Photo Credit: Shanna Camilleri via Unsplash
You know what they say—one person’s tax-deductible donation is another’s treasure.
Shopping isn’t my favorite activity, but for some reason, I really like thrift shopping. I think at least part of the reason is because I’ve found a few treasures over the years. I’ve found dishes, clothes, knick-knacks, and more, and several of these items have become some of my favorite things I own.
As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s simple things like this that make me think about what I’m grateful for; sure, I can afford to buy new clothes and stuff, and occasionally splurge on something more expensive. But perhaps that’s another reason I enjoy thrift shopping—most of the time I end up finding something I like, or even love, just as much as or more than something I bought new.
It’s that time-old tale: Money isn’t always what gives something value. It isn’t what makes things important, not at the core of it. So while I’m grateful I have enough to live comfortably, I’m also grateful I have just what I need, and not more than I need.
So what’s treasure to me? Here are 10 of my favorite thrift store finds.
I mean, of course! I do still buy new books sometimes (for instance, if I’m pre-ordering a signed copy from one of my favorite authors, or I can’t wait to read something that just came out), but most of the books I own came second-hand. Thrift stores, library book sales, used bookshops, flea markets—they’ve all got good books for which you don’t have to pay full price. For me it’s also fun if I find a book that someone’s written in, whether it be annotations or a message on the title page.
2. An old record.
I once randomly stumbled upon an old record of hits from the 30s and 40s, for sale for only 50 cents. I examined it and found it was a little scratched up, but decided it was worth the buy. I went home, dusted it off a little, and played it on my Victrola. Turned out it worked perfectly fine except for the very last song on the B side. I enjoy most things vintage, and I like sometimes feeling a little out of my time, so I play it whenever I’m feeling a little dreamy.
3. Tan wool blazer.
I just found this delightful jacket only a few weeks ago, but as it’s almost exactly the kind of jacket I’ve been looking for, I can’t help but love it. Ever since I visited Scotland last year and refrained from buying an (uber expensive) Scottish tweed blazer, I’ve been looking for one in that style. I was seriously considering saving up to splurge on the real thing, but I’ve been keeping an eye out in thrift stores, and it finally paid off. After several months of looking through the jackets in various Goodwill’s, occasionally finding tweed ones not at all the style I wanted, there it was. Not the color I’d hoped for (I’m picky and was hoping for a nice olive green, maybe a herringbone pattern), but still a wool material in a nice golden tan color, not only in my size, but the exact style I was looking for, and it even had elbow patches. It also seems like it was hardly worn, since the pockets were still sewn shut. It’s a New York Shetland wool jacket, and I bought it for $10—definitely beats paying upwards of £150 (in U.S. dollars, that’d be over $200.)
4. Harris tweed boots.
I’m following the blazer with these boots because they were such an unexpected and delightful thing, and actually are the real thing. I found them randomly wandering the shoe section of a Goodwill; they stood out to me a little, and I picked them up out of curiosity, thinking they looked cool. When trying to find the size, I noticed on the inside flap the clear patch that marked them as Harris tweed, a name I recognized as one of Scotland’s major tweed companies. Immediate excitement! The boots were about a size too big, but that actually made them perfect, as I live in the Midwest, where wearing thick socks with boots is not just stylish, but also necessary. I bought them for $15, which may sound expensive for Goodwill shoes, these being legit Scottish tweed, I knew they’d be probably be upwards of £80, around $100 U.S., and a quick Google search told me even used, these same boots were on eBay for $70-80. I have no idea why someone gave these boots away, but I love them—not just for their heritage and the deal I got on them, but for their quality and style.
5. Greek krater.
For those who don’t know a krater is a piece of Greek pottery that in ancient Greece was often used as a cup for drinking watered-down wine. (Today we just call it a vase.) By cup standards, it’s a large cup, but by pottery standards, it’s a nice little piece of pottery. I was completely stunned to find this gorgeous work of art sitting on a shelf in a random Goodwill among other ordinary glass and crystal vases. And it was only $5! The handles are a caylix style, and if you look closely you can tell one of the handles had broken off, but it had been glued back on almost seamlessly.
I’m going to nerd out a little, because I have a minor in Classical Studies, which included a class all about the art and architecture of Greece and Rome, which I found fascinating. So, this (modern) krater is done in a style reminiscent of the Archaic period called black-figure painting. The scene painted on it appears to be of a charioteer preparing for a race—perhaps an Olympic race. I think it’s a race, not a battle, because there’s a boy waiting near the horses to hand the charioteer his spear. The charioteer is also reaching out to a woman holding a bowl of what looks like fire; there’s nothing signifying she’s a goddess, so I hesitate to say she is one.
6. Silver tea set.
I once found a pretty, tall silver tea pot. I didn’t need it and it served no purpose, but I got it anyway (for a few bucks.) I don’t know why, but I prefer tall teapots to the squat, round ones. And this one took me back in time. A few years down the line I picked up a couple little things to go with it—a silver cream carafe and silver sugar bowl. They were maybe a dollar or two apiece. So now I have a little set, sitting nice and pretty on a shelf in my dining area; I don’t use it, as it’s somewhat tarnished, but it makes a very nice decoration that makes my old soul happy.
It’s because of shoes like these I browse through the sections of shoes people have already worn. I don’t need shoes, but I scan for ones that look interesting anyway, and I only buy a pair if I really like them and I think the price is reasonable. I don’t remember what these cost, though definitely less than $10, and I love them. They’re reminiscent of 1940s style Oxfords, and again, my old soul rejoices. They’re just my size, though a bit stretched out, and obviously I can’t wear them in the winter, but their timeless style makes them one of my favorite pairs of shoes (behind converse, of course.)
8. White mixing bowl.
Why is this a favorite? I love it for its simplicity. I like to bake, so a good mixing bowl is a must. And as a bonus, a big white mixing bowl is exactly the kind of thing you’d find in a quaint and homey kitchen, so when I saw this one I knew I had to have it for my own. It was either $2 or $3, but either way, a small price to pay for a good mixing bowl.
9. Old Navy jeans.
I’m short, so it’s often kind of hard to find a pair of pants that fit me just right. Almost all my jeans are rolled at least once at the ankles, and one of the exceptions is a pair of blue jeans found thrifting—on the same day I found those tweed boots no less! It was mostly happenstance I decided to try this pair on, as I wasn’t in need of a pair of jeans, but when I did try them on they fit, like, perfectly. Do you know how hard that is?! So I took them home, and now I wear them at least once or twice a week.
10. Green flannel.
I. Love. Flannel. I don’t need any more, but I always look at the flannel when I’m in stores. I’ve only got a couple flannel shirts from thrift stores, but my olive green flannel is one of my favorites. It’s a little oversize but not too much, it’s a great color, and as good flannel does, I can wear it during the day or to sleep.
The Value of Thankfulness
To me these things have value because they’re simple parts of my life, things that “spark joy,” as Marie Kondo would say. And it’s not monetary value that makes them special to me. (In fact, I’m pretty sure the only reason money has any value is because we humans made it so. Anyway, that’s off topic.)
We decide what has value and how it’s valuable—in society, in life, with ourselves. (Maybe not so off-topic after all.) So I decided that for me, the simple things, simple moments (large or little), the quiet joys are what’s most valuable.
I’ve got love, I’ve got family and friends, a job I enjoy—right now I don’t need more than I have, and I’m grateful for that.