Articles from September 2015



Link Roundup

What’s coming up on SYDW: I am interviewing a few places in the U.S. that accept gently used school supplies to see what they need. I am also eating expired food all week to show that those dates on food are not as hard and fast as you might think. Later today, I plan on drinking some super old hot chocolate with expired soy milk. Yum! I will give you the full report later.

Even though I just added my Stuff You Don’t Want Twitter account, it’s already been super useful. I’ve been following Waste Nothing— a more robust, searchable version of Stuff You Don’t Want, and already used them to find out a place to drop off my used corks. After a few confusing phone calls with the staff at Nordstorm in Santa Monica, I learned that the customer service desk will happily receive them. You can also search Recork directly for this info. I also recently added a medicine bottles listing on this site, if you have a pile of those laying around.

My friend, Moira, passed this link on to me from Gizmodo about this contraption which removes pollution from the air, creating jewelry from the waste. It’s like every interest I have rolled into one! My boyfriend, Nic, passed this article on to me about repairing items in the Wall Street Journal, which was a great read. And my brother, Dave, noted that this chef, Dan Barber, is all about not wasting food, and there was a big story about him on NPR.

How I Thrift: Katie Papp, Chicago

How I Thrift is a brand new feature where I interview experienced thrifters from throughout the United States to get their insights and local IMG_1740tips. Katie Papp, my very first interview, is a friend and former co-worker who lives in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood (three blocks from the Obamas) and runs Always Hungry Chicago. You can follow Always Hungry Chicago and her personally on Instagram.

When did you start thrifting, and why?

I’ve been thrifting with my mom since I was a little girl, and started going on my own when I was in college in 2001. I was really interested in vintage purses, and at one time I had a collection of over thirty-five from the ’70s pic4and ’80s. Currently I hit the thrift store for home furnishings. Mid-century modern design is my favorite and thrift stores are the best place to find pieces from that period at a reasonable price. It also makes me feel better about my personal carbon footprint when I buy used.

Where do you thrift shop?

pic3I grew up in Waukegan, a suburb of Chicago about thirty-five miles north of the city.  Even though I live in Chicago now, I still thrift up there. The prices are way better and there is less competition for the good furniture. My two favorite places to go are Community Thrift Store and B-Thrifty, located only a few blocks from each other.


What kind of things do you try and buy used?

Pic2I go for homewares these days. If you’ve ever had to furnish an entire apartment from scratch like I have, you know that it can cost a lot of money for everyday necessities like forks and spoons if you buy new. I have a collection of vintage drinking glasses and I’m always looking for unique designs. Right now I’m also on the hunt for Mid-century modern furniture pieces, specifically dressers for our bedroom and a new coffee table. My last pick up was a vintage radio that we keep in the kitchen.


Do you have any general tips for anyone without much thrifting experience? Any warnings?

Pic1My biggest tip is to not be turned off by the smell and the dust. I suggest going for items made out of glass, wood or metal if you’re looking for homewares because they’re super simple to clean. If you’re looking at chairs, reupholstering usually can be done pretty easily and totally transforms the look of the piece. Keep in mind that not everything at a thrift store is old or junky. Oftentimes you can find brand new items there.

I’m not only a frequent thrift store purchaser but I am a frequent thrift store donator. Every few months I go through my own and donate items, mostly clothes, that I don’t use anymore.

 

A few notes from Katie on the pics:

 

#1 Mid-century modern Dresser. This dresser is my pride and joy. We use it as a TV stand and to store random things. The best part is I only spent $30 on it.

#2 Couch and record cabinet. I purchased the couch off Craigslist for $250. I usually wouldn’t buy a used couch, but the seller had used it to stage apartments so it was never in a home where people lived. I bought the record cabinet a few days after Christmas last year after my boyfriend gave me a new record player as a gift. We stopped in the thrift store on a whim on our way home from my parents house and got it for $13!

#3 Panasonic radio. Purchased at an antique store in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, this summer. I almost bought a brand new vintage-inspired radio for three times the price. So glad I waited!

