Friday, September 24, 2010

Secondhand finds can be great problem solvers

Shopping secondhand is more than just a quest for inexpensive objects. If you focus on price alone, you could end up with a mishmash of goods that clutters your life and even strains your budget. But careful, thrift-focused shopping can help you organize and beautify your life while stretching your money.

Control your home’s clutter: If you want to make the most of thrifted finds, evaluate your home to identify ways you want to improve the livability of your space. Then, when you shop, look at everyday items with fresh eyes, and you may find unusual ways to enhance your home.

For example, if your entryway is constantly awash in a sea of junk mail, hats and gloves, coats, book bags, and serves as a repository for all those things that don’t have a permanent home, the clutter becomes a source of stress and makes it difficult for you to find the items you need. You could conquer the clutter by buying bins, racks, and hooks at a home improvement store. Better yet, you can look for thrifted solutions to creatively resolve your entryway problems. Sturdy fruit crates outfitted with casters can hold recyclables, winter gear, or pet supplies. Old doorknobs mounted on a piece of reclaimed lumber can become coat hooks. Rimmed cookie sheets lined with smooth stones can serve as boot trays. A piece of vintage pottery or small basket can hold keys or loose change.

When you look for secondhand items to repurpose, choose objects you will truly enjoy having in your home. Such carefully chosen, reused pieces can add flair to all your living spaces. A silver tray can hold your remotes on your coffee table, serve as a place for outgoing mail, or become a place to set your houseplants. A bongo drum or a stack of vintage suitcases can become a side table. A hobnail cake stand on your countertop can keep readily-used spices close at hand.

You can employ similar strategies to hold craft supplies, sports gear, small toys, or anything else that tends to float around your house. In my home, I use retro canisters I scored for $1 at a thrift store to hold tiny pieces for our wooden train set. Secondhand wooden bowls corral all the found treasures—feathers, shiny rocks, pinecones—my children insist should come indoors. An old wooden toolbox organizes first aid supplies and medicine.

Dress up your wardrobe: Secondhand finds can punch up a tired or uninspiring wardrobe, too. A thrifted brooch or silk scarf can infuse new life into an old jacket. A splashy tie can update a classic wool suit. With a little creativity and some DIY skill, you can shorten a secondhand skirt, transform a formal dress into a sassy cocktail dress, or embellish a plain t-shirt with embroidered flowers.

Prepare for the holidays: Save yourself the hassle of last-minute shopping and big credit card bills by scouring secondhand stores for items that can become distinctive gifts. A dozen chocolate chip cookies or cupcakes are instantly elevated to gift status when they’re presented on a piece of thrifted china. Pretty teapots (that no longer have their lids), gravy boats, and small silver cups make lovely vessels for flower arrangements. A thrifted flower pot scrubbed clean can hold new gloves and seeds for a gardener. Or you may find a piece of art or unusual collectible that suits someone on your holiday gift list.

Whenever you shop secondhand, look for items that have the potential to make your life better. Look past their obvious uses and consider their possibilities. You never know what useful treasures you’ll discover.

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