The Early Bird vs. If It’s Meant To Be…

After hitting my usual thrift spots this weekend I was driving home and I wondered which old standby was a more pertinent quote – in regards to thrifting.

A) Does the early bird truly get the worm?
B) If you’re meant to find something, does it find you?

Will it be sitting on that shelf waiting for you? Some weekends I wake up at 8am and I’m usually prowling the stores as they’re opening the doors. Other weekends, I sleep until noon and am haunting the stores until they’re giving me the eye and locking up for the night. I pondered this because, I’ve found no discernable correlation between the times I go thrifting and the times I find the good stuff. I’ve stumbled across great finds at all hours of the day. Frankly, a more true statement would be that every thrifter has had outings where they’re junk skunked.

Sure, you can seek insider information about each store. You can fine tune your outings to possibly increase the chances of finding some treasures. Because with that information you’d know when a store stocks their shelves, and at what hours of the day, or what days of the week. But even i’m not that crazy. That’s a lot of diligent work and data to process and retain, just in hope of finding something.

After finding some really great stuff this weekend at all hours of the day, I’m more inclined to go with the latter quote; “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen.” The item will find you. So don’t worry about your hunting process in terms of when. Because if you do, the junk hunting anxiety will get the best of you. Not to mention (as I’ve said before) you’ll probably end up on Hoarders. Instead, it’s better to focus your energy on things like current trends, growing trends, knowledge of an item genre you’re unfamiliar with, or just going in with your eyes open, more relaxed, able to lock in that creative mindset that helps you see value and beauty in an object that someone else, clearly did not.

Featured image by Tom Stack. See more of his awesome work here.

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How To Clean Your Thrift Finds

I’ve been working on this post for quite some time now. I’ll probably be adding to it in the future when other item quandaries come about. It’s a helpful aggregation of insider tips and hints about how to clean and care for the items you pick up on your thrifting adventures – Cheers!

You Just Bought: Used CD, DVD, Glass Frame, etc.

Problem: Residual sticker goo from price tags. It’s unsightly, annoying, and the OCD in me needs to get it off of there.

Solution: Goo Gone or (my personal favorite) Lift Off Tape Remover. Both items are pretty nasty chemical-wise, but these two definitely work the best and the fastest. A little bottle goes a long way. Spray a bit onto the gooey area and let it sit for a couple of minutes then with some gentle rubbing it should swipe perfectly clean.

You Just Bought: DUSTY Antiques (Hard wood Furniture, Silverware, Collectibles).

Problem: You want the dust & dirt off. You want the original glory of the item to show through.

Solution: To restore & clean an antique is to get it back as close to original as feasible. Back in the day, there was no such thing as polyurethane, so antique restoration can’t include coating an antique with plastic and have it be the same as original.

RULE OF THUMB: If you don’t need to clean it, then don’t. Most old collectibles are sought FOR the tarnished and beat up look. These items ooze with character and tell a visual story. I personally just use a barely moist cotton cloth to gently clean and dry the items I find, 99% of the time.

– When cleaning old wood furniture, use mild cleaners such as Murphy’s Oil Soap or Prelude.

– When cleaning old toys or antique signage use a clean rag, warm water with a tiny bit of natural or plant-based soap and be sure to dry it thoroughly to prevent further oxidation or corrosion.

– When cleaning antique silverware it’s a step by step process best shown here.

TIP: If there is soil or stains that can not be cleaned by a gentle washing, consult an antique expert before using any type of metal cleaner on your antique. Further cleaning may be possible once the type of metal and value of the item has been determined.

You Just Bought: Old clothing / vintage garments.

Problem: Someone wore them or used them before you. They’re lovely and delicate. But you want them clean.

Solution: If the item is cotton-based such as an old t-shirt or jeans, I just toss them in with a like color and use a gentle natural detergent and put it on the gentle cycle. For a more in-depth look at how to clean some trickier fabrics such as vintage lace, linens, and fabrics, this article here is great.

You Just Bought: Wool Scarf, Blanket or Jacket.

Problem: It’s old but cool, kind of itchy, smells vaguely like an animal shelter.

Solution: If it’s a jacket or cardigan, I usually take it to my local (eco-friendly) dry cleaners. They can get almost anything looking (and smelling) brand new for relatively cheap, less than $10 a garment. “If you can’t beat ’em, re-post ’em.” So here’s a more thorough article on how to care and store various wool garments.

You Just Bought: USED Vinyl Records

Problem: Vinyl is near and dear to audiophiles and collectors like myself. Whenever I move, my collection has been personally moved by myself and rode in the car with me, as if they were my own children. Some vinyl records can be 50 (or more) years old  by now. That means decades of dust, dirt, weather and stacked pile compression have most likely pressed grit into your beloved grooves.

Solution: After I thrift or buy any used vinyl, I take them home and GENTLY give them a once-over with a barely wet cloth, warm water and dry them. One commonly used item that I own is a record brush. Just static alone can attract a lot of dust and icky stuff to your records. I give each record a pass with it before it hits the player and after when it’s about to return to it’s casing. Another way to protect your records are to store them all in the clear vinyl sleeves and to replace the inner paper sleeves. These help keep them fresh, protected and looks pretty nice too. I purchase all my vinyl supplies bulk online here.

