Today, as yard sale, garage sale and outdoor market season ramps up, I plan, and I turn my vehicle into a well-stocked “thrift-mobile.”
Think of your home as a walk in the forest. Do you walk through an orderly, sun dappled landscape covered with fern and fauna, gazing up at towering trees with playful wildlife scampering past? Or, is your walk a study in navigation … through debris, fallen trees, broken branches and tangled undergrowth?
We all want that serene, organized home that is a pleasure to walk through. However, if you are anything like me, you’re probably suffering from an abundant collection of junk that insists on invading your spaces. I’m talking about all those areas that somehow collect clothes, shoes, bags, keys, receipts, toys, books…you get the picture. Hang on to your tiaras ladies … there is a cure. But, there’s also a price to pay! Yep, swallow that yucky medicine if you want to feel better about yourself, your home and your time. Realize that creating a tidy home is a paltry sum to pay considering the benefits.
Okay, you thought that this “Thrifty Diva” was simply about saving money! Ah ha! I’m also about saving you time . . . and, maybe, just a bit of your sanity! Here are my thrifty time-saving tips that will keep you from being overwhelmed by the clutter in key areas of your home:
When we arrive home, tired and hungry, we tend to drop our parcels at the nearest flat surface then rush off to our closest to change into something comfy, or to the refrigerator to grab a snack…all the while leaving a trail of clutter in our wake.
By taking a few minutes to stow brief cases, purses, baby items, mail and wallets in attractive storage units, strategically placed at our entryways, our access areas will always be “visitor’ ready.
Now, when I suggest storage units, I’m not talking about red, white and blue plastic store-alls! Think… design savvy…get creative with leather storage units, an antique armoire, a fabulous desk or a chic credenza purchased from your neighborhood thrift store.
This storage-friendly wall was done for under $100!
The bedroom should be a place of tranquility…a serene place where eight hours of every day is spent in peaceful repose. Instead, one often finds a sea of topsy-turvy items within its chaotic walls. Here are a few thrifty tips that will help to keep this area in tip-top shape:
Closets: Watch out! Some closets are dangerous to open for fear of getting caught in the dreaded “clothes avalanche.” Although hiring a company to rebuild closet interiors can be expensive, inexpensive organizers can be found at most home improvement centers. Build storage areas all the way to the top to store seldom used items, while creating layered hanging areas for long and short items. Finally, create low level shelving, underneath hanging areas to organize shoes and folded items.
Nightstands: Hit your local garage sales or thrift stores and purchase two nightstands that have one to three drawers. (Diva tip: They don’t have to match …enjoy their unique separateness!) These will serve to organize and conceal items that detract from your bedroom’s décor. Place your prescriptions, remote controls, flashlights, books, eyeglasses and candles within your new-to-you nightstands rather than on top or scattered around the floor. Now, decorate the tops with attractive lights, alarm clocks and the occasional vase filled with flowers.
A clothing stand: Since chairs and chaises become convenient repositories for hastily tossed clothes, buy a clothing stand that will hold your tired threads until the next morning. Refrain from using the reading area as a catchall for your discarded items as they can amass a mountain of clutter very quickly.
Drawers: somehow the old addage out of sight, out of mind applies to these sneaky disaster centers. Thrift stores abound with a myriad of drawer organizers. Grab a bunch of dividers to keep socks, underwear, sweaters, sweats, under garments, pajamas, and scarves all neatly organized.
People naturally gravitate to the kitchen. Not only is it the family gathering place, it’s also a convenient dumping spot for purses, shoes, homework, art projects, backpacks, and toys and games. Reserve this collective area for preparation and meal time. If the front and rear entry ways have convenient storage areas, insist that the family use these areas to unleash their stream of belongings. Otherwise, make it a rule that the family drops their possessions in their respective bedrooms.
