Born to thrift
My secret passion to store, collect & show off mugs, shoes & works of art
Guest post by Renee Zalles
BBDO San Francisco
Ican’t really remember how it got started, but by the end of high school, and to my mother’s utter dismay, the majority of my wardrobe consisted of used clothing. I grew up in the Bay Area and began my thrifting on Haight street. I loved combing through stores in search of something amazing; something that would stand out among the cookie-cutter kids I grew up with.
At the beginning, I think that on some level, thrifting was a rebellion against my privileged upbringing in Marin. But more importantly, it was the first way I learned to truly express my individuality.
I’m 28 years old now and I’ve never stopped thrifting. If anything, my habit has increased now that I’m an adult living away from my parents. There’s an apartment to be furnished, walls to be decorated, kitchen cabinets to be filled. At the same time, since I’ve been out of my parents’ house for 10 years now, the need for household items has, for the most part, waned. I live with my partner, and combined, we have a lot of stuff. There is no need for another ironic painting of a cat, or a cute coffee table.
But the truth is, I can’t stop.
I love picking up the occasional clothing item at Goodwill, but the real problem lies in coffee mugs and art. Now that I’ve moved in with my partner, this “problem” has really been brought to light. There simply isn’t enough room to hang all the art on the walls, and we’ve had to install extra hooks in the kitchen to accommodate my mug collection. Let’s not even talk about the renovation we had to do to the closet to fit all of my amazing $5 shoe finds.
Each item holds a new possibility
The problem is so prevalent that the first thing I do when I go out of town is pull up Google maps and search for nearby Goodwill locations. On a recent trip to the American River near Sacramento, we visited the Goodwill in Folsom, Calif. In just 30 minutes, I managed to rack up a $40 bill at a thrift store.
Oops? My girlfriend just rolled her eyes as I sheepishly suggested that perhaps I should start an Etsy store.
But the fact was, I just couldn’t help it. How could I pass up a set of glasses with gold sailing ships on them? And what about the amazing Harrah’s casino mugs from 1982? Oh, and that vintage casserole dish simply couldn’t be left on the shelf, never mind that I’ve never made a casserole in my life. I’ll just have to learn!
And I think that’s what I love the most about Goodwill – the potential every item holds, and the projects I create for myself by buying these items. Each item holds a different kind of possibility.
For example, I know it’s ridiculous, but I love choosing which mug to drink tea out of every morning because part of me believes that the mug I select will set the tone for the day. Maybe if I use the Star Trek mug, I’ll have an unexpected adventure. If I use the cute kitten mug, I might have a more positive, lovey-dovey day; the elegant flowery mug makes me feel more serious and more grown-up.
I’ve been collecting the mugs and art since about 2002. That’s almost 10 years. So, not only do they make my home unique, they are also a really important part of my life. They represent different places I’ve lived, different people I know and different phases of my life. I’ve held on to them because they mean something to me, and at this point, getting rid of certain pieces would be like giving away a part of myself.
But, if I did need to make some extra space in my closet, or in the kitchen or on the walls, I would most certainly give these treasures back to Goodwill so that somebody else could continue their story.