Today we're discussing popping tags! Get ready to get your thrift on, folks. My first thrift shopping excursions were at school sponsored tag sales and White Elephant (second hand) shops when I was a young child. I remember being thrilled to discover that there were shops where one might dig around for old treasures.
I love old stuff, neat old stuff, weird old stuff, beautiful old stuff, ugly old stuff. I don't collect it as much anymore, because I move too often and I am tired of hauling stuff around in boxes. I can appreciate it without needing to bring it all home. At one point, way back in the 1980s, I had several hundred pairs of fabulous vintage shoes from the Victorian Era through the 1970s. I sold most of them when I left California and then sold the rest of them on eBay for a pretty penny back when eBay was fresh and new. It's harder to find vintage shoes these days, but they're still out there.
People didn't used to have so much stuff. We didn't live in giant houses with rooms that need to be filled with furniture and knick-knacks. We used to make things to last, before the planned obsolescence of massive amounts of cheap crap made overseas took sway. It's a thrill to find something from 50 or 60 or even 100 years ago that is still functional and beautiful. Even mundane things like toasters or sewing machines were thoughtfully designed and masterfully constructed.
I have a particular affinity for old handcrafted things. You see a crocheted blanket at a thrift shop for four or five bucks and think about how many hours went into making it, how much love when into every turn of the crochet hook. Or you stumble on a woodblock print or an oil painting or a basket or a ceramic...and it's like a little message in a bottle from someone long gone or maybe someone still alive, evidence of their existence and their creative spark. What's not to love about that?
I'm also inexplicably drawn to the kitschiest of kitsch. If it's absurdly bizarre or highly inappropriate, chances are that I will love it. Kooky old ceramics, kids toys, knick-knacks, tchotchkes, weird and wonderful oddities all fill me with delight. I love vintage graphics, which has led me to collect old magazines, greeting cards, post cards, card games, and other bits and pieces of ephemera.
The flip side of the equation is that thrift shopping offers a harsh reminder of the cost of mass consumption. There is an unbelievable amount of crap in the world. So much stuff, so much of it poorly designed and shoddy in construction. Much of it ends up at thrift stores, where shelves are bursting with the detritus of our throw away society. Much of our discarded clothing ends up in landfills or is shipped on barges to third world countries where it is sold for profit, disrupting local production. The average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing annually. Wrap your mind around that number for a moment. Trends are shifting at incomparable speeds, and as the trends shift, the stuff is discarded in favor of something shiny and new. Fast fashion has a cost both in the sweatshop labor that produces it and the proliferation of cheaply made, quickly discarded clothing.
Then this leads you to wonder. How much stuff do we need? When will enough be enough? Trends have accelerated to the point that things we "must have" lose relevance within months. I have also been pondering my footprint as a creator and a human being, what have I added to the pile of things in the world and what value does it have, if any? I no longer have the desire to hoard things these days. I have jettisoned epic crap tons of stuff and it feels divine to have less and do more. I can appreciate things without needing to possess them.
A few years back I started a website called ThriftScore and began selling some of the treasures I found in thrift shops and flea markets over the years. At that point Etsy was becoming saturated and eBay had changed and Facebook was mesmerizing millions with their magical algorithms and micro-targeted wonders. After some reflection and refocusing of my energy, I decided to shutter the shop and return most of the merchandise to the thrift-iverse.
Still, I enjoy thrifting. It's urban archeology. I think it's a far more sustainable way to live. I recycle, often, things I have found and enjoyed and then returned to the great cosmic dust bin. Our new house has plenty of room, but I am not intending to fill it with things. Unless those things are clearance pillows, then apparently I'm in. In my defense, pillows are not great things to buy at thrift shops for people with allergies. But I digress, I think about re-visiting the idea of selling some of the things that I find at thrift shops. We shall see, but in the meanwhile I recently started making new videos sharing some of my most recent thrift shop finds or as I like to call it 'crap I found at thrift stores.' Here's the Playlist, for your entertainment. I plan to make more over the coming months and perhaps share some of this thrift shop goodness for sale here on the website and on my Instagram. Stay tuned!