Monthly Archives: July 2009

Thad’s garage sale


Our friend Thad’s grandma died recently. This weekend he’s holding a garage/estate sale to sell most of her possessions, so Melissa and I went over to help set up today. (Here she’s wearing a handmade smock we found in a box of linens which just so happens to match her kitchen exactly.) This is the third garage sale I’ve participated in this summer, the first time I’ve helped with a sale since I was a middle-schooler and a family I babysat for had yearly sales. It turns out I love hanging out at garage sales all day. For one thing, it’s entirely appropriate to drink beer in the morning when you’re having a garage sale. For another, it’s an easy way to get a tan. But my very favorite part? Best people watching ever. Garage-sale shoppers are usually hard-core and occasionally nuts.

Next week we’re going to pool our collective garage-sale wisdom and offer a few tips for both buyers and sellers. For now we’re helping out and taking notes. The sale will be held at 932 S Holyoke near Lincoln & Hillside tomorrow and Saturday beginning at 8 a.m. I snapped a few photos of the goods while we were arranging everything.

Unfortunately, I didn’t take photos before we’d stacked the furniture underneath a canopy. The green rattan-frame armchair and ottoman are amazing. There’s a matching glass-topped coffee table, too. I love the pattern. Thad has all three pieces priced at $150. The chaise recliner underneath it is a little beat up but still functional ($25).

Some of the more valuable and collectible dishes and housewares. My favorite: a four-piece metal canister set with matching salt and pepper shakers ($12). There’s also a small selection of Fire King, Pyrex, Fiestaware, and a few primitive odds and ends.

I’m a little mad for the Marblehead game ($35). I wanted to be sure to take a photo of the picture, since Kali likes representations of mothers and daughters.

I already snagged my two favorite pieces of costume jewelry, but there’s lots more plus many fun small things like the souvenir-of-Kansas magnifying glass, a couple of religious medals, and a membership coin to a superhero club of some sort. (See more photos of sparkly things on Flickr.)

Thad has lots of tools for sale which is great, because when people holler “Do you have any tools for sale?” from their trucks, we can yell “YES!” For some reason, this seems to be the number one question of garage-sale shoppers. Some seasoned sellers also theorize that guy stuff like tools means couples will spend more time at your sale. And one thing retail and thrifting have in common is that the more time spent browsing, the likelier the customer is to spend money.

I’m off to buy some High Life or PBR (the top garage-sale beers, in case you were wondering). Do stop by and say hi this weekend if you can. Otherwise, until next time–happy thrifting!


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Filed under Secondhand Selling

Thrift Mystery: Yellow compartamentalized plates

One of the things I like about thrift shopping is that I’m always learning something. I especially enjoy sussing out the purpose of an unfamiliar objects: they’re little portals to a way of life that doesn’t exist anymore.

I’ve looked at these mysterious plates at the the chi chi DAV (at Central & Edgemoor) for months now. Though I’d never rank yellow among my favorite colors, I’m strangely attracted to yellow-colored housewares. I happen to have some yellow and white basketweave-patterned footed tumblers that would fit perfectly in the circles on these plates, so I’m always perversely tempted to buy them even though I don’t really know what I’d do with them or what their intended purpose is in the first place. I took this picture on the third during the citywide DAV 50% off sale and didn’t buy them still–they were $1 apiece and I don’t need plates and then there’s the aforementioned mystery.

I’ve spent a long time googling grill plates, but didn’t find any that resemble these. They couldn’t be sushi plates or fondue plates or even appetizer plates, because how to explain the moat/spout part? I am passionate about food-specific dishes and tools (corn on the cob ephemera, candle holders for baked goods, deviled egg trays, fondue pots, egg cups, salad sets, cake stands … the more occasional-use they are, the more I desire them). So please clue me in, or at least take your best guess. What are these plates for?


