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!



Let there be light… and a trapdoor cover… and pocket doors!

Things are  really humming along at the house- we’re pretty much at the point where we ( and by “we” I mean the contractors) get to start hanging drywall and closing up all the ugly guts of the house. And then we get to make it pretty! Can’t wait for that.

So by now, the electrical is as complete as it can be before the drywall is up and the finishing touches can be done. All the potlights are wired in, as well as all the outlets:

IMG_0337 IMG_0338 IMG_0341The stairs to the basement have also been properly taken care of, and a trap door made for them. If you remember, originally, this is what they looked like:

DSC02562Got demo’d down to this:

DSC02647And now look like this! No more crazy side ramps or uneven space:

IMG_0199And the ( almost) finished product! ( sorry about the blur!)

IMG_0220Our plan is to finish the trapdoor in the same material as the floor, so it blends in seamlessly, and add an invisible handle or pull of some sort. Then the room actually becomes usable, and there’s not a large, dangerous hole in the middle of the room.  YAY for increased usable space!

And the pocket doors for the two downstairs bedrooms/ family room and den are  almost ready to go as well:


IMG_0342We decided on pocket doors,because basically there’s very little room in the hallway, and that way we wont have doors flying allover the place. We’ll also be able to leave the doors open to let light from all the front windows in and make the space seem like one large space rather than smaller rooms. But we also are able to call them bedrooms for resale value.

Now we’re just waiting on the HVAC guy to come and run some new duct-work  as well as giving our existing furnace and ducts a good cleaning.  We decided to keep the existing furnace, because hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But since there were no heating ducts running up to the second floor ( say wha?? SECOND house we had no head on the upper level! bizarre!) we decided to run some ducts up there as well as beefing up the vents throughout the whole house.  The HVAC is supposed to be going in tomorrow, and it better, because the guy who is doing it is on very thin ice with us right now. He was more than an hour late for the first walk-through to give us a quote, so Jon cancelled it and we were planning to write him off. That is, until he called Jon and basically begged him to let him do the job and said he’d give us a great deal. Fine. So he went and did the walk-through, but then it took him almost a week to get us the quote, despite the fact that Jon told him we needed it done ASAP. We were once again ready to find someone else, because by now, nothing has been done on the house for many more days then we would have liked, and we’re just losing time. But it was still easier to let him do it that start the dance over again with someone else, so tomorrow it is, better be, come hell or high water!

The Return of Paul Bunyan

Paul Bunyan2

We had thought we would be able to save the ceramic tile floor in the kitchen, and save some money while we were at it. It was a neutral ceramic tile, in good shape, and was installed correctly.  When our contractor Rob heard that we wanted to save it, he just laughed at us. Apparently there was so much of a slope to the floor in the kitchen that if we tried to build new cabinets, etc on top of it, it would all end up crooked. So now we had to take up the ceramic floor. We enlisted out buddy Dave for the job- you may remember him from demo day. I feel like Dave needs a good nickname- he reminds me of Paul Bunyan, he even wears the same outfit, has the same beard and carries an ax. But he’s a totally sweet and helpful guy, although I don’t think Paul Bunyan has anywhere near the number of tats Dave has.

This is Dave

This is Dave

Anyway, we borrowed a jackhammer from another contractor friend, and Dave ripped up the ceramic floor for us in a day:


That’s Dave working…

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Good times. Thanks for doing all the dirty work Dave! hope you had fun with the jackhammer! The saddest part about the whole thing was that Jon brought Dave a 6-pack in thanks ( as well as paying him), but when Dave went to take the beer into his house, the bottom fell out of the carrier and he lost 5 out of 6 beers. Sad Day 😦 !

Demo Day 2

After walking through the newly-demo’ed house with our contractor, he told us that the lath and plaster ceilings would have to go, along with some of the walls that had been quite damaged by our demo. He said the contractors could do them, but it would be a bit pricey because it was really dirty, messy work. Or we could just do them ourselves. So that’s what we decided to do. We asked one of my brothers, Brad, if he was interested in doing some demo work ( he’s a golf pro, and not working for a the last little while since the gold season ended until he goes down to Florida in Jan. to golf for  a few months- Tough life, eh?!) and if he had any friends who would also be interested. We told them it would be dirty work ,but offered a decent hourly wage. Brad agreed and said he had a buddy Dan who would come with him.  Jon was going to help as well, but I decided to opt out of this one, because it did get really messy really fast:

