Monday, January 23, 2017


A few days ago, as I got out of my car at the dog park I realized the couple walking by with a black lab were some people I do not care for. Yes, there are some! I ducked my head and walked s-l-o-w-l-y around the car, hoping they would keep going and not see me. (Actually, it worked. Possibly they don’t care much for me either and were doing the same thing!) As I neared the back of the car, I swear I heard a voice in my ear say, “Here, this will make you feel better.” And there at my feet I saw this.

Another dollar bill, just waiting for me! When this happened last month it made me search back through my archives for great stuff I've found for a buck. But this time, what immediately came to mind was the time I bought four very nice sweaters (including a couple of cashmeres) for a dollar. 

The 25¢ cashmere sweater became the yardstick by which I measure how good a deal I'm getting. A few days later I actually found a quarter, and I was just as excited as with the dollar.

Out came my trusty spreadsheet! Thrifters can really rock a quarter, can't we? Last year I spent $13.25 in quarters…that’s 53 items! And what a variety of stuff! One quarter went for a bunch of freshly picked roses. There were sewing notions, like a pair of decent scissors, a bag of 25 spools of thread (yes, thread for a penny each!), a leather thimble that I've used a lot, 

a brand new package of 200 glass-head pins. There were gifts for friends and family – Linda got the Ralph Lauren shirt, Judy the vintage poodle!

There were things to resell – the vintage clothespin bag turned 25¢ into $12,

and the poodle pillowcases (two for a quarter!) made over $25.

I went to the theatre Friday night wearing my 25¢ linen slacks. Rest assured I have ironed them since this picture was taken!

Perhaps the most amazing buy was the linen & wool jacket still sporting this price tag:

And one of my very favorites was Larry the Bookend Dog.

It’s all out there if you just keep showing up. People sometimes tell me they don’t have time to go garaging, and maybe they don’t. But often those are the same people who do have time to go to malls, and watch television. Just sayin’!

If you read the story of finding the earlier dollar bill at the park, you may remember that I had lost an earring there, and someone found it and pinned it to the notice board. A couple of days after finding this latest dollar, I noticed something odd in the mud, and it was an earring! So I pinned it to the board. And now I'm wondering if the lady who lost that one will retrieve it – and find a dollar on the ground to boot!

Monday, January 9, 2017


Three happy women, out for a good time on a Friday morning. Wearing three different hats, but all in shades of purple. (What are the odds…) Three - yes three! – January estate sales, woo hoo. And would you believe I bought three things and spent three dollars?
If three is an auspicious number then 2017 is off to a good start.

The sales were spread across Salem, in three different neighborhoods. In the summer we’re more likely to stick close to home since there are  more sales than we can get to, but winter sales give us a chance to see neighborhoods we otherwise would never visit. At the first sale the vendor told us this was the second of three sales she is having to liquidate this estate. I would never have guessed she’d already sold a weekend’s worth last month, there was so much stuff. Must have been a daunting task when she first started. It was a rather odd conglomeration of items (lots of dishes, not much other stuff), and the only thing that appealed to me was this vintage Melmac sugar bowl.

It joins the other three on my bathroom counter (including its twin in turquoise) and is going to shelter the cotton balls. (So that threesome is now a quartet.)

Back to the car, drive drive drive, second sale. Found a pair of red earrings among the jewelry scattered on the coffee table in the living room.

I realized I didn’t have any in red, and really, everyone needs red earrings, right? After all, think how fun they will be with my red glasses. (I also have blue, green. brown, caramel, and mauve glasses. Yes, I went hogwild last year after I found these new-old-stock frames on Etsy. You should get some too.)

Then KK picked something up and turned to me with a smile. “Isn’t this cute?” she said, and handed me a small plate.

Exactly like my favorite dessert plate that I found at another estate sale last February. So now I have two. When will I find number three?

Back to the car, drive drive drive, over the river if not through the woods to the third sale. Where I struck out, but wasn’t surprised. It was stuff that had belonged to an antique mall owner and not your usual estate sale fodder. But two out of three isn’t bad, right?

Can't remember what all Judy found, but KK spotted something pretty darned good. I may have mentioned that she is a painter and adept at recognizing real art. I think it was the middle sale where she picked up a framed picture almost as soon as we walked in the house. I asked if it was original and she said, “Ohhhh, yes.” Four dollars later it was hers. Later in the day Judy & I received an email from her.
You know the $4.00 painting I got from the one estate sale? It's an original oil on board by American artist S. Jerome Hoxie 1895 - 1981. He did most of his living in Mystic Connecticut. Ebay has one of his landscapes for $299.00. Wow! I don't want to sell it, I love it! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Stats for 2016

Every year I amuse myself by how much I look forward to writing this post. There’s something so darned satisfying in playing with my garaging spreadsheet. Sorting by categories, by how much I paid, or by how much I estimate various items would have cost in a store, and then comparing this year to others…I just love it! Back when I was first learning to use Excel I would never have guessed what a fun toy it could be.