Filed under Emily, Thrift Mysteries

Friend Fridays: Steph’s dress

Our second Friend Fridays installment comes from Wisconsin native and current Wichita thrifter Stephanie Barnard. When Steph isn’t writing in her capacities as a journalist and communications professional, you can find her blogging at Verbette.
Oddly enough, I don’t think I ever set foot in a thrift shop (other than for Halloween costumes) until I was 15 or so. That’s when I got my first job and was expected to pay for more of my own discretionary purchases. Of course, minimum wage only gets you so far, and Goodwill was within walking distance of school and work; it quickly became my new afterschool hangout. The rest is history, as thrift stores became my first choice for clothes shopping during the rest of my high school, college and now post-college years.
A quick scan of my closet shows that about 50 percent of my clothes, if not more, are from thrift stores. I support thrifting clothes for the same reasons as for thrifting anything else – it’s economical, eco-friendly and unique. But buying used clothes can be a tricky business. 
Over the years, I’ve learned that I should only buy a piece of clothing if (a) it fits well and (b) I will wear it often, no matter how cheap (or not so cheap) it is. For that reason, I rarely buy T-shirts or tank tops used; the stretchy cotton is just too conformed to someone else’s body, and it’s likely to wear out quickly because it probably wasn’t constructed well in the first place. (Shoes are tricky too.) Jeans can be hit or miss – I usually buy new or acquire from friends for “nice jeans,” and thrift for “weekend jeans.” I have much better luck with dresses, skirts and dress pants. If you like polyester blends, you’ll love shopping at thrift stores, that’s for sure.
There’s also the option of thrifting clothes and then having them tailored. For example, I’ve bought a long skirt for $4 and then had it hemmed to knee length for $12.50. That might seem a little silly, but overall, you’re still spending about as much – or less – as you would buying it new, plus you get to customize it to your exact specifications. Of course, if you can sew, you can do this yourself for free. (Note to self: acquire sewing machine.)
One of the great things about the Goodwill stores in Wisconsin is that they often get Target’s old merchandise. This dress was new with tags, and I got it for about $5. I especially love the print.

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Filed under Friend Fridays

My $20 engagement ring

Brian, my boyfriend of five-odd (and I do mean odd) years proposed to me on Tuesday, and I said yes. We’re still in Arizona visiting his folks and had wandered over to nearby Bisbee, a boom-and-bust mountain town now seemingly populated solely by artists and antique dealers.

We had been talking about marriage for a few months, so I’d thought about the kind of wedding I wanted. Most all all I want a fun, sane wedding that reflects who we are, as typified by Meg at A Practical Wedding(one of my very favorite blogs).

I knew I didn’t want a traditional engagement ring for several reasons:

  1. I lose jewelry. My body seems to repel it. Though I will try my darnedest to keep ahold of the engagement ring, it’s just not realistic to pretend that losing it isn’t a possibility.
  2. I’m not an enormous fan of gemstones and the practices used to extract them.
  3. I like reusing old things (in case you hadn’t noticed). We’d already talked about using recycled gold for our weddings bands from a service like greenKarat.

As I’ve said before, we’re on a tight budget this trip, so we decided on Tuesday that if we found a ring we liked for less than $10, we’d buy it. A couple of the different booth-rent antique stores had cases full of antique jewelry and other miniatures, both of which the dealer is clearly obsessed with. We like miniatures, too, so we spend a lot of time studying the merchandise and reading the meticulous tags, some of which were imbued with the dealer’s personality (like the tag on a bakelite purse that implored the potential buyer to carry a “statement” instead of a mass-produced piece of junk).

We didn’t find a $10 ring, but , but I did see a $20 ring I kept thinking about.

Emily and Brian 111

 Yesterday we went back to Bisbee to take a closer look. So okay, it’s not exactly thrifted, as we bought it at an antique shop. But it was reasonable and handmade and Victorian, and the couple pictured is either holding hands or arm wrestling (which strikes me as an apt metaphor for marriage) . I’m wearing it on my pinky in the photo because I do need to have it sized up to fit my ring finger.

We could have charged thousands of dollars to a credit card and purchased something extraordinary, too, but I’m not sure I would be happier with any other ring.

Now to plan a partially thrifted wedding…


Filed under Emily

Estate Sales

Estate sales are an inevitable part of the hunt. I really love old things. Old people have old things. Old people are also closer to the average age of life expectancy. I have a hard time with estate sales. I only go to estate sales if one of the sisters is going, or if I happen to drive by a sign. I don’t like the feeling, in general. And it is made even worse by those estate sale crazies that will plow you over if you are in the way. It all feels like… scavenging. 

When thrifting, I see stuff. At estate sales, I see somebody’s life. I am not ashamed to admit (but maybe a little embarrassed) that I have cried at more than one estate sale. 

Like, when I stopped at one down the street from my grandma’s house and found this:


Notebooks packed full of recipes, some clipped and some written, from as far back as the 1950’s. A lifetime of recipes saved and no grand daughter to cherish them. I paid $3. Sometimes I morph from sad mode to rescue mode. I start grabbing all the sentimental stuff that I would want from my grammy.


