Friday, March 2, 2012

Fun with Secondhand Stories

This post is long overdue for many reasons, but here goes . . .
Photo courtesy of Muffet

Because of the recent death of Jan Berenstain, I found myself remembering books I read as a kid, specifically Dick and Jane books. Though now an avid reader, the story goes that it was actually incredibly hard to get me to move beyond the classic Dick and Jane books. It figures that even in the 80s I would have had a vintage passion.

I started grade school at a small Catholic school. Since we had no school library, we walked to a city library a few blocks away. It was an impossibly grand (to a 5 year old) but aging building where the librarians read us Corduroy Bear. I’m sure there were other books, but that’s what I remember.

Their collection of Dick and Jane books was extensive. I have no idea how I got started reading them, but once I did I couldn’t stop.

My grandmother, who watched me after school, would beg me to bring home something—anything—other than trite little stories about Dick and Jane and Sally and Father and Mother and Spot. I think it was a combination of simple-sentence-fatigue syndrome and a worry that I didn’t think I was smart enough to read books with heady elements like multiple syllable words and complex plot lines.

The truth is I was actually captivated by the story . . . sort of. I don’t know that many people consider Dick and Jane books stellar examples of writing, but I would have fought you to the death if you told me that then. I loved them.

Never before had I been so in control of the pace at which a story unfolded. Never had I been in the position of uncovering such a complete mystery. Here I was, at 5 (and also at 6, as I said, it was hard to get me to stop re-reading the books) untangling these pages of letters into words that told stories.

It was—and is—unlike any other experience. Movies, TV, and even being read to made me a passive audience. I had to let the story develop on its own. Here, I was part of the whole process. In the mad flurry of words and concepts and story, I was in the middle of it and outside of it, making it happen. It was amazing.

I had no way of knowing—of guaranteeing—that any other book could do that. As far as I knew, this was the highest peak of all narratives to scale. So I stuck with what worked. Until one day, there was a ghost story. I have no idea what book it was, but in the process of trying to make me read anything other than Goddamn Dick and Motherfucking Jane again, my grandmother pointed out a ghost story.  

And that was it. I had to read that. From there, I graduated to The Baby-Sitters Club, Sweet Valley Twins (and later High), Sideways Stories from Wayside School, Goosebumps, and  even a weird series that was like The Baby-Sitters Club but with party planning (anyone remembering the name should immediately comment here). The world has never been the same.

My point is that I want to say a fond farewell to Jan Berenstain, though I was never much of a fan of the Berenstain Bears. Because for someone somewhere (probably a lot of someones in lots of somewheres) those books brought to life the idea of what reading could be. And that is certainly worth taking the time to honor.

Goodbye, Jan Berenstain. Thank you for making the world just a little brighter for young readers.

Did you read the Berenstain Bears? Or were there other books that made your young hearts flutter?

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How To: Selling Clothes at Secondhand Shops

Long ago, I promised a rundown on how to sell your secondhand clothes as part 3 in a series of posts on how to clean out your closet. So long ago, in fact, that I’m almost too embarrassed to put this up. But better late than never?

Remember when we cleaned our closets?

I broke this down into two sections, what I know works based on discussions with the lovely ladies at a number of Crossroads Trading Co. locations and what I think works based on my own twisted logic and superstition.

What Definitely Works
These tips are culled from consignment and secondhand stores’ buying tips. I’d rate them as must-follows:
  1. Call ahead – The best way to find out what a store is buying right now? Ask. They don’t want to look through a bunch of things they don’t want any more than you want to lug in your clothes to find out they don’t want them. So save everyone the trouble and call ahead. Another good resource is the store’s website. They’ll do their best to give you a good idea of what they are looking for.
  2. In season – I know you’re excited to get rid of your heavy sweaters in the middle of July and save the space in your dresser (Incidentally, that’s where they should be. Sweaters shouldn’t go on hangers.)

