stellar things about Goodwill’s operating practices over the years, but they have changed a bit in southern Ontario since 2005. Goodwill’s pricing operates mostly on a standard pricing structure, i.e, women’s tops, $4, men’s pants $6, pillow cases $1 etc. ( I don’t remember the actual prices, pretty close, but for example’s sake). Things such as housewares, furniture, jewelry, etc. will usually be individually priced, but always very reasonable.  Goodwill is where I find the best furniture & housewares deals, art & decor stuff. And you do see the evidence of their mission in the stores; there are always visibly workers who have a disability or are elderly, and they are always the nicest people.

The Salvation Army: or The Sally Ann, as you may hear it referred to by your grandmother,  is a Christian organization that has existed for over 100 years, and is a 100% charitable organization.  86% of all monies received by The Salvation Army go directly to  charitable work – only 4% goes to fundraising and 9% to administration. the S.A. Thrift Stores support many programs and services provided by The Salvation Army, including food banks, shelters, children’s camps, addiction treatment facilities and many other community programs. In fact, the Salvation Army is Canada’s largest non-governmental provider of social programs(via). In the Salvation army, you will not pay taxes, because it is a charitable organization. They also do not usually discriminate on pricing. If there are designer or high- value items, you will most likely see them in the silent or normal auctions they will often hold. I have found things to be fairly priced based on their conditions, and have often found brand name and designer clothing at great prices, along with household goods and furniture. Recently, I have found some of their furniture to be a bit overpriced, i.e. $50 for a small beat- up wooden table and then another $50 for the matching chairs, and Ikea tables priced higher than what you can buy the for new.  a bit crazy. But overall pretty good, and their workers are all often volunteers. I always donate to the Salvation Army.

Sorry about the social studies lesson, but I do believe it is important to know where you are donating and buying from. I don’t buy from Value Village unless it has something I’ve been looking for that I haven’t found at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I prefer to shop and donate to the Salvation Army because they are the most transparent about their money, but I often find the best stuff at Goodwill. However, I by no means know everything about these organizations, so you should definitely do your own research.

Some tips to remember when thrifting:

Be open minded. Many people can’t wrap their heads around this type of shopping; in fact, some of my friend’s heads are probably rolling reading this, even though they know I get great deals from these places all the time. When I receive a compliment on an outfit or something in my home, I am always very honest about where I bought the item and what I paid for it.  But not everyone has the patience to comb through the racks at second hand shops, some can’t get past the ‘ick’ factor, and some just never think to go into these types of shops, if they haven’t been exposed much to them. But if you do go, remember that a ride through the washing machine or dishwasher can completely change your outlook on an item, a coat of spray paint can do magic, and white vinegar will take the smell out of anything ( true, I promise! except maybe for cat pee- if something smells like cat pee, take an automatic pass!), and so many things can be re-purposed and given a new life. Usually all something needs is a good cleaning, so the ability to have a bit of imagination is key.

Shop often. Merchandise comes in daily and changes over quickly, and especially if you are looking for something specific, stop in every few days if you can. Know that it can be very hit or miss, and that you can’t expect to find exactly what you’re looking for all the time, or even anything decent at all.

If you see something you can’t live without, buy it now. If in doubt, and its cheap, buy it too ( within reason). Often if you pass something up on a Wednesday evening, when you go back Thursday evening, it will be gone. If you pass up on something, and go back in two weeks and its still there, then it was meant to be.

Only buy it if you’re satisfied with its condition. If something doesn’t fit, has a stain, a hole, or other wear, unless you are 100% sure you can get it out/ fix it, and committed to actually doing so, don’t buy it. If you’re anything like me, you’ll never get around to putting in a new zipper, hemming a skirt that’s too long, or replacing all the buttons on a top that one is missing from and you’ll never match. It just wont happen, there’s not enough hours in the day unless you have nothing better to do with your time, and you will end up with a bag of clothes in your closet that is ultimately headed right back to the Salvation Army.

Same goes for furniture. If you have to fix it, paint it, or otherwise change it, unless you love it and it is for sure you’re next DIY project and just what you were after, odds are it will sit in your garage forever, untouched, and ultimately end up back where it came from.

Get to know your brands. Your have to know what you’re buying, what the retail costs are ( approx) and what the quality is like. You will often see things from the dollar store, Wal-mart, Ikea, etc. at prices similar or even more than what you could buy things for new.  Same with clothing; know your brands and what different brands retail for. You don’t want to pay more for an Old Navy t-shirt at Goodwill than you could get it in-store on sale. That gives you the sense to know when you really stumble across a gold mine.  Like a $6 Coach purse. But the flip side of that is you need to know what the defining characteristics of a brand are, to know how to spot fakes. Like with Louis Vuitton, if you ever see any of the LV print upside down, you’ll know its a knock off.

Read every label. Know your materials, even if its a brand you don’t recognize, because there will be a million brand you won’t, especially older stuff. But if it say “100% Silk” odds are it will still be a decent quality piece. But be wary of reading where things are from; ‘100% cashmere, made in Scotland’  is very different than ‘100% cashmere, made in China’. And ‘ Made in China’ is very different than ‘Made in Hong Kong’. If a label is ripped out, it can sometimes mean its a good piece that someone didn’t want identified at a thrift store. But if you know your brands & styles, sometimes you can guess.

Know your socio-demographic areas. If you live in a city where there are multiples of these types of stores in different areas, be cognisant  of the type of area it is; higher income, lower, etc. as this will affect the type and quality of merchandise in the stores. Choose the ones that are in a higher-income area for the best results, although no matter where you go, something sill probably surprise you.

I have furnished each of the places I have lived with a large amount of furniture and accessories from second hand stores and will continue to do so, so this post serves more as a background to some of the DIY and thrift-score posts that will invariably be put on here.  I’ve got one coming for you next time, possible two ;). I think its a great way to save yourself some money, and to collect unique & vintage pieces that you wouldn’t otherwise find.

What’s your take on thrifting?? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and if there are any great finds you gotten second hand!



One thought on “Poppin’ Tags

  1. Pingback: Black Spray Paint is my New BFF | live love reno

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