This year’s bottom line? I spent $595 on items I estimated would cost a retail shopper almost $11,000. A bit more than last year, but only about half of 2014’s total.

Ouch, you might be saying, almost $600 on a hobby! Isn’t that a chunk of change? I suppose it depends on how you look at it. Spread out over the year, that’s about $50 a month that bought me a heckuva lot of fun. I’m trying to think of some other weekly activity my friends and I could do and what it might cost. A weekly movie? At least ten bucks each and we won't talk about what they charge for refreshments in those places. A regular girls’ night out for drinks or dinner? You know that would add up, especially the drinks part!

But you could say my year’s worth of fun cost me only about $25. That’s because I resold items to the tune of $570 in profit. Most were pretty small sales, though if you look at percentages some were impressive. Like the 50¢ pair of poodle pillowcases

that cleared almost $24 – about a 5000% profit!

The biggest sale this year was the Hudson Bay Company blanket that so many of you loved. (As did our Zoe.) 

It cleared nearly $200, and went to a lady in Virginia who was thrilled to get it (and considered it a good bargain to boot). It's so nice when everyone goes away happy.
Going back to the spreadsheet, I see that one of my big categories of spending this year was fodder for upcycling. I bought 37 pieces for about $29. Keeping the individual prices that low encourages me to be bold in how I use things. And it’s so much fun to just play! I love this ruana made from a dollar fabric score and a pair of Brazil Roxx jeans I was given. 

Another almost-finished piece is a black boiled wool vest I got back in May 

that I've combined with a shirt KK found at the Goodwill bins. 

(Keep an eye out for my upcoming Etsy shop, which will have upcycles I've made and no doubt a few choice vintage items. I'll keep you posted on that venture!)

Clothing was by far the most lucrative category in 2016. For every dollar I spent on clothing for me and the hubster, I would have spent over $45 in a store. The big winners were those cashmere sweaters from the church rummage sale that I discovered had retailed for about $500 each. 

They are wonderful sweaters, cozy and very well made. Worth $500 each? That’s really hard for me to imagine…but well worth the $2 each I splurged on them. I think it would be safe to say that if you only shopped on driveways for one thing, clothing would be a worthwhile choice. Which is a little ironic, because for years I never looked at yard sale clothing. I'm not an average size and I assumed I would never find anything that fit. Boy, was I wrong about that! And now, with upcycling, I can embiggen or smallify and make even more stuff fit.

A close second would be household goods. All that practical stuff that we use every day. It's lovely to have high quality items that you can use without worry because the price was so good. Real linen tea towels and napkins, hand embroidered pillow cases, 

a lead crystal bottle stopper that doubles as a citrus juicer. I brought home 53 items ranging from fireplace matches to a vintage light fixture from a funeral home for a total of $82, and another 33 kitchen items for $36. The fifty-cent Dansk wine decanter is worth more that I paid for everything.

The knife steel gets used every day. And the item I never hope to use but I'm glad I found? Those really good bandaids I paid a quarter for!

I was darned restrained in the décor department – only 17 pieces that cost $33. (Okay, okay, there might have been a few more that ended up in the donations pile…) I still feel a huge smile on my face whenever I look at the Steinbach music box with the zither player and ankle-slapping folk dancer.

Oddly, my favorite piece of décor this year did not make it into the blog when I bought it. I found it at the same sale as the Hudson Bay blanket, for a similarly astonishing price. A big bundle of heavily embroidered fabric encased in one of those zippered bags that bedspreads come in. “Oh, that’s a kimono,” the lady told me. “It’s in pieces. I never got around to the project I had planned for it, and by now I know I never will.” We agreed on $7, and off I went with the kimono pieces and the blanket. This was just days before I left on a 10-day trip with a friend. I was so busy getting ready I did not even open the kimono’s bag and look at what I had bought. It was close to a month later before I got around to it, and I was astonished.

Instead of being cut up or in a dozen pieces as I had imagined, all that had been done was to detach the sleeves and undo the hem. I think it is a wedding kimono, uchikake (but if anyone can tell me more, please do!). My husband fell in love with it, and it was a straightforward repair job (albeit all by hand) to sew the pieces back together. Now it hangs magnificently on our living room wall.

I mentioned the donations pile. Sigh. Every year I hope to see the donations category absolutely empty, that I had chosen so well all year long I was able to keep everything. Alas, 2016 was not that year. Thirty nine items went off to the thrift store, a total expenditure of $31.95. Most of it was movies I didn’t want to watch again, clothes that turned out not to fit, upcycling fodder I changed my mind about. The most expensive item was $5. 

Five dollars! Oh wait, that’s not a terribly large sum. Less than a lunch. And the donations all went to the thrift store that supports the kitty rescue from which we got Millie. Okay, I feel better now!

As always happens when I look at my spreadsheet, it triggers so many happy memories from the year – and from years past. Hanging out with good friends, talking to interesting people, seeing homes and neighborhoods we would never otherwise get to visit. It was a very good year. 

In fact, they all are!
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