Keep a tidy handle on these pesky areas:
- Stair-step stackers
- Rotating rounds
- Laundry center
- Pots and Pans
- Junk drawer
Since bathrooms a typically small, it is essential that these areas be kept free of clutter. Countertops that are strewn with toothpaste, perfumes, shaving gear and hair products prove to be not only unsightly but like any clutter, add to the heap of hidden stresses that affects our quality of life.
Resale shops abound with storage units that will effectively and attractively store linens, cosmetics, soaps, bath toys and medicines.
It is a proven fact that an organized work space contributes to one’s ability to focus on the tasks at hand and increases productivity throughout the workday. A serene and well organized office is not only more pleasant but often stirs creativity as well.
Thrift shops abound with items that can turn your office into a neat, professional business center:
- Phone stations equipped with a pen and notepad
- Whiteboards for reminders and creative thinking
- Computer station
- Desk with a good supply of drawer dividers
- Shelving or storage units
The Laundry Center
Depending on where your laundry center is in your home, put some thought into storing your detergents, laundry and ironing supplies in an attractive unit. If possible build or create a folding and hanging area to simplify the wearisome laundry task.
Create a storage center that separates bottles, cans, plastic and paper so that recyclable items can be readily sorted on trash day.
Garage and basement
The garage, basements and attics are probably the biggest clutter magnets. These are areas that can easily accumulate a mountain of junk because they are out-of-sight, out-of-mind areas. Once an organizational process is put in place it is up to the adults to enforce that everything has a place and it is returned to that spot … every time. Create areas for tools, charity donations, mementos, seasonal décor, gardening equipment, and car care.
For Barb Tobias of Evergreen, thrift is a lifestyle. In her book, “Tossed and Found; Where Frugal is Chic,” she asks, “How would your life look if you tossed out the tired and unwanted … and found a new you?”
Tobias writes of treasures such as a $1,000 vase for $40 and designer outfits for $50. She decorates all shapes and sizes of homes using only thrift items. And she says you can actually thrift shop your way to wealth.
Tobias gives all kinds of ideas on where to find these items — from demolition to estate to garage sales — and how to look for the “good stuff.” She also has a great list of stores and marketing ideas so you can make the most of buying and selling.
Her web site is http://thrifttalkdiva.com/
Three caveats to living the chic life on thrift: Have patience. It takes time to make the best finds. You can’t build your own cheap and chic Rome in one day. Sometimes, a store might be packed with deals, other times, you might not find a thing. Secondly, make sure to purge the old when you bring in the new. Third, keep an open mind. This classic form of recycling has stood the test of time for a reason. Snobs do not find the real treasures.
On a personal note, I absolutely hate the feeling of knowing I left behind a diamond in the rough. As long as an item isn’t too expensive for my budget or too large for me to store, I’ll pick it up to avoid that pang of regret. If I change my mind, I’ll sell or give it away as soon as possible rather than let it collect dust.
And remember, there’s no law that says you have to tell people you bought something second hand. I usually do, just because I get a kick out of getting compliments on my Goodwill shoes. But if someone says they like your new find, you can always just smile and say, “Thank you for noticing!” — wink.
By the way — end-of-season clearance at Payless Shoes right now — I found some really cute styles for the kids (and even some for me!) for $3 to $8! I even bought some school shoes and some of those cool wedges I wanted, but wasn’t ready to pay full price. The sales clerk tells me the deals are going at all Colorado stores.
Happy hunting! Don’t forget our CBS4 Deals of the Day, and please pass along your thrifty tips in the comments section! I’d love to hear from you.
- In her Brooke’s Bargains blog Brooke Wagner writes about finding bargains and saving money for her family. She calls it one of her favorite hobbies. Blog entries cover everything from the latest steals, deals, and freebies to cheap family activities, saving for college, and what to buy right now.
People often question why I continue to thrift shop … after all, I have more than everything I need. I guess it boils down to my love of the hunt. I love to scour the thrift shops and garage sales for items that can be made into something else. I enjoy creating new things out of old or used items. After all, I am a Diva and I love to change my environment … often.
