Local Thrifting: How I Learned To Stop And Think Before Buying A $40 Hook Online

By Julia Higginson

This article isn’t a rant against Etsy or other websites like it. I love Etsy; it’s a wonderful marketplace for artists to buy and sell goods from which I have purchased many gifts and trinkets. The amazing craftsmanship and lovely packaging always impresses me. Etsy has given me access to quality, homemade goods that I could never find in big box stores and I have to say it feels really good to support artists.

You knew there was a “but” coming though, right? Well here it is… Etsy is great buuuut… you should still shop smart when you’re buying online. Thanks to Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn and Pinterest, rustic, vintage and salvaged goods are trending right now, driving the prices way up. I have spent hours online selecting rustic hooks, bins, shelves and random antiques while I should have been writing essays; I almost bought a collection of four rusty hooks for $40! Luckily, in that case, the shipping was high so I put the hooks on my “want” list instead and continued on with my browsing.

This summer I started thrifting. Thrifting isn’t being cheap. Thrifting is discovery and adventure; it’s finding things you didn’t know existed and giving them a new purpose in life. I find it exciting and fun and my house has taken on a whole new sense of character. I constantly get compliments on my style that I have to say I never received when the place was strictly filled with IKEA furniture (not to say that IKEA furniture isn’t great in its own right and super budget-friendly for us twenty-somethings). My favourite items are the ones with rich patina, cracks, dents and rusted edges. A couple months ago, I had the chance to visit an amazing place in the middle of nowhere that sells a plethora of salvaged goods. Imagine a huge, old, slightly dilapidated barn filled to the brim with antique and vintage items; all of the rustic hardware, trim, tin, barn doors, shutters, mantles and barn board you could ever dream of! It was Pinterest personified. I bought four rusty hooks, exactly like the ones I had picked out online, for $5! What’s even better? I got to pick them out myself from a gigantic collection of different shapes, sizes and colours!  On the way home we stopped at a garage sale and I picked up an old enamel basin for $2. Later, just for kicks, I looked up comparable basins online and found an exact replica for $45.

What I’ve done to control my spending since becoming completely obsessed with collecting vintage goods is started a running mental list of items I’m currently “looking for.” Most of these things I could easily find online, but the thing about thrifting is that you usually don’t need any of it, so it’s OK to put the items you want in the back of your mind and simply keep an eye out for them. For example, I’d been searching Pinterest for scarf organization ideas (yes, this is what I do in my spare time, but to be fair I own A LOT of scarves and my OCD tendencies want them arranged in some kind of visually appealing way!). Pinterest told me that the “in” way to house your scarves is on an old wooden ladder; by hanging them you can see the colour/pattern and save space in your closet. An old wooden ladder fetches anywhere from $60 to $200 on Etsy and I can only imagine what the shipping would be (use online calculators such as the UPS Shipping Rates tool provided by InstantShip). Not a week after my original search, I stopped at an antique sale at a beautiful old limestone home in the country and found the perfect ladder for $25. So, sometimes it’s worth the wait! Plus, you get to take the item home as soon as you find it and you don’t have to pay for shipping! Things that are on my mental “want list” right now are: a vintage kitchen scale, a letterpress box and some form of cool equine or canine shaped bookends.

So, where can you start? First off, explore the thrift stores, vintage markets and antique dealers in your neighbourhood. You’ll quickly discover which places you like; many of them are junky and others are way overpriced so its takes a while to determine your favourite spots. There will be times you’ll go in and find more things you want than you can afford and other times you’ll leave completely empty handed. Some stores will give you that creepy “old stuff” feeling and you’ll want to go home and take a hot shower. In others, you’ll start to notice what sells and what doesn’t. I’ve seen the same $2,000 armoire for sale at one place for over six months—you’d think they’d consider lowering the price! That’s another great thing—bartering. Thrift stores generally have non-negotiable price tags but antique dealers love to bargain. It’s part of the game! Just make sure as a newbie that you don’t go so low you offend the seller. I’ve heard auctions and estate sales are an excellent place to pick up bigger, quality pieces but that’s an area I haven’t explored… yet. Once you get all that down you can start stopping on the side of the road at garage sales. Another excellent resource is local online classifieds like Craigslist. Sometimes I’ll change my search filter to furniture under $50 and go through picturing what each piece would look like with the hardware changed out and painted a funky colour. If you can wade through the junk and overpriced items I promise, somewhere in the middle, there will be a selection of amazing thrifty treasures waiting for you!

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[divider] [/divider]About Julia

julia hJulia is a recent Masters graduate who has spent the past five years studying English and would still be completely immersed in desert island literature if the annoying, logical side of her brain didn’t force her to think about practical things like “employment” and so-called “real life”. She is currently working full time at her family’s business to pay the bills while fulfilling her creative needs writing content for an online personal branding website and blogging about literature and life with a two dear friends from grad school. When she’s not re-reading the Harry Potter series, or re-watching LOST, Julia is renovating a house, scouring the countryside for vintage finds, up-cycling furniture, riding her horse Boomer and taking her bouncy Boxer-mix puppy Harley to the dog park. Julia’s goals include making writing a full-time gig in the near future, buying a horse farm and publishing at least one best-seller. You can follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram @juliiamay.

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