#4 Plant stand and books. This is an old wire reel that I purchased at a thrift store for $1. I painted it light gray and use it as a plant stand. On top of the radiator are various books purchased at a used book stores. I never buy new books, always used. (Even when I purchase books on Amazon!)

 

Thrift Store Review: Finders Keephers in Manhattan Beach

Finders Keephers_smallI’m going to say right off that I am not the perfect person to review Finders Keephers, and it’s not really a thrift store but a consignment store for designer clothes and accessories. However, I thought I’d mix it up in the interest of variety, and I will proceed as best as I can.

This is a small, well-curated store for the person who wants a gently used Tory Burch dress for $150. Are you that person? It stocks women’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, and lots and lots of purses. In general, my experience is that you pay a premium buying this stuff in person over ebay or other online outlet, but let’s review and you can decide for yourself.

Overall rating: C+

They really only have the four items, so let’s break them down.

1. Clothes. They have a lot of jeans for you if your waist size is between 25 and 28 inches, which I realize is not most people. They had a pBCBG jacket_78_smallair of Lucky jeans for $50 (honestly, they have sales that good for new pairs) and a pair of new-with-tags jeans from Bergdorf’s also for $50, when the original price was $269.00 That said, I’m not sure how old they were. They also had a cute BCBG jacket for $78, which was in excellent condition, but I found a comparable new one on sale for $159. Half price for used is not what I call a good deal. Overall, they did have quite a few new-with-tags items, though, so it may be worth it to you if you find the right thing.

2. Shoes. These used Pucci shoes were selling for $240, and Pucci_240_smallwithout any trouble whatsoever I located a comparable used pair online for $110, literally half that. I’d be willing to pay a little more locally, since it’s less hassle, and you save on shipping, but that’s a massive difference, and not unusual for consignment shops, in my experience. Similarly, I saw a pair of gray wool (?) Louboutin pumps for $750, and The Real Real offers shoes from the maker for around $400. (Again, I’m not an expert, so maybe the gray ones are especially collectible. But they weren’t even in pristine shape.)

3. Jewelry. Some of the stuff looked really dated to me. I Tiffany necklace_smalldid notice a fairly generic Tiffany silver heart necklace, but I’m not sure who would prefer a used Tiffany necklace for $160 over a brand new heart necklace (obviously a different style) from Tiffany’s for $225, if all you’re trying to do is get something in one of those aqua boxes.

 

4. Purses. They had a very good selection, some new-with-tags. This Francesco Biasca bag was $260 (originally almost $500, according to the tag) but there are many more inexpensive bags by the same maker on Tradesy Francesco_Biasca_smallfor considerably less.Overall, it’s a very lovely store in a neighborhood that’s hard to park in where you’ll pay somewhat more than you really have to. If you’re not a fan of online shopping, it’s an okay option.

Link Roundup

SYDW now has a Twitter account. Please follow me, because right now my only follower’s are my sister-in-law and the LADWP, and it’s lonely over there. I haven’t gotten up to speed on the whole thing yet, but I will. And then you can brag about getting in on the ground floor!

I am always looking on the lookout for fellow Angelenos who have an interest in used goods, and this week I happened upon the lifestyle blog of my (in a big picture kind of way) neighbor, Justina, at The Jungalow. She is a lifestyle/DIY blogger with an interest in thrifting, as DIY bloggers tend to be, and has a list of recommended thrift stores that overlap with some I’ve already done reviews for on this site. It’s so pretty it’s worth a look even if you’re too incompetent to do any of her projects, like I am!

Santa Monica is having a citywide yard sale on September 26th. If you live there, you can register your yard sale here. If you live nearby, definitely stop by on that day — Santa Monica is plenty posh, and there are sure to be deals.

Live in L.A. and not sure which days you’re supposed to water? Check out this handy chart, which lays out the schedule by odd or even numbered houses.

I was reading this essay by a former social worker about one of her former clients, and, as an aside she notes that, like most foster kids, he would move his belongings from home to home in a garbage bag. It gives me a chance to remind you that there is an organization called Suitcases for Kids that collects suitcases for foster kids because most foster kids end up transporting their belongings in garbage bags. If there isn’t anyone collecting them near you, consider starting a drive with your local Scout troop or Lions club and donating them to your local social service agency.