I’m past worrying about whether I’ve made a purchasing mistake because I hold a Diva Sale at least once a year where I sell my “mistakes” and items I’ve simply grown tired of.
Another defining reason I shop thrift is knowing that I am saving so much money. In addition, recycling everything I own keeps my stuff out of our landfills.
On a recent “sale” shopping week I recorded my purchases and calculated the difference between what I paid during the 50% off sale, what I would have paid at normal thrift store prices and what retail would have cost me. I was astonished…
|Item||Retail||Thrift||1/2 price Sale|
|Cousances Cast Iron Vintage Blue Deep Skillet||$109.99||$ 9.99||$ 4.99|
|Cousances Cast Iron Vintage Blue Omelet Fry Pan||$ 9.99||$ 6.99||$ 3.49|
|Pfaltzgraff Gravy Boat||$ 7.99||$ 3.99||$ .99|
|Smoothie Freeze juicer||$ 29.99||$ 12.99||$ 6.49|
|CX-CD241 Portable CD with AM/FM Stereo Tuner||$ 29.99||$ 6.99||$ 3.49|
|Audio phase CD and Cassette player/2 speakers||$ 59.95||$ 24.99||$ 12.49|
|Video tape rewind component||$ 15.99||$ 3.99||$ 1.99|
|Glass Storage Jar||$ 9.99||$ 3.99||$ 1.99|
|Drawer Divider||$ 5.99||$ 1.99||$ 0.99|
|Men’s Red Handkerchief||$ 4.99||$ 0.99||$ 0.49|
|Auto Flashlight||.||$ 4.99||$ .99||$0.49|
|6 – Faux Leather placemats (Bed, Bath & Beyond||$ 35.94||$11.94||$5.94|
|Ceramic Box||$ 9.00||$ 2.99||$1.49|
|Long black scarf||$ 9.99||$ 1.99||$0.99|
|3 – Dinosaur Eggs||$ 9.99||$ 2.97||$1.47|
|2 – Decorative throw pillows||$ 32.00||$ 8.00||$4.00|
|7 – (Tag-on new) pairs underwear||$ 41.93||$ 13.93||$6.93|
|5 – Variety Cooking Utensils||$ 9.99||$ 2.45||$1.20|
|2-Books||$ 49.90||$ 6.00||$3.00|
|7 – CD’s||$ 90.30||$ 14.00||$7.00|
|Crazy Horse Ski Sweater||$ 24.99||$ 4.99||$2.49|
|2 piece silk PJ set by Cerie||$ 15.99||$ 4.99||$2.49|
|Wise World Sweatshirt||$ 32.99||$ 4.99||$2.49|
|Pair (NEW) Diane Gillman Jeans||$ 46.00||$ 8.99||$ .99|
|Pair Liz Claiborne Jeans||$ 28.99||$ 5.99||$ .99|
|Pair ETHYL Vintage Jeans||$ 32.00||$ 5.99||$ .99|
|Pair Faded Glory Black Denim jeans||$ 14.99||$ 5.99||$ .99|
Totals $824.84 $184.09 $79.17
I call this type of smart shopping “investing”! Not only am I investing in my home and wardrobe, I am making wise purchases that can be sold at my “Diva Sales” after I’m finished with them or have found something better. This way my merchandise is almost always recycled and I often recoup my investment. I have started to put the difference between what I pay thrift and what my items would have cost retail into a savings account. To hell with retirement! I am dying to take a trip; Africa is calling me, Victoria Island is my spring fantasy and Australia is beckoning me . . .
I’ve been happily thrift shopping for over 30 years. But, I wore gently used clothes from my toddler days clear through my teen years … from the proverbial hand-me-downs to the secondhand gown my mother bought me when I was voted Homecoming Queen. Needless to say, having to live on the cheap for so long, I abhorred anything thrifty.
Once I was married, and on the rebound from anything recycled, I was determined to buy new and staying far away from a life filled with someone else’s cast-offs.
