Thursday, February 9, 2012

Repurposing with good will, Goodwill, and Mondo.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending the second annual Goodwill Good Exchange for Change Fashion Show and Clothing Swap. I went to last year's event as well, which was a complete blast.

And this year's night of repurposed glitz and glamour didn't disappoint.

Here's how the Good Exchange works. Buy a ticket, bring 10 items you no longer want, enjoy food, beverages, music and swag during the cocktail hour, watch a fabulous fashion show featuring creations by up-and-comers who design new looks from Goodwill finds, then go shopping in the boutique that's been created with everybody's stuff. Bring 10 items, take 10 items. Everybody wins.

As for the particulars of last night, my experience was a series of lovely, providential moments.

Because of this crazy-fabulous thrifty-bloggy world I've created, as well as the good will from Goodwill's media relations manager Vanessa, I got a press pass for last night's event.

Serendipitously, I found a spot next to lovely Renee, who was there to cover the event for her magazine.

She knew that there was some Mondo Guerra face time planned, so when the time was right, I tagged along.

I had a few minutes with Mondo, during which I snapped this picture. I asked him about the future of thrifting, based on the overwhelming interest in the evening's event. He mentioned that "repurposing is the future. Taking something and making something new, giving it new life, seeing things creatively, is what going green is all about."

Bravo, Mondo.

I got caught up on Project Runway All Stars today, and I thought it was fitting that Mondo won last week's challenge. The designers had to find a fashion muse in Union Square Park in New York and convince them to give them the clothes off their back. Then the designers used those garments to create new fashion.

During that episode, Mondo explained that thrifting is "how I started designing and learning how to make patterns. I would go to thrift stores and buy a bunch of crap and take it home and rip it apart and see how it was constructed, and I'd turn it into something new for myself."

That is, at its essence, what repurposing (aka thrifting) is all about.

If you widen the net, it's what life is all about. Seeing the possibility in the ordinary.

But I digress.

Long and short, in addition to Mondo, I met a whole bunch of other people last night, all of whom were just as jazzed about the lovely, creative, generous, repurposeful world that thrifting creates.

Everyone has a story.

Camille is a business person, and seemed somewhat offput at first when I asked her what brought her to last night's event. Then her thrifting stories started flowing. She explained how she'd found a Chanel bag at a thrift store for a few bucks. She shared why she'd shed her emotional baggage last night by donating 10 items that were steeped in bad mojo.

There was Sarah, the personal organizer. She helps people get rid of their stuff, and Goodwill is her drop-off destination.

There were men and women, young and old, fashionistas and folks like me in attendance last night.

And I think everyone had a wonderful time.

So much good, so much good will, so much repurposing on so many levels.

According to Vanessa, 700 people attended last year's event, and it was sold out. This year, 900 people were in attendance, and last night's event was also sold out.

I was chatting with some folks who mentioned they thought the event could sell out the Convention Center.

That's how much people love to repurpose.

I completely concur about the Convention Center idea. And it makes my heart happy to know that so many people are repurposeful.

Being thrifty, being repurposeful, is a singular focus until that focus is broadened. And last night definitely broadened the focus.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The case for the verb of thrifting as a lifestyle, not an addiction.

Life presents so many addictive carrots. Caffeine. Meth. Cigarettes. Shopping. Gambling. Alcohol. Sex. Food. Thrifting.

What the what? Thrifting?

I heard a recent discussion in the media that offered up thrifting as a potential addiction.

Unlike the shame and chaos a meth habit can generate, people who are addicted to thrift are usually proud to announce their proclivity openly and proudly.

It's a fairly new, novel addition to the addiction list, primarily because thrifting has only recently become fashionable. The noun of thrift has become a verb. Anyone who's tried to find a parking space at a Goodwill on half-price day can verify that thrifting has become a cultural phenomenon.

And thrifting as a verb has only recently been woven into our cultural lexicon. Wiki says that "It's interesting that thrift, with roots as a noun, formally remains a noun by today's English standards. Though it is not a proper verb, thrifting or to thrift has found place in modern American language out of necessity."

Although I've not been able to find any verifiable evidence on my magical computer box that thrifting has been identified as a potential addiction, shopaholics walk among us. explains that "compulsive shoppers use their money, their family's money and credit cards in order to feed their addiction. Shopping addicts are two sorts of people: people who spend way beyond their funds and people who constantly think about making purchases and window shop daily."