Like letters. I am a sucker for letters and cards. How could I leave a letter that a woman had saved since 1938? I cried when I read her letters too.

I am working on changing my attitude about estate sales because Emily and Melissa are practically estate sale professionals and they make the experience delightful. It’s just going to take some practice and some rescuing. With that, I will leave you with this video. It is HILARIOUS and if you have made it through this post you deserve a good laugh.


Filed under Kali

Favorite Finds: Thrifted Russel Wright (!)

I I don’t believe I have ever found a piece of Russel Wright’s American Modern dishes in a thrift store. Ever. I’ve seen Franciscan out the wazoo, tons of California pottery, carnival glass, Morris chairs … you name it. But never Russel Wright.

Well. That all changed today. We’re in southern Arizona visiting Brian’s parents, so we set out this morning to see what yard sales are like in this area (more on this later). Afterwards, we hit a couple of thrift stores in Sierra Vista. I was surprised to discover that the prices are considerably higher here than at Wichita thrift stores. I only bought a few doll arms (50 cents) at St. Vincent de Paul and after scanning the shelves at the Salvation Army I didn’t think I’d fare much better there.

The first thing I looked at were a couple of state souvenier glasses, which I’ve also never seen out thrifting. (I have a fairly sizable collection, but I’ve purchased all of mine at auctions or well-priced antique malls.) These weren’t in great condition and were priced at $5 and $6, so I passed.

Then the crowd parted, a ray of light streamed down from the acoustic tile ceiling, and I saw them.

Three small salad bowls in chartreuse (my favorite color in the series), coral (my least favorite) and seafoam. Six plates. A couple of other coral serving pieces.

I’m on an extremely tight budget, so I knew there was no way I’d be able to afford them, especially given the other prices I’d seen ($3 apiece for Canada Dry Ginger Ale glasses, to cite one example).

The six plates were marked as a set for $8.99. The bowls were $2.50 each. At $13.49, this would be my biggest splurge of the trip, but undoubtably the best deal I’d come across so far.*

So of course I bought them.

I left all the coral serving pieces behind. Hopefully they’ll make someone else’s day.

I have lots more to report on, including a few thrifting stops in New Mexico on the way here. Some of the pictures are on Flickr already.

Until next time, happy thrifting!

*I sold American Modern at my shop. The plates went for $10/each and the small serving bowls would have been $30 apiece.


Filed under Emily, Favorite Finds

Where is Kit?

I would say that Melissa is the most thorough “peruser” when the three of us thrift and garage sale together. Emily is a close second. (No wonder I am always asking them how they find so much great stuff.) I usually have two kiddos in tow, so I am a scanner. Now if I see some sort of interesting container, I will peek inside. I will crouch down to see those items on the bottom shelf. But in general, I have a system for the thrift stores I frequent. Due to many less then fruitful garage sale ventures (and the lack of funds), I haven’t even stopped to scan. Yesterday Melissa called me very excited about all her finds. She demanded that I come over to photograph her sweet finds, and I was happy to come see what all the excitement was about. Who says one thrifted sister can’t live vicariously through the other?

Melissa has just moved to her new vintage place. We have been lovingly referring to it as “the compound” because it just seems to go on and on. Her new home is perfect for her! It has tall ceilings, beautiful built ins, french doors, plenty of room for her boys and vibrant colors splashed on the walls. Melissa’s kind of colors. The best part? All of her “weird stuff” looks right at home. Actually, the best part is seeing Melissa so excited about her new place. A new home means new things to add to the thrifting list! I’d say she is off to a good start…


Where’s Kit?


I have vintage stapler and teeny tiny yellow alarm clock envy. I know Emily is going to have game/fake food envy.


Aren’t the owl pictures FABULOUS? Word has it, Melissa stole bargained for them.

We miss Emily something terrible, but we can’t wait to see what she brings back from her trip!!! We can’t wait to see you Emily!

Because I am all about saving money, I thought I would pass along a great bargain complements of…

51AcK4EZXAL._SS400_Right now at you can get a year subscription of REAL SIMPLE magazine for $5!!! I added a $10 subscription to Country Living magazine. At checkout, amazon took an additonal $5 off. Two great magazines, for one year, for $10!!! There are many other discounted subscriptions. I hope the shelter magazines we have left survive this economy. I sure do miss Country home and Domino…

Happy Thrifting!




Filed under Kali