Today I can honestly say that my beautifully decorated home and fabulous wardrobe have cost me nothing. I buy exclusively from the remarkable thrift venues that pepper the nation; garage sales, flea markets, yard sales, consignment shops, auctions, tag sales, antique malls and estate sales!
Furthermore, I hold a garage sale … every year. Actually, I call them Diva Sales because they are stocked with all the fabulous things I let go of after each season. The yearly purging of my home allows an array of new-to-me items back into my home and a fresh wardrobe every year.
Coming full circle, there are layers of reasons to love and live frugally. And since I buy only thrift, here are 15 of my best and brightest motivations:
- No more sticker shock!
- Best bargain bragging rights
- Guilt-free shopping . . . the price is always right.
- Decorate for FREE by purging yearly … Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Cupboards!
- Incentive to clutter-bust your home – Reduce, Reuse, and Redo
- Create magazine spread homes using trendy thrift
- Donate to feel GREEN and great!
- Capture items not normally affordable
- Find once-in-a-lifetime treasures
- Power dress for pennies
- Find Red-Carpet fashions . . . cheap
- Have fun while saving a ton
- Unique finds that express your individuality
- Build personal wealth by dressing and decorating for free
- Ignite the creativity within; repurposing at its best
I know, I know. It’s just November…I mean the Thanksgiving stuff isn’t out and my holiday meal isn’t even organized. Yet, here I am planning my Christmas decorations. My rationalization is this … it takes me a month or two to orchestrate the festive bedecking of my home in the spirit of frugal yet chic décor.
I enjoy this creative holiday endeavor, and dive into producing grand arrangements with gusto. After all, I am a collector of orphans … the savior of parts … creatively piecing together all the unloved odds and ends that others unconsciously toss away. And how I hem and haw over each selection, lovingly turning them into cheerful masterpieces … for little to no money.
I begin by sorting through all the holiday finds I’ve collected from garage sales, flea markets, consignment shops and thrift stores. The sorting and grouping of each “orphaned” item eats up quite a bit of time as I contemplate the potential of each piece, figuring out how it might be used to fashion a stunning display.
This year I pieced together a lovely holiday centerpiece crafted out of four random castoffs. Wonderful chrome stand that once held a globe … I presumed. Not sure what I would do with the piece, I snatched it up for a mere $2.00 after being drawn to its height and heft. After the purchase I was concerned that I might not find a lantern that would fit effectively within the ridged top. Hey, it was worth a try, and for two bucks … come on!
I’ve learned, from my years as a hopeless thrift-a-holic, that patience eventually pays off. And, sure enough … a couple of months later, I was delighted to find a cracked-glass hurricane. I placed my new acquisition on my holding shelf where it sat until this holiday season.
I finished up creating my Christmas centerpiece by twisting two random greenery vines, twisted them about the base and placed a fresh pine-scented candle (another garage sale find) within the globe. Now I had a centerpiece worthy for the most festive table … for under $10.00!
Greenery and garlands, collected throughout the garage sale season, are lavishly draped over mirrors, mantels and bowls. These festive ropes are regularly decorated with odd flowers, berries, balls and candles.
When the spirit moves me I add a bit of holiday humor, frivolity and personality to each room. Notice the elf hitching a ride on a San Francisco motor bus, while a precious doll holds a bouquet of holiday splendor in an adjoining guest room.
Creative buying throughout the year, when holiday items sell for pennies on a dollar, can make lovely additions to a home during the holidays…cheap yet chic decorations that defy the sharp eye of the most discerning guest.
Barb Tobias, America’s “Thrift Talk” Diva, is an author, a dynamic speaker, and the entertaining mistress of thrift. This radio and TV personality renovates lives, homes and wardrobes by sticking her curious little nose into other people’s “thrifty business.” After a lifetime of turning trash into treasure, Barb shares her secrets for finding deals, repurposing before tossing and reconstructing the tattered in her new release, Tossed & Found. Her “tell all” book is not only a journey of personal transformation, but teaches a newly frugal nation how to purchase, purge and profit from thrift.
