Some of us just love our deals: estate sales, flea markets, garage sales, thrift stores, antique malls = COUNT ME IN! When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is check out the local flea market and antique mall. Why? Because I love learning about what people collect in different regions by what they’re getting rid of; in Las Vegas is was mostly plastic tchotchkes with Pepsi Cola and Elvis stamped on them, in Haddonfield, NJ it was largely china and glassware. Inevitably I end up buying something to commemorate my trip, and hence my collection of very rusty door hinges and door plates that no longer work, but are interesting to look at. This is all to say, I am one of you: I love getting a deal, I thrive in the hunt of the find, and I don’t care if I’m buying something someone else has previously used. Woo-hoo for buying used and saving mother earth in the process.

Okay, so now that that’s done and we’re all planning our next Saturday garage sale crawl, let’s talk about some of the negatives that arise from these places AKA clutter.

Here are three common traps when thrifting:

It’s Desirable Because of its Price, Not its Utility. Getting something for a deal can distract us from seeing the true value of the object in terms of utility. Yes, that cashmere sweater was only 5 bucks and has no holes or pills, but we live in Los Angeles. How often is it cold enough to wear cashmere, or how often are you traveling to places where and when it’s cold enough to wear it?

“It Wasn’t What I Was Looking For, but I Have to Have It!” I hear this all the time when I’m in line at the makeshift cash register, and to be honest, I’ve said it myself. Part of the fun of estate sales, flea markets, and the like, is that you never know exactly what you’re going to find, right? I love finding things I never knew existed, like a wall vase designed for holding old matches. When I happen upon these things, I can’t help myself, I have to buy them. I disregard all reason, such as the fact that I actively avoid using matches for fear of lighting my entire finger on fire or not. #longstemlightersforlife

“I can fix this.” But can you? I know we like to think we’re super handy. Pinterest has made many of us believe we can whip up an upholstered headboard in minutes, but this confidence shouldn’t distract you from the reality of how broken something may be. Perhaps you’re one of those people who thinks they’ll take it to the tailors or the electrician and they’ll fix it. Let’s be real: 1. have you ever taken anything to the tailors (you’re mom taking it doesn’t count)? and 2. do you have time to find a good electrician and take your broken lamp to them and pick it up next week? On top of all this: are you willing to pay money to fix your once sweet-deal of a ripped ballgown?

So how can you make the most of your time thrifting without coming home with a load of crap, ahem, I mean jewels?

Think utility. A favorite mantra of mine is: “If I don’t have it, I don’t need it.” When it comes to things like estate sales, if I happen upon an armchair I just adore, I consider where it’s going to go. It might look great in this grand old mansion, but once it gets to my seventies apartment, it may stick out like a sore thumb. On the other hand, if I’ve been needing a chair to fit in the corner of my living room, it might just do the trick, and F$&* it fitting in with the seventies architecture. Is this new object actually going be useful or just a nightmare the next time you move? Have you made do without it? Was it unbearable? Mostly like, no, in which case–next!!!

One Thing In, One Thing Out. I have a friend who loves her vintage clothing, and hands down, I love her wardrobe too. And while she is constantly on the hunt for the next amazing printed coat, she’s also continually purging her closet and getting rid of things she no longer wears. I love her perspective of clothing: if it’s no longer bringing her excitement, it’s time to send it back into the world for another fashionista to appreciate. Every time you bring something new into the home, take one thing out. If you want to get really fancy, try discarding the same type of object you are bringing in (such as a pair of shoes for shoes).

Set a Number. Give yourself a number, either in dollar amount or quantity of objects you are allowed to purchase on your thrifting excursions. Now, this might not solve the avoiding clutter problem (sometimes one dollar can go a loonnnggg way in the buttons and bead bowls), so choose your number and value system wisely.

Unlike shopping at a typical store, with thrifting you never know just what you’ll find, which is part of the fun, as well as part of its downfall. I typically encourage people to go to the mall or grocery store with a list. This way you’re not purchasing on a whim, saving yourself time and money. With thrifting, the joy should be in the activity, like a said earlier, the thrill of the hunt. If you’re not enjoying the experience, get out of there! Be wise in your purchases, and remember that just because you see something intriguing and unexpected you don’t have to buy it, perhaps snap a quick photo of it instead and put it on Instagram for the world to appreciate.


Image via Huffington Post.

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