If you have two loaves of bread sell one and buy flowers. For although the bread will nourish your body, the flowers will nourish your soul.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Art of Thrifting or Fleas 101

Often, when discussing flea marketing with someone who isn't into it, I'll get a comment like..."It just looks like a bunch of junk to me"... or something to that effect. And the truth of the matter is...it usually is mostly junk. And it really isn't for everyone. Some don't have the time and some just aren't interested. But for those of us who love it, it's a combination of antiquing, bargain hunting, collecting, and the thrill of the hunt. A few of my friends over the years have asked for advice on how to be a successful thrifter. So I've put together a few pointers. 

1. Find your shops.
    Most towns have Goodwill, Rescue Mission or Salvation Army thrift stores
    where they sell donated items. Sometimes you can also find church 
    sponsored second hand shops and privately owned consignment stores.
    You'll find ones you like more than others.

2. Visit frequently.
    It's all in the timing. Sometimes you find a lot, sometimes you leave empty 

3. If you find something you really want, you'd better get it...it might not be 
    there if you go back later.
4. Arm yourself with a few simple useful shopping tools. 
    Make sure you have your reading glasses with you if you use them, or have 
    a small magnifying glass for reading the backs of dishes, silverware, labels, 
    etc.  A measuring tape of some kind is also handy. A magnet is useful if 
    you're shopping for brass (it isn't magnetic...painted metal is). Keep a 
    notepad if you're looking for something specific (measurements, 
    manufacturers, color swatches...) A wonderful price on a hall table doesn't 
    do you any good if it doesn't fit in the space.

5. Don't assume because you found it in a thrift store that it's thrifty.
    This is a biggie. Items are priced by fallible human beings. They don't
    always make good judgment calls. 
    Use common sense. I've seen used items priced higher at a flea market
    than could be purchased new elsewhere.

6. Always look in boxes, small and large.
    If you watch your fellow shoppers, you'll notice that the majority walk past  
    without looking in boxes and underneath things. I've found a lot of goodies 
    that way.

Both the lamp and the chair were found in a corner at Goodwill, still in their original packing in boxes from Pottery Barn. They were $4 and $3. I later found the lamp in a PB catalogue for $79.

7. Take advantage of bargain days.
    Some thrift stores have special bargain days. One of the stores I shop 
    at has "frugal fridays". You can purchase one item at 50% off. Another day
    each week they offer the same discount on books, another day, clothing.
    I found a basket of crystal votives. You couldn't tell what they were at first.
    Each was wrapped individually in a paper towel. There were 8 for $5. Not a 
    bad price. But it was Friday...I paid $2.50...much better!


8. Think outside the box...Imagine the possibilities.
    This is probably one of the more difficult challenges. Just remember that 
    almost anything can be painted. Look for shape and form. A nicely shaped 
    yucky colored basket could be spray painted another color to match your   
    child's room. The same thing goes for a classic wooden candle holder or
    picture frame. A terrible looking floral arrangement might be in a great 
    looking container. If the price is right, it might be worth it just to buy it for 
    the container and pitch the contents. 
    I almost passed up these napkin rings at 75 cents for 9 because of the
    But with a light sanding and a coat of rubbed bronze spray paint they're 
    now more current and neutral. 

I found this pottery and wicker basket in a color I didn't want for $4 and knew I could spray paint it white. I think it will be really pretty full of ivy.

9. A little cleaning goes a long way.
    Often glassware in a thrift shop has not been cleaned, is cloudy, and not 
    very appealing. The same item taken home and washed til it sparkles will 
    be beautiful.

10. Thrifting is a wonderful economical way to build a collection of something.
     When you are on a budget, you don't always have the money to go out 
     and purchase an entire set of crystal, china, candleholders, silverware, 
     etc....   But you can afford a couple dollars at a time.  

For example...a long time ago I bought this heavy glass star votive candle holder from Avon. It's just so pretty lit, and I've always loved it. Once, when at my Aunt Lois's house, I noticed that she had several clustered together on her table and I loved the look. I started finding them at flea markets and yard sales. I've never paid more than $2 for one, and most were 50 cents to a dollar. I now have 15. That seems like a lot but they look awesome lined up on a mantle, down the center of a long table runner, or lining the patio wall at night.

In closing.... 
When it comes to flea market, yard sale, and thrift store shopping, it's very easy to become a pack rat. I try to follow two rules of thumb. First, I've become pretty choosy. The item has to be either something I can really use, or something I really love. And secondly, I then try to get rid of something I don't really use or really love.

A final thought....
If you get home and a few days later think "why in the world did I buy this?" remember, this isn't brain surgery.  You probably didn't pay much for it....donate it back!   lol! 

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