I am a hopeless thrift-aholic … saver of parts … collector of broken stuff … savior of discarded orphans.
I love to put together all the unloved pieces that people throw away to make creative masterpieces. And, no season brings more opportunity than the Holiday Season.
I begin my Holiday decorating by purging and sorting. First I pull out all my Christmas finds and begin the process. One pile is a group of “orphaned” items that will be used to fashion holiday displays.
This year I made a splendid centerpiece from odds and ends collected throughout the year from various thrift venues…garage sales, flea markets and estate sales. Earlier in the year I found a solidly built chrome stand that once held a globe … I presumed. I wasn’t sure what I would do with the piece, however I loved the height and heft of it and snatched it up for a mere $2.00. I was a little concerned that I might not find a lantern that would fit effectively within the ridged top, but felt it was worth a try.
I’ve learned, from being a hopeless thrift-a-holic for over thirty years, that patience eventually pays off. And, sure enough … four or five months later, I was delighted to find a cracked glass hurricane. I placed my new acquisition on my miscellaneous shelf where it sat until this holiday season.
Next I got busy creating my Christmas centerpiece. I took two random greenery vines, twisted them about the base and placed a fresh pine-scented candle within the globe. Now I had a centerpiece worthy for the most festive table … for under $10.00!
Greenery and garlands, collected throughout the garage sale season, are draped over mirrors, mantels and bowls. These festive ropes are often decorated with odd flowers, berries, balls and candles.
And finally, I enjoy decorating with some holiday humor … adding a little spice and personality to my rooms. Often, décor pieces that adorn my home year ‘round, are decorated with a bit of holiday whimsy.
With the holidays fast approaching unexpected drop-ins are sure to catch you unawares if your home isn’t tidy and presentable. Certain areas of our homes just seem to attract clutter. In order to keep from being overwhelmed by these overflow areas, follow these tips to keep target areas tidy … and your sanity intact!
When we arrive home we tend to drop our parcels and head for the bedroom to change into something comfy, or to the refrigerator to grab a snack. Taking a few minutes to stow brief cases, purses, mail and wallets in attractive storage units, strategically placed at both the front and rear entries, will keep these areas “visitor’ ready.
Yikes! Some closets are dangerous due to the dreaded “clothes avalanche.” Consider rebuilding the closet interiors with the many organizers found at home remodeling centers. Layered hanging areas and shelving help to minimize the need to shove clothing items into poorly designed spaces.
Select nightstands that have one to three drawers to conceal items that will certainly detract from your bedroom décor. Store prescriptions, remote controls, flashlights, books, eyeglasses and candles within nightstands rather than on top or on the floor. The tops should be decorated with attractive lights, alarm clocks and the occasional vase with flowers.
Bedroom chairs or chaises
These wonderful reading centers are also convenient repositories for all those hastily tossed clothes. Refrain from the urge to toss clothes simply for convenience sake. You will be surprised how quickly a mount aim of clothes can accumulate.
Drawers are typically hidden disaster centers. The old adage out of sight, out of mind aptly applies to these concealed caverns. There are a myriad of drawer organizers and dividers that help to keep socks and underwear organized. To stay ahead of the game, divide drawers into categories; sweaters, sweats, under garments, pajamas, and scarves.
Organize all the areas of your office so that your work environment is pleasant and you can be creative and productive. Categorize the office by:
- Phone Station
- Storage stations
The kitchen is where the family gathers. It is also a dumping spot for homework, art projects, backpacks, purses, shoes, toys and games. Designate areas where the family must place their belongings like a bedroom, craft room or den. Keep the kitchen for cooking and enjoying family meal time. In addition organize the kitchen into these areas:
- Stair-step stackers
- Rotating rounds
- Laundry center
- Pots and Pans
This area will store a myriad of family items. Buy or build storage units that will effectively store linens, cosmetics, soaps, bath toys and medicines.