My 11947629_10155905973205417_3734541032001477149_nbrother bought several used ties, upon my recommendation, and here they are: $1.49 and $1.99. Eat your heart out! Or, better yet, snag a few used ones for yourself at your local thrift store!

Re-Book It: Easiest and Best Book Donation Option in L.A.

DSC_01031_1600x1066_acf_cropped1-1 If you live in L.A. and you like reading, you’re either a fan of The Last Bookstore or haven’t been there, a terrible oversight you should correct to as soon as possible. Not only is it a great place to spend a Sunday afternoon and find your next great read, they also boast a program, Re-Book It, which collects your unwanted books, keeping some, selling some, and distributing the rest to eager readers throughout Los Angeles. Very convenient if you’re moving or just cleaning house. If you have a few boxes, they offer complimentary pickup. I caught up with Kathy Hazen who kindly answered all my nosy questions about how it works.

1. How do donations to Re-Book It work? Do you guys take Kathy_Hazenwhatever you can sell and then distribute whatever’s left?

Books that can be used directly by other organizations are temporarily warehoused. Particularly valuable volumes are sold elsewhere and the proceeds from the sales are contributed to other non-profits.

Books that are appropriate for The Last Bookstore are shelved in our warehouse and brought into the store as space opens up. The majority of the donated books are sold in the $1 room in The Labyrinth above The JNmagnifyingglasseslargeLast Bookstore, which operates as a community service and makes no profit.

If the books are too tired, worn and/or damaged to be of use to anyone, they are turned over to a recycler.

2. What prompted you to start the program?

The program began as a way to divert books from landfills as well as to serve people who needed help donating their books. Most charities no longer accept books due to oversupply and the high costs of moving large quantities of books. Many people also simply have too many books for them to move on their own! The Last Bookstore has helped put previously unwanted books into the hands of thousands of people in L.A. county.

3. You talk in a general way about redistributing books to hospitals, libraries, etc., but can you break down some specifics for us? What would hospitals want, say, as compared to homeless shelters? Do you work with any organizations that have super specific requests?

A children’s cancer hospital requested books for their young patients to read while undergoing treatments. Many convalescent and rehabilitation facilities request that we restock their reading libraries for patients on an ongoing basis. RBI has provided art books for high school art classes, dictionaries for students in language arts class, and small libraries for many start-up daycare facilities.  We don’t receive many requests from homeless shelters but imagine they would probably want educational, self-help, or fiction.

We are currently compiling sizable donations for new teachers in a low economic community, both for their classrooms and to send home with the students as well. We have provided collections of reference materials for a local Boys and Girls Club for use in their after school program. The requests are quite varied and we are able to fulfill most every need, due to the generosity of the community!

4. Do you accept books written in Spanish?

We do, and Chinese, Japanese, German and Russian – any language!

5. What would you most like to receive that you never get?

We get pretty much everything, but the best books for our purposes are always going to be those that are either current and in like-new condition, or classics in their category.

6. What do you get a lot of that you don’t have much use for?

Textbooks more than five years old! Although the information contained in them doesn’t change, professors require their students to buy updated editions. Also, Harlequin paperback romance novels and ex-library books are not useful to us.

7. I notice your site lists information on how to schedule a pickup but says nothing about dropping books off at The Last Bookstore. Is that an option?

We do not mention it because it is not our preference. We also do not arrange for drop-offs at our warehouse.  We don’t have dedicated personnel in either location to handle them. We offer complimentary pick up for any donor with three boxes of books or more. If a donation is comprised of only a few items I will sometimes recommend they be taken to TLB. It’s also an opportunity for a store visit, which is an event unto itself!

8. If a charity is interested in receiving books from you, should they contact you?

The best way to request books from Re-Book It is to visit our website and submit a Request for Pick-up, just as you would if donating, and write the words REVERSE DONATION in the instruction field (third from the bottom) of the form. Then send a wish list of desired books via email at donate@rebookit.org. When both notices are received, your request will be processed.

Thanks, Kathy! I am sorting through my books right now. Hope someone wants my Douglas Coupland rejects, but that might be too much to hope for.