Brad and Dan going at the kitchen walls:


Jon starting on the ceilings:


more ceilings coming down in the living room:


This is about when I left, because there was so much plaster dust in the air my pictures started coming out like this:



and this was the aftermath:

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Looks like fun work, eh? Pulling down strapping with long nails sticking out, plaster snow falling everywhere… by the time they finished the first day they all kinds looked like snowmen they were so covered! But Brad and Dan were great sports about it, they didn’t get it finished all in one day, so they went back the next to finish up and clean up. And they were awesome and really cleaned up super well, sweeping everything up so you couldn’t even tell how messy it had been! A huge thanks to Brad and Dan, as well as Jon for getting that messy work done with no complaints!

Demo Day!

Demo day was a ton of fun- a great way to get all your frustrations out! We had our buddy Dave come help us out for the day- Dave actually builds Eco-sustainable housing for a living and is a carpenter by trade, so we had someone who knew something about all of this, and Anita, who “just wanted to break sh*t”.

So the boys started in the back room; the ceiling coming down:


And the hideous purple paneling coming off ( why would you ever choose that colour?!?!)


And this is what it looked like when they were done:



I started on the stairs, pulling up all that gross carpeting. This is what they looked like before:


And after I was done with them :


Anita was a fantastic help carrying out all the debris into the carport, some of the stuff we hauled out:


Then Anita and I got to pulling down all the hideous ceiling tiles:


(there’s Anita’s backside, picking them all up after destroying the ceiling!)



Pulling down all the old ceiling tiles was EXTREMELY satisfying; I really hate nothing more that ceiling tiles. However, underneath more surprises were lying in wait; all the old lath and plaster ceilings that were really saggy and uneven. We figured we would get our contractors assessment on them though, before beginning the very messy job of pulling them out.

We then moved on the the kitchen demolition, which was super fun. This is when I started taking videos, simply because it was all so great! But  the still photos suffered for it, and I am unfortunately unable to upload them onto this blog at the moment 😦 . But i will try to get them up here, because they are hilarious and amazing!

Myself, having at ‘er at the backsplash ( sorry about the blur; obviously I didn’t take the picture!):


Dave ripping out the counter-top and sink:DSC02601



We found some beautiful old tile (uck!) hidden away behind the fridge space:


the bathroom with the fixtures pulled out:


but that lovely pebbled mirror still up:


Taking out the bathroom wall, under which we found the original wood planks that would have been used to build the house:


…and the boys ripping out the shower insert. This was quite the task, as it was huge and really bolted together and in there to stay…


but they managed to do it… ( and that’s our buddy Chris, who managed to show up in time for Pabsts and to haul out the shower)


And then, to our surprise  we found the shower insert had been covering a window! Who does that? and not only that, but their choice of  materials to cover up the window was HILARIOUS! We thought it was just white plasticky-cardboard stuff…


but when we took them down….

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TOO FUNNY! Jon got a huge kick out of them, and wanted to keep them and frame them to hang up somewhere… but I veto’ed that idea. Although he did save them from the garbage and I think they’re still floating around somewhere. I’ll have to make sure they are properly disposed of!

So after we got all that ripped out and carried off, this is what was left; formerly the bathroom:

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That vertical black pipe is where the old wall used to be between the bathroom and the kitchen that we took down… got some really funny video of myself egging  Jon on as he was trying to kick it down, and telling him he needed to be more manly about it all…LOL


and what used to be the Kitchen….



and Jon and Dave in the former kitchen, surveying their handiwork:


and what used to be the living room, although it didn’t get hurt as badly as some of the other rooms:


and all the debris that we pulled out of the house, and piled in the carport:

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Quite a lot of crap, eh? Not bad for a day’s work…. having Dave and Anita there was a huge help, so a huge thanks to them, as otherwise, it would have taken Jon and I a ton more time to accomplish what we did that day and we probably would have killed each other in the process over something… so YAY for saving time and our marriage!

Demo day 1 was a fantastic day, we accomplished way more than we anticipated, and didn’t have nearly the crazy surprises that we were expecting with a 130 year old house. We finished off the day with a shower and break time, and then re-convened at a local pub for some beers & dinner to celebrate and thank our friends. All in all, not a bad day!