How I Thrift is a brand new feature where I interview experienced thrifters from throughout the United States to get their insights and local tips. 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 and ’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?
I 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?
I 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?
My 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.
#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!)