The Laundry center should be arranged so as to have room for detergents, supplies, a folding area, hanging and storing area, ironing board and the laundry tub.
We that recycle need to be commended on their part in helping to keep our planet environmentally clean. However, erecting a storage center that separates bottles, cans, plastic and paper is a necessary step in keeping this strategic area organized. In addition, when trash day comes, it takes no time at all to place the sorted items in their proper containers.
I began thrifting because it was fun and, quite frankly, I loved to shop. Okay, I still do. But, initially there was a deeper motivation for my need to haunt the secondhand shops that peppered my town … I was broke. I loved the fact that I could buy fabulous things for pennies on a dollar. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on the thrill of furnishing my homes or fashioning chic wardrobes found in thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, consignment shops and auctions. I became a veteran power shopper, quickly falling in like with each venue I tested and every tarnished treasure I uncovered.
It wasn’t until much later that I began to realize I was actually recycling, inadvertently turning into a green queen rather than adding to the burgeoning problem of waste in America.
It began to occur to me that how we dispose of our used goods was critical to the overall health of our planet. Although we are encouraged to recycle our wastes, the truth of the matter is that this country still leads the world in the amount of trash that it produces.
I was astounded to learn that Americans generate over 200 million tons of garbage every year. That didn’t resonate until the EPA broke recycling figures down to the fact that each person produces about 4.5 pounds of solid waste per day! Yikes, that got my attention.
I thought that our country was pulling its weight in the recycling movement, but a full 67% of our junk is still tossed into landfills, while only 17% is recycled and 16% is burned as an energy source.
What really blew my mind was how much of our resources consume every year. The average person, over a lifetime, will use up;
- 411 trees
- 900 wire hangers
- 43,000 cans of soda
- 3,895 paper cups
- 2,025 rolls of paper towels
- 15,334 plastic water bottles
- 18,306 shopping bags
- 12 shopping carts full of wrappers from candy bars!
Recycling is certainly the answer for those that are intent on the greening of America, but only 17% of our nation has yet to establish an effective way to dispose of their used goods. According to the Wise Geek, 35% of the total material filling up landfills is packaging;
- new product wrapping
- fast-food containers
- office paper
- disposable diapers
- Styrofoam inserts
- and plastic bags
A partial answer to the country’s recycling woes might be eased if more people proactively chose to purchase used goods from the wide variety of thrift venues that pepper our nation. Shopping for goods at these thrift outlets could all but alleviate the 67.9 pounds of used clothing each person tosses out every year. That individual number quickly adds up to a whopping 20 billion pounds of used clothing and textiles that make their way into our landfills yearly.
In the end it is up to us. Companies have little incentive to use recycled materials because it is expensive … a cost that is passed on to the consumer. It is simply cheaper for them to use new materials to make new products. Therefore, buying used clothing and household furnishings eliminates the time, energy, labor, and money that go into making new products.
In summation, buy less, buy used, reduce the amount of garbage we produce, chose items with less packaging, reuse what you have and donate items that are no longer needed.
Turning Garbage into Gold – http://www.solidwastemag.com/library/garbage.htm
Reassessing the History of U.S. Hazardous Waste Disposal Policy – http://www.fplc.edu/risk/Vol8/summer/Brown+.htm
Environmental Protection Agency – http://www.epa.gov
Start you own High Profit Thrift Store -http://startthriftstore.com/index.html
Wise Geek -http://www.wisegeek.com/s/recycle
Barb Tobias, America’s “Thrift Talk” Diva, is an admitted thrift-aholic. This veteran radio and TV personality has crisscrossed the nation in her search for thrift. She is a master at teaching people how to find deals, repurpose before they toss, and reconstruct the broken.
A professional speaker, author of Tossed & Found and entertainer, Barb’s passion has become her profession; sharing her cost-conscious secrets with the nation.
Visit her at www.ThriftTalkDiva.com.