STAR Tannery, Virginia - Since the economy tanked, most Americans are so over buying Stuff.
In fact, just talk to anyone: They never were into buying Stuff. They know other people who were into buying Stuff - usually an in-law; but they were always frugal and thrifty. Those others were the ones who led this country into economic disaster. According to everyone I've spoken to, the entire economy prior to the bubble bursting was bolstered by 25 daughters-in-law who "just had to have everything new."
New is so yesterday; because Americans are done buying New Stuff. Now they're buying Old Stuff. Judging by the crowds at flea markets and thrift stores, old is the new black...or the new new...or something.
I used to be able to wander into my favorite thrift stores any old day of the week and be treated to a cornucopia of good, gently-used items, from clothing with the tags still attached to dishes in their original packing box. These days I follow an exacting schedule listing what store puts out which items at what time on what day. Otherwise all that is left on the shelves are chewed up silk daisies, yellow patent leather shoes in a size 13, a disturbingly-stained Thigh Master and a several copies of the biography of Mary Baker Eddy.
Sources of used Stuff vary, depending on the nature of what you are looking for. While there are no hard and fast rules, I can almost guarantee that in this Shenandoah Valley where everyone is steeped in history and their own family trees, you will not find mint condition Depression Glass for under book value at a yard sale (but if it's there, my mother-in-law will find it, know someone who collects it, buy it for their Christmas present, then lose it in her house by the time the holidays roll around).
Thrift stores are good for finding newer items, especially clothing. I have this fear when I go to a thrift store that I'm going to repurchase clothing I gave away after the previous year's diet. So I do my clothing purchases in another county.
Flea markets are a thrift shopper's paradise and also where you can go to buy back your childhood. Awhile ago I bought a cookie jar identical to one I grew up with, something my brothers couldn't understand. They said the Humpty Dumpty on it was "creepy." I have nothing but fond memories of that cookie jar. If you saw a picture of my brothers and me, you'd see for yourself how this particular memory played out.
At 51 years old, there isn't a whole lot of Stuff I need. But I do have a list of things I'm looking for and there is the kismet of finding the One Thing that solves one of those niggling day-to-day dilemmas.
For instance, for the past few months I've taken it into my head that I am through with coffee makers. In 22 years of marriage I've gone through approximately ten coffeemakers, not to mention the uncounted number of glass pots I've had to replace. I wanted to go back to a plain old metal drip coffee pot - nothing to break or go bad. I can be without electricity and still make coffee over a grill. Nothing can keep me from making coffee and I can't stress how important this is.
Any thrift shopper will tell you that, if you are patient, you can find just about anything at a price you can live with. Eventually, there it was: at a flea market - 8 bucks and clean as a whistle.
But then, just a few stalls down, I saw It. I grew up with It, though most people who saw It didn't know it was It. Most people saw an old castoff juice squeezer. As a matter of fact, I needed a juice squeezer that worked just like this one - it was on my list. But I was the only one who knew that this juice squeezer, when sitting upright in a dish drainer, looked like some sort of creature that, when I was three, I spoke to on a regular basis. My mother called it It, as in, "She's talking to It again."
The dealer seemed happy to be rid of It. Two bucks and a day later, It was back in my kitchen, contentedly squeezing orange juice for Heir 2's birthday orange pound cake. Sure, I have an Artisan mixer that has a handy-dandy juice attachment, but It doesn't require electricity.
So if the power grid is ever bombed out by aliens, I've got the whole beverage thing covered. That's security you can't buy at Wal Mart.
Copyright (c) 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.
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