You Just Bought: A USED Turntable

Problem: It’s dusty, it’s mod, all the knobs and components are intact  – but does it still work?

Solution: Having recently taken a gamble on a really neat turntable, which I chronicled in a recent post here, I learned that as long as you can get the turntable for a good price, that the most important components on a turntable are replaceable and are fairly cheap to have installed. The two main things you want to have replaced on any turntable is the needle/cartridge (every 2-5 years minimum) depending on the frequency of use. Cartridges can range anywhere from $15 up to thousands. The other component to replace and have professionally calibrated is the belt. This is the heart and drivetrain of any turntable. These wear out and dry out just like the belts on your car or a common rubber band might. Turntable belts range from anywhere from $15 up to hundreds.

You Just Bought: A Used Couch, Sofa, Chair, etc.

Problem: It’s perfect, it’s beautiful, but it’s been someone else’s.

Solution: Personally, I usually just vacuum and Febreze the hell out of used soft furniture items when I acquire them. But I’ve recently found a greener option. A DIY way to make a safer (and cheaper) version of Febreze here.

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More Design Inspiration

Another quick post about some more design inpired snapshots I’ve peeped while out and about. Maybe it’s just my personal preference, but I love that no-frills, bold-as-heck packaging from the 60’s & 70’s. Those fonts, that script, the illustrations. How cute is that little holiday elf guy logo? The only things I actually bought in this set are the flashcards and the blank place cards. I bought them thinking that I’m always talking to thrift store managers and resellers, yet I never have a business card to give them. So, logically I figured “Why don’t I find something in a thift store to print or letterpress them on, DIY-style, to give out as my business card.” Flashcards and invitations make perfect stock for them. So there you have it. Stay tuned.

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Mom’s Finds

HEY PALS, I’M BAAAACK! The holidays usually take a rough toll on my blog posting frequency, but fret no more – for here’s a few sparkly fresh batches of THINGS I FOUND (at the thrift store).

Being home meant spending some time with the family and seeing MOM. She’s the one to thank for my resourcefulness, street smarts and she’s responsible for introducing me to thrift stores at a young age. I found her those 2 Berggren Trayner pieces for her ever-growing collection of his stuff (shown above). The other pics are stuff SHE picked up on a joint thrifting venture over the holiday weekend. She scooped that odd but beautiful handmade vase. It has a really cool finish on it with a bunch of changing colors, the photos truly don’t do it justice! My guess is it’s probably been Raku fired. She’s got a good eye for photo stuff too. All I can say is Austin Gullixson now has some in-town competition regarding vintage Polaroid stuff now, watch it A-Gux! All of these finds were $2.99 or less.

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Design Inspiration On A Snowy Day


The designer in me is always spotting vintage graphic gems in the thrift stores. On a snowy hibernation day like this, when i’m glued to my computer designing stuff they come in handy. They can be found on almost anything. I have an soft spot for the ones I find on vintage hardware and packaging goods.

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ReadyMade Magazine “Gets It”

Another great and quick article about thrifting your holiday gifts on ReadyMade Online, check it out here. I should note that ReadyMade is one of the 2 print subscriptions I still militantly swear by. Hell, give them a subscription to ReadyMade AND a thrifted item, double whammy.

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Bargaining at a Thrift Store

AUDIBLE GASP! That’s right folks, I haggled (at the thrift store). It should also be noted that I also really love saying the word haggled.

Having opposed most forms of haggling at thrift stores in some previous posts, I feel I must now clarify. There’s always a time and a place for a good haggle and this was one of them: You see, my overly-technological-friendly friend Mitch has a few vinyl records but no turntable to play them on (what a chump right?), so with his birthday approaching I figured I can thrift him a turntable as a gift. I see turntables quite often and knew I’d come across one sooner or later. Fast forward to two months later (I know, i’m a bad friend!) I finally find one at a local thrift haunt of mine (pictured above). It’s beautiful, in really great shape, everything appears intact but the store wanted $20 for it. No dice. Too many variables were at play here. Sure, it was in excellent shape, but I didn’t know if it actually worked, if the needle was decent, if it needed a new belt, etc. So I did what any good haggler would do. I approached the woman who I knew was either an owner or who ran the place, told her my worries about the variables and she accepted my offer of $10 flat. BAM.

Ended up taking it in for a visit to Jerry Raskin’s Needle Doctor just to be sure everything was in tip-top shape. Threw on a new needle and belt on it for a grand total of $43 invested altogether. HAPPY BIRTHDAY (and now Christmas) MITCH! Not too shabby.

In North America (especially the Midwest) I feel haggling is a lost art. We’re way too timid. It’s partially why I feel shows like American Pickers and Pawn Stars are enjoying so much success – people inherently love a good haggle. Maybe we feel it’s rude or maybe it’s just the whole “Minnesota Nice” effect that blocks it from happening more often. The best and most universal piece of advice I give out is “it never hurts to ask.”

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