    However, no one in the Northern Hemisphere is looking to buy sweaters in July, so a secondhand shop won’t buy them. Which is just as well. You don’t want to throw out clothing you might want when the season’s change. Look through what’s suited to the season in your wardrobe, if you’re not wearing it now, you don’t wear it, and it can go.
  3. On trend – You might have a great pair of designer jeans, but if they’re wide legs from the late 90s, no one is going to buy. Your mileage may vary in vintage shops, but most places won’t take a chance on a look that couldn’t be straight off the racks at H&M.
  4. Keep it clean – It may seem like a no-brainer, but bring in clean clothes in good condition. For an added bonus, fold them neatly before taking them in. Try to give the buyers the idea that you take good care of your clothes all the time. Even if your room looks like mine:
It's not always like this . . . only usually.

What I Think Works
These might be insane, but they seem to work for me, so I thought I would share:

  1. Brand Names – So I have to admit that I will hold onto massive amounts of clothing until I know I can take everything in with one super expensive brand name.

    You know, the kind you don’t care about but you think everyone else does? The kind that I will brag more about getting cheap at Goodwill even though I get more use out of a Target dress? Yeah, those. I may be crazy, but I always feel like I sell more stuff when I have one of those brands with me to sell.

    I do this in one of two ways:

    -- Wait until I am ready to part with something I wear. Either because I’ve stopped wearing it or it doesn’t fit. What I never do is part with something I’m still wearing on a regular basis. Don’t do it; it’s never worth it.

    -- When Goodwill has a $2 sale or there’s a super deal on an item that’s not my size or style (like the $4.49 deal I got on an Escada skirt that was old enough to have been made in West Germany). Remember though: you’re almost never going to be given much more than $10 for any one piece of clothing, so don’t go overboard on buying to sell and don’t make a special trip for it.
  2. Dress nicely – I think this is total superstition, but I feel like if I look like I just rolled out of bed, it’s a subtle sign to the buyer that I don’t care about my clothes. I don’t feel that way myself, but I can’t get over the idea that other people must think that, so I try fancy myself up a bit.

Cash or Credit? Most places offer a store credit or cash option, with a lesser amount if you choose cash. This is always a difficult question for me. On the one hand, it’s more money in credit; on the other, cash is more like money than store credit.
I tend to go with cash because, ultimately, I don’t shop in places that I take clothes to sell. I am a super stuck-up thrifter and like the cheaper prices and do-gooder feeling of shopping at charity shops. It’s a fairly personal choice, so go with your gut.

What about you? What tips do you have for selling clothes?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thrifting in the Fog

You can check out a post by yours truly over on the always charming Thrift Store Confidential. For those of you who don't know why I love the Daly City Goodwill so much or haven't yet had the chance to find out how my parents are the most awesome people who ever awesomed, head on over and learn the answers to your burning questions. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

To Haul or Not to Haul

For this (somewhat late) Thrift Share Monday, I have the best thing to share of all!

Too much stuff!
Nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

No, that pile of stuff above is not from this weekend. It's a batch of ill-fitting and not flattering clothing (with some scattered books) that I plan to get rid of. 

Which is ultimately why nothing is the best thing I could have gotten this weekend. Not because I'm trying to de-clutter or spend less, though those are both lovely things. 

I'm happy I got nothing because none of it fit and, and, and I tried it on. After more than three years of baffling my dear boyfriend by bringing home clothes that don't fit, I've actually made a consistent commitment to trying things on. 

This is not a perfect system. I can still find things that just don't look good once I get them home or that don't look good with anything I own. But it's a good start. 

This post is a part of Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Mondays! Head on over there to check her out and to see all of the fun stuff thrifters got this weekend. 

What are some of your hardest learned thrifting lessons? 

Monday, April 25, 2011

Secondhand Wisdom: Politically Speaking

Good post over on Thrift Store Confidential about the proposed Michigan bill to require foster children who receive state funds to buy all their clothes at secondhand stores. I've been trying to articulate how I feel about this for a while, but this does a much better job than I've done. More.

And while I'm in the political sphere, here is a nifty game that explores the difficulties of losing one's job in this market. More.

What do you think of the proposed Michigan bill?

Sunday, April 24, 2011

By the Book

This weekend was a special edition of the San Francisco Public Library's Friends of the Library book sale. Usually they do a sale in the Fall, but this Spring marks their 50th Anniversary, so a special sale was had. 

