a peek inside the fishbowl

17 Apr, 2008

A new kind of shopping challenge

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Thrifty is nifty|Oh! Things!

second hand shopping challengeIt’s SPRING. And it’s garbage day. As I walked the girls to school I couldn’t help seeing what people were all throwing out. It seems a lot of us get the spring cleanout bug. I have caught it myself. I brought a stuffed garbage bag, a smaller bag and a box full of family castoffs to the Salvation Army store yesterday. It felt GREAT. We have way too much stuff around here, and no place to put it. I am trying to pare it all down. And it’s hard.

Conversely, I was recently commiserating with a neighbour recently about our shared craving to shop. This might seem odd, coming from me (especially given the terms of the recent shopping embargo and my urge to purge) but it’s totally true. Spring is in the air and I’m totally lusting for stuff. Is it the sun, the promise of warm weather, what? Regardless of the reason, something has shifted and it’s been tough to withstand. I bought a new cap awhile back. And Mark bought a new bike a couple of weeks ago. I’ve bought some new clothes… But I’m going to try to put an end to the spree and try to satisfy that craving with a trip to the thrift store instead. And by THRIFT I mean second-hand.

Care to join me?

Shopping at a second-hand store is a challenge. You don’t just saunter in, pick something up and leave. Oh no. That’s for wimps. Here you have to dig (sometimes literally), you search, you sort, and sometimes – if you are very very lucky – you find something good, but most of the time you don’t.

Some folks wouldn’t be caught dead in a place like this because they think (a) the clothes have been stripped off bodies at the city morgue or (b) they’re going to catch cooties or something or (c) they’re caving to the stigma that second-hand shops are domain of the poor and no one else is allowed to shop there. Sadly, there are a lot of people who can’t afford to shop anywhere else, that’s true, but I look at it this way: I give tons of stuff away to second-hand shops to resell so my conscience is clear. Besides, this is the kind of shopping that’s actually good for the environment. By not buying new I’ve saved some cash AND saved something from going into the landfill. Most of the things I’ve bought in the past have been totally cool and rare and fun, things that I wouldn’t find new even if I tried:

i.e. plates,  wooden spoonsMr. Mugs memorabilia, vintage coffee/teapotvintage party noisemakers,
Children’s booksFinger puppetsWooden checkersplaying cards (and these ones), records, a bowling pin, (from a yard sale: a wooden doll), more stuffS& P shakersgames …

(Although the list above might seem like a lot, I will say that I am trying to be careful about what we accumulate around here because our living space is so limited.)

There are a lot of smart, nay, SKILLED second-hand shoppers out there who are great at unearthing wonderful one-of-a kind finds (*this is me, batting my eyes over in Marla’s direction*) and I was wondering if anyone wanted to make a challenge out of it.

This is your opportunity to brag about your amazing find and help me show the non-believers that there are good things to be found.

Here’s the what’s what:

Venture forth to your favourite second-hand or consignment store(s). If you find something truly awesome, post it to your blog, come back and let us know in the comments section of this post. Or if you’re blogless you can just describe your item in the comments of this post. Don’t forget to tell us the price you paid and where you bought it. You don’t have to live in Ottawa to play along BUT your item has to be a new (by new I meant recent) purchase of something in a second-hand store, not a link to something you bought previously.

There’s no prize. Um, let’s just say you’re shopping for your own prize and perhaps we can all then take a vote and talk about who’s find was the best. There’s no specific category of ‘thing’ you need to be looking for but it has to be wonderful and useful and beautiful to you, whether it’s a a wall-hanging, some vintage wallpaper, a pair of jeans, a toy … whatever.

The goal here is to open more people to the idea of shopping second-hand, to showcase what kind of stuff is out there, but also remind people to donate their goods instead of pitching them in the garbage.

How about everyone who participates come back here by May 3rd for a little show and tell?

So who’s in?

23 Responses to "A new kind of shopping challenge"

1 | Miss Vicky

April 17th, 2008 at 8:46 am


Well, I went by Value Village yesterday to pick up some items for this weekend’s Rock out with your Geek Out costume Party. One piece has been re-purposed for the Webgeek’s costume, and a pic of that will definitely be posted on the blog after Saturday’s bash (at the Elmdale Tavern… oh yeah, we’ll be revealing our inner geeks to the whole ‘hood).

Also got an ultra-cute jean jacket for WeeG. No good scores on the toys or books, unfortunately.

In the spirit of your post, however, I will visit another second-hand store before May 3 and see what else I can find!

2 | andrea

April 17th, 2008 at 8:50 am


btw which location of ValVill do you frequent Miss Vicky? Related: did you know that ONS moved again? I think they’re in the City Centre now but I’m not sure…

3 | Lala

April 17th, 2008 at 8:59 am


Great Idea!
I may or may not get around to participating, shopping time is limited for me, but I have to chronicle past scores, just for reference sake.
1. Saint Vinnie’s yielded a short white rabbit fur jacket, bought for Halloween “70’s Barbie Hooker” costume. End use- wore to my own March wedding 2004.
2. $10 old skool pram, again SVP, provided months of easly rockable, outdoor sleeping quarters for my now teenage boy, oh man, the bounce on that thing was fantastic.
It’s good to look back.

4 | Chantal

April 17th, 2008 at 9:02 am


I will do my best (me loves second hand shopping, got some dandy maternity clothes at VV last time I was preggy).

5 | J.

