Thursday, April 16, 2015

Thrifting for the Garden

Dad's old rain gauge 
Today we have a tutorial on gardening and thrift stores.  Yep, odd combo for sure but one that is oh so much fun.

I come at thrift store knowledge from two sources:  (A) I enjoy the whole digging for treasures.  (B) I was on the Board of Directors of Freedom House (Women and children’s domestic and sexual abuse shelter and services) when they owned a thrift shop.

Thrift stores have a treasure trove of things to use in your outdoor spaces.  Some are ready to use and others are for repurposing. 

The difference in stores:

Religious and mission owned stores:  They typically are in existence to funnel very inexpensive things to those who cannot afford more.  Any profit they receive goes to support their projects.  Their items are donated and usually priced the cheapest of any store you’ll visit.  Most of their items are not cleaned nor repaired; gems in the rough.

Philanthropic based stores:  The items are a little higher in quality and prices.  Their items are donated, priced reasonable and usually clean and somewhat repaired.  Some are locally owned and others are nationally large such as the Salvation Army stores.  Their profits usually support an organizational base but they funnel the majority to their mission. 

Wren house
Corporate for profit philanthropic based stores:  These vary a little from the above stores because they operate more like a corporation although their merchandise is donated.  Goodwill Industries falls into this category.  They actually do community service work but much of the profits go to the corporation’s operation.  Their items are usually clean, somewhat repaired and varied.  Their prices vary but tend to be the highest of the thrift stores especially if in larger towns.

Consignment stores:  They are privately owned and for profit.  Most are mom and pop enterprises.  They share the profit with those contributing.  They seldom carry clothes.  According to the business climate in the town, the prices are usually reasonable.  Items are usually clean, somewhat repaired and varied.

Used items and antique stores:  These are privately owned and for profit.  They are usually mom and pop enterprises.  They buy their items and price for profit.  According to their focus, their items may be primitive and in original state or they may be high end and restored.  Prices, quality and inventory vary hugely by location and focus.  If you’re looking for bargains, shop small town stores.

Robins love this.
Thrift stores typically restock on Mondays and the best time to “hunt” is Tuesday.  The worst time to visit is on weekends when families are shopping for necessities.  To find treasures, you must visit often because the inventory changes rapidly.  Some shoppers buy at thrift shops and then sell at flea markets and their own shops; these folks snap up things quickly, regularly and usually know quality.

If you are the creative sort, thrift stores are a treasure trove of things to repurpose into something else.   

Some of my thrift shop garden finds: 

My last batch of canna bulbs came from a Salvation Army store 
Gardening books 
Vases and flowerpots 
Hanging candleholders and lanterns
Statuary, gazing balls and birdhouses
Garden benches, tables and chairs
Tablecloths and garden flags
Baskets and artificial flowers

Things I wouldn’t buy:

Pillows and any fabric item that can’t be washed and dried.
Bird feeders unless you can disinfect them easily.
Anything with a motor unless you test and know what you’re doing
Old copper boiler that leaks (a good thing)

A word to the wise:

I let thrift shop things sit outside until I can clean them.  Boxes, packing and even the items can have roaches or other pesky vermin. 

Washing items in a mild bleach or Mr. Clean solution is prudent if it won’t be ruined.  Letting them dry in the sun helps.

Take cash when your shopping since some smaller operations don’t take credit or debit cards and some won’t accept checks. 

Feel free to give them more than they asked if they are a worthy cause.

Take plastic bags and newspapers in case you want to insure they ride home safely.  Some of the mission stores never have enough of either.  If you have an abundance, give them the extras. 

The old adage “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” certainly applies to thrift shopping.   Donate your extras or no longer needed items to a favorite thrift store.  Shop the stores for new treasures.  It’s an act that benefits both the giver and the receiver.

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