The tactile sensation of running a hand across dozens of books while looking for ones that pique my interest is a nice Sunday all by itself. Still, the key part of Sundays at the Friends of the Library book sales is that it's $1 day. 

Excuse me while I say, "Woohoo!" 

Now then, where were we? Growing up, my mom's rule on garage sale/thrift store/antique mall books was anything that was $1 or under. We went to the library not infrequently and $1 books were not uncommon, so I was hardly book-deprived under this rule.

So Sunday I spent $21 to get 21 books: 
We will be hours of fun!

Only two of them were books I'd previously read. Of those, one was Pride and Prejudice, which I still can't believe wasn't on my shelf until today. I made my dear boyfriend (who also alphabetized my bookshelf this weekend!) confirm and reconfirm my astounding discovery that it was missing from the Austen books. So I think that was a good addition to the library. 

All in all, a nice day. 

Saturday was a smaller haul, which is probably good for my space issues anyway (still trying to figure out where I'm going to put the things I brought home from Missouri). 
I am sparkly!
This cute little sterling necklace with a yellow jeweled bead is definitely an unusual one. I'm not quite sure what to wear it with yet. Would black make it to bumblebee-y?

Though books were my first thrift store love, jewelry is quickly coming up to replace them, so this was a nice weekend of thrift thrills. Not quite ready for it to end though.

This post is a part of Apron Thrift Girl's Thrift Share Mondays! Head on over there to check her out and to see all of the fun stuff thrifters got this weekend. 

What are your favorite things to nab at thrift stores? 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fabulous and Favorite Finds: How I Became Stupid

I have just been home in Missouri for about a week, which, combined with my terminal laziness, will explain the absence of posts. My parents are antique dealers, and my sister is a talented young artist, so I can proudly say that I got quite a haul for next to nothing, unless you're going to count airfare. 

I will soon regale you with stories about "playing jewelry" in my parents' hidden cache of stuff and giggling over our embarrassment of art riches, I promise.* However, I'm always more than faintly sad after leaving home, and this particular time is the first time I've been back to Missouri in the Spring in 5 years (!), so it felt a little like leaving for the first time all over again. 

With that in mind, I was thinking about some of my favorite things to cheer me up, which led me to thinking about some of my favorite thrifted things. Not just the things that saved me money or made me look awesome, but things that were somehow important in my life, like How I Became Stupid

"Don't I look clever and headless?"
I found this book on the shelf at the Daly City Goodwill. It was sitting there, flaunting its sassy orange and black spine, proudly calling out the fact that it is a Penguin Book. I'm a sucker for satin or flat finishes on paperbacks, and this is a rough flat finish that had already picked up a casual coating of grime in its wrinkles. And then there's that title. 

It's a quirky (and invitingly slim) story about Antoine, a Paris academic who is desperate to become stupid because he believes he'll be happier that way. He tries everything he can dream or do, from alcoholism to playing the stock market. In the end, it is a clear-eyed novel with a sense of hope that is somewhat sneaky, but nevertheless intriguing. 

At this point, I have no idea what I paid for it, but likely $2.19. I've since picked up at least 3 more copies (there are 2 living on the bookshelf in the living room right now). And at most recent count, I've bullied 4 people into reading it. 

I'm not certain what it is that appeals to me so much, and I'm equally uncertain that anyone I've forced to read it feels the same way I do. Still, I feel about it the way I feel about songs that are fun to listen to, but don't necessarily suit my philosophies: It's nice to get to live for a little bit in a world I don't want to inhabit permanently. But in this case, Antoine goes ahead and lives out his own disturbed fantasy rather than just, in a completely hypothetical example, listening to a latter-day Fall Out Boy song. 

I also really love the end. And in a world of books that make me say, "It was ok, but I didn't like how it ended," that is something interesting and special indeed. 

*I also do not fail to recognize that I am 2 posts into a proposed 3 part series, which I will soon bring to a breathtaking close.**

**Breathtaking might be a bit generous. 

So, what are some of your important or favorite thrift store finds?
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