What $20 at the Thrift Store Can Buy: The Minimalist vs The Maximalist CategoriesLet's Wander!

What $20 at the Thrift Store Can Buy: The Minimalist vs The Maximalist

This is the tale of two friends who went into a thrift store together but had very different experiences and emerged with very different sized bags. One of us, that would be me, is a maximalist.  I absolutely love the hunt for pretty stuff at great prices. The other of us, Camille, is a minimalist.

During a business retreat to Hilton Head Island in South Carolina last fall, Camille and I decided to undertake a fun experiment. Alcohol was involved. Camille claims she doesn’t drink, that I am a bad influence, but she can’t fool me, she loves happy hour as much as I do, and really great ideas have happened at this magic hour. Over a glass of wine, we hatched a plan to go to my favorite local thrift store, each with a budget of only $20 and then compare the results. I looked upon it as a challenge. The outcome was hilarious and a perfect reflection of our personalities and perspective on life.

I LOVE thrift stores. It isn’t that I NEED to shop thrifty it is that I WANT to. It is not a matter of affordability of items, it is the thrill of the hunt. I have found the most amazing unique treasures, both personal effects and house stuff, that have made life more beautiful and interesting. The fact that they cost pennies is merely a side benefit.

Camille was kind of a snob honestly, she looked upon thrifting with disdain, she rolled her eyes. Well…. just like with happy hour, she soon came to see my side of things and now we include thrift stores on every itinerary. She is not a convert, not by a long shot, but she will go with me and look around.

What can $20 get you? A whole lot of fun at the thrift store—if indeed it is the right thrift store. In Hilton Head, we went to one of my all-time favorites: The Litter Box. It is kind of a hole in the wall, in a little strip mall off the beaten path of Hilton Head’s elegant main thoroughfares. It has character. I have found that little nondescript thrift stores, just like the little non-descript hole in the wall restaurants, often yield the most delicious surprises at affordable prices. The fact that The Litter Box supports animal rescue makes it even more fabulous. The staff is all volunteer and one day I asked the nice man at checkout how they managed to score such fabulous things. I was taken aback and then chuckled when he replied: “Well, people come to Hilton Head to retire and play golf, then they die, then we get their stuff.”

You know, thrift store shopping decisions say a lot about a person, like your palm or your tea leaves. AND how your friends respond to your love of thrift store shopping says a lot about your friendship. Camille was not a fan but yet she happily went with me and was more than willing to try something new.

What I did with my $20 speaks volumes. I am easily distracted, jumping from one pretty bauble to another, intrigued by the next bright shiny thing, unsure that what I have in the basket is really what I want. Life is an embarrassment of riches; how can one choose?!! I was the spoiled youngest child, somewhat self-indulgent, I like to feather the nest, want lots of pretty things around me all the time. As mentioned earlier, I am a maximalist. This excursion was kind of a metaphor.

Camille is a lot more businesslike and direct. She does not indulge in frivolous nonsense or indecision. She knows what she wants and spends little time wondering or going back and forth and has little time for regret. She has great taste but no use for frou frou. Not surprisingly, she is the responsible oldest child.

So, with that said, what were the results of our $20 spree? This photo says it all.

Camille found her treasure in like 20 minutes. She went into the store proclaiming there was absolutely nothing she needed, and she was not going to be tempted by bargains. What she did find was a single, very cool, item: A framed copy of the Star-Spangled Banner. It was meaningful and valuable to her. She spent years in the voting machine business, traveling all over the country helping to keep the election process safe and sound, and so she relates to American government memorabilia. This document spoke to her and she absolutely treasures it. She added it to the collection of historical items in her new office.

I was in the store for almost 3 hours. Here is my list of treasures:

  • One LuLaRoe shirt with tags still on!!!
  • One Irish Linen Talbots cardigan
  • One Chico navy layering tank
  • 2 lovely scarves
  • 1 brand new cupcake tin
  • 2 (still new in the box) crystal tea light holders that are hurricanes, so the candles don’t blow out when we sit on the patio for happy hour. A very useful item, right? Right???
  • 2 little vases for small bouquets of flowers. Yes yes yes, I have SO many vases, but these are different. They are small, they are cute, and can also grace the happy hour tray.
  • 1 tea strainer–a really handy one like I have never seen before–$1!!!
  • 2 books of fiction. Yes, I have a Kindle, but…

I loved it all, I was so proud of myself, it was such a rush! All those fabulous useful pretty things for only $20.

It was a fun experiment, and a jolly time was had by all. But here is another side of the story and a good life lesson: When it comes to self-indulgence, there is usually a price to pay. This past month my husband and I went through the agonizing process of downsizing and moving into a smaller space in a 55+ community. I was overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I had collected. Yes, it was fun and yes it all was so pretty, and I enjoyed every piece. But while I got great bargains and saved a lot of money over buying these things new and full price, I paid a heavy toll when I had to pick and choose from the sea of belongings, I had surrounded myself with. Sigh…I didn’t get the memo early enough in my life that STUFF as much as you love it, can prove to be an overwhelming burden.

I have learned my lesson. I may still go thrifting, but my goal is to be…. more like my friend Camille.

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Cherie is a late bloomer Boomer, born at the tail end of the Boomer generation. She was playing with Barbies while her older sisters marched on Washington and fought for equal rights, but watched and learned. Now she is an empty nester with a whole new future to explore and share at www.BoomerConnections.com! As “Philosopher in Chief” Cherie merely wants to change the world with this blog: to encourage those of us in the midst of our “second act” to look at life with new eyes, open to a life filled with new beginnings rather than endings, and to apply all we have learned to a way of living that is more meaningful and profound. There is SO much to live for, up until the very end.

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