April 17th, 2008 at 9:57 am


I’m 100% in. I love good reasons to shop at second hand stores. A. hates it, because I bring home stuff. But it’s good stuff I tell him.. I’d love to participate in this ‘challenge’.

6 | Caroline

April 17th, 2008 at 10:42 am


I went for a walk down Merivale last week and the St. Richard’s Church was having it’s Nearly New afternoon (Thursday). I got an absolutely beautiful pearl studded clutch purse from the 60’s for $2.00 and an Eaton’s box with five lace and linen untouched hankies, probably from the fifties, each folded into a different shape – for $2.00 for all five. They had a book room that called my name but I left with my prizes and kept walking.

7 | tali

April 17th, 2008 at 11:08 am


ONS is in the city centre, but it’s a little bit…umm, lacking. Also, they have a wierd pricing system I have yet to figure out. I live nearby, so I could go often, but have only been twice.

8 | franticallysimple

April 17th, 2008 at 12:04 pm


I’m in. This should be fun!

9 | Marla

April 17th, 2008 at 1:52 pm


Of course I’m in !

I’ll report back soon via the Domestic Vernacular. I’ve been working on a post about “stuff”.

We’ve just done a cosmetic reno of our basement, and it’s to house what collections we already have – not an excuse to buy a new room. BUT – and you know me – I spent the equivalent of a full-time job trying to procure as much as I could second-hand, and sadly, it didn’t work out as well as I wanted to. Due to some pre-existing conditions, we had to go new in many cases. Boo! But I tried.

But, I’m spending the day now waiting to hear with baited breath whether this chair is still available:


…because yesterday we bought the matching two-seater sofa at an antique store on Queen West. $325 tax in, (and my $40 delivery guy) seemed reasonable, after all – across the street from Arcadia antiques and in my own neighbourhood, similar Danish Modern sofas are $795-1195, and I was on my way to IKEA to see what was hanging around in their “as-is” section that we could afford. So, I thought that in this case, it’s better to spend $365 on a good piece of real furniture with resale value and style up the wazoo, than to spend $179 plus $50 delivery, plus both taxes on a piece of crap foam sofa that won’t last the 40 years that this piece already has.

So I can’t believe that I just came across the matching chair! It must be fate!

10 | Marla

April 17th, 2008 at 1:54 pm


…and I was just reminded that we were tempted to buy a second-hand pony last week. THAT would have been awesome! Would I win if I’d bought a second-hand pony?

11 | porter

April 17th, 2008 at 10:15 pm


I probably won’t participate in this challenge simply because I don’t want to be encouraged to spend any money… I’m kinda sick at how much the p double oh elle is going to cost us. That said, I do enjoy browsing at the local thrift shops especially for tea cups and saucers. I have never bought clothing for myself at a thrift shop before..perhaps I should start looking.

12 | DaniGirl

April 18th, 2008 at 8:22 am


Is something I bought two weeks ago too late (early?) for the challenge? I don’t do a much second-hand shopping as I could/should, except when it comes to baby gear. I just bought Lucas three spring outfits for less than $10 total yesterday at Boomerang kids.

Oooh, and garage-sale season is just around the corner. I loves me some garage sales!!

13 | smothermother

April 18th, 2008 at 1:11 pm


oooh, great challenege. My best VV buy was a fulling lined long red wool winter coat with fur trim from the 40s. Got it for $12.50, and I love it to bits. Hmmm, what should I look for this time…

15 | Sheila D

April 21st, 2008 at 3:58 pm


I scored several bags of fake fruits and veggies (to go with my collection) in a consignment shop called Treasures in Richmond Hill a few weeks ago. They look lovely displayed in a big painted ceramic bowl. ;-) But the best was a new book of “The Broons: Scotland’s Happy Family” for $1. I used to read The Broons comics in my Dad’s Sunday Post newspaper when I was a kid, never realizing that “The Broons” was the Scottish rendition of “The Browns”. Doh!

16 | kc

April 21st, 2008 at 10:04 pm


Well my best buy ever was a REAL white with stripes Hudson Bay blanket for $9.99. That was a couple of years ago, still shopping to see if I can top that one. LOVE second hand, garage sales, church bazaars shopping, really helps the budget go the extra distance.

17 | Mikki

April 24th, 2008 at 8:08 am



This article seemed right up your alley, and it reinforces the buy “vintage” ideal.

18 | andrea

May 1st, 2008 at 8:56 am


How is everyone doing?
I picked up a few things yesterday and am in the process of transforming one of them. (!)Remember May 3 is the deadline!

19 | Marla

May 2nd, 2008 at 1:27 pm


I took pictures, and hope to post tonight. I done good – but in a way I didn’t think I would.

(went for the rhyme instead of the grammar there.)

20 | Postcards from the Mothership » Second-hand show and tell

May 3rd, 2008 at 7:37 am


[…] Andrea over in the fishbowl is hosting a little second-hand show and tell carnival. (She’s endlessly creative and clever, that one!) She often blogs about the cool stuff she finds, either in second-hand stores or even on the street, and she’s invited us to play along: The goal here is to open more people to the idea of shopping second-hand, to showcase what kind of stuff is out there, but also remind people to donate their goods instead of pitching them in the garbage. […]

22 | a peek inside the fish bowl

May 3rd, 2008 at 9:43 am


[…] So here’s what I found for the Fishbowl Second-hand Show ‘n Tell. […]

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