Definitely not a Third World problem.

It's true that, when left unchecked, any behavior can get ugly. And in the case of chronic thrifting, it can turn into the verb of hoarding, which isn't good

But most people who thrift, including myself, aren't the compulsive, wild-eyed, must-have hoarding type.

Because I and so many others just like me understand that thrifting as a verb creates a panoply of other wonderful action words. Saving money. Living happily with less. Nurturing personal contraint. Appreciating value in something someone else no longer wants. Snagging a great deal.

Long and short, the verb of thrifting is, for most people, a conduit to a less stressful life. It can be the antithesis of addiction.

I love the verb of thrifting, and I know its place in my life. For me, thrifting is a treasure hunt, it's been an education, sometimes it's a distraction, it's an income stream. I'm not an addict to the verb of thrift.

That's probably what an addict would say.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Thrifting gone wild. Spare no expense.

Yesterday was Errand Day, and one of the items on my To Do list was to find a place that could work some magic on the cool chair I found a few weeks ago at a thrift store in Greeley (

I'd done what I could with the chair. I'd removed the upholstery, which revealed a piece of plywood that had been crudely fashioned to act as the chair's seat. The plywood was topped by a thick piece of foam, covered by ugly 1970s upholstery. I found a piece of fabric, got out the staple gun, and tried all the tricks I knew before I realized this project was way past my skill set.

So Kirk and I brought the chair to a furniture refinishing place I found on google. I'd given up on thinking there was anything to be salvaged when it came to the plywood and foam.

Just like the chair, the place that's refinishing it is definitely a find.

The guy (let's call him Dave) who helped us loved my chair. And he was like a furniture detective. We all presented clues on how we thought the seat was originally crafted, and judging from the fact that all four sides feature slits in the wood and multiple holes underneath, we determined that the seat had originally been woven, not upholstered.

So we narrowed it down to a weave. Then it was time to pick a material.

Dave had a kind of a lightening-bolt moment when he told us about this lady who'd seen a handbag made of seat belt material. She liked the idea so much that she had her kitchen chairs reupholstered with the stuff, and they looked fantastic.

I was sold. I like the idea that the material we chose is so incongruous.

So the seat of the chair will be woven with 2" black seat belt webbing. The chair's going to be refinished to its natural teak luster. Dave and his people are going to reinforce the legs and do other acts of magic to make this chair look as good or better than it did when it was made in 1969.

Then it was time to do some math. Dave crunched some numbers. Restoring the chair will cost me $496.

I've done my taxes, and I'm getting a bit of a return. So I'm sinking some of my money into this little project. Sometimes, I justified, it's okay to spare no expense.

I asked Dave if he needed a deposit. He said no, the chair was my deposit. Because he said that, even in its current state, the chair is worth a whole lot more than what I'll be paying to restore it.

As we were leaving, I told Dave that I bought the chair for 8.99 at a thrift store. I think, based on his reaction, his mind was a bit blown.

And four to six weeks from now, I'll pick up my new old chair. I can't wait to sit on the seat belts.

This is probably the least thrifty thing I've done in a long time, spending hundreds of dollars on a thrift store find. But I think it will be worth every penny.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Looking for something familiar.

Some days are all smiles.

Some just aren't.

When things aren't going well with the Right Now, when what should be connected is disconnected, where do you go?

I was just looking for the familiar. I was looking for some connection.

So I checked in on my kids' Facebook pages. Neither one of my kids is here right this minute, but I wanted a moment of connection.

Maybe 483 million people and I aren't quite so alone. That's how many people reference their Facebook page every day, according to the Baltimore Sun.

And Facebook is doing the IPO thing in May. Billions will be raised, purely on our need to look for something familiar, right this minute.

Again, I must interject that I remember vividly what is was like to merely have a phone on a wall connected to a cord when it came to connection.

Now, thanks to someone young enough to be my kid, I can find something familiar in the blink of an eye.

It's oddly comforting.

So when May comes around, maybe I'll dip my feet in the well. Maybe I'll invest in what's brought me closer to the familiar tonight, in its odd, makeshift, disconnected, cassette-tape kind of way.

Because when interesting times require creative, disconnected measures, there's always Facebook, especially when you're looking for the familiar.

And tonight, Mr. Zuckerberg, you're worth every penny.