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Merry Thriftmas

My Grandmother was an antique dealer. The ultimate Second-Hand Sally, every thrift store was her favorite and every garage sale merited a visit. She had passions (dolls, toothpick holders, jewelry) but nothing was truly safe from the trunk of my Grandparent’s car. And let me tell you, seventies vintage Gran Tarinos have nice big trunks.

Grandma bought a lot and sold even more. Every item in her home (and I mean every item) had a price tag on it. With as much inventory as she had, she might have been mistaken for a hoarder. But nothing stuck around long. In my Grandmother’s opinion, everything worth buying was worth collecting; and everything worth collecting was worth selling. Grandma’s curios, packed to overflowing, were layovers not final destinations.

My Grandmother rocking her Bicentennial jumpsuit. Is your Grandma as cool as mine? I doubt it.

The very best part, though, about belonging to my particular Grandma was being on her gift list. Every Christmas, each family member received their own oversized box – the same box year after year. Ribbons were reused as well. The contents of the Christmas box were far less predictable. One year, I got entire Barbie rock band. Another year, I received a seven piece coordinating polyester leisure suit. I was eleven. Without a doubt, my Grandmother gave the greatest Christmas gifts of all time.

Many people, overwhelmed by consumer pressure, have forgone holiday gift giving altogether. That works for them, but it really doesn’t work for me. I love the holidays and giving is a joy to me. Even after scaling back, my naughty or nice list still has thirty names on it. Intellectually, I’ve come to terms with that. The problem is figuring out how to do it without a) breaking the bank and b) filling the world up with more crap.

This necessity led me to Merry Thriftmas. Merry Thriftmas is a movement geared toward changing the way I approach holiday giving. It centers on thoughtfulness, creativity, cost control and environmental responsibility. Thanks to my Grandmother, I grew up understanding that the most cherished treasures often come wrapped in old sewing patterns and smelling a bit like wet basement. That’s a lesson worth passing on, if you ask me.

As I prepare for Merry Thriftmas 2012, I hope to chronicle my adventures here on the blog. I’m starting early, since the only way to find a good present at the last-minute is to throw money around like a mad person. There’s bound to be a fair bit of stalking the local charity shops and some misguided attempts at crafting. Blessed with far more optimism than talent: I’m a whole lot more Lucille Ball than Martha Stewart.

Want to join me?

10 Common Thrift Store Finds And Ways to Use Them for DIY Projects | Apartment Therapy

10 Common Thrift Store Finds And Ways to Use Them for DIY Projects | Apartment Therapy.

It’s All About the Benjamins

This won’t be much of a Merry Thriftmas blog if I don’t talk about money. I know, I know – it’s impolite. Tacky, even. I won’t lie and say I’m not nervous. What’s thrifty to me is going to seem stingy to some and positively ludicrous to others. I could defend my budget – talk about all the money I give to this charity or that –  but that’s not the point of the project. So, go ahead and judge me. I have made a decision, which is that I can tolerate a bit of ridicule and discomfort in order to add value, meaning and context to my Merry Thriftmas posts.

At the estate sale on Sunday, I found a funky old paperback edition of Hoyle’s card game rules and a completely untouched vintage gin rummy score pad. I picked up both for $1 (no tax, no shipping), and supplemented the gift with a deck of custom playing cards from Printer’s Studio for $7.99 (no tax, no shipping) featuring 52 of my favorite family photos. Total gift cost for my uncle of $8.99.

Whomever hosted the estate sale stuck prices tags on both book covers which in turn tore when I was trying to remove them. Not cool, yo!

I also got some thrifting / crafting done toward a gift for a young cousin. My plan is to give her a covered cork board and a jewelry box filled with “dress-up” jewelry. So far, I have spent $5.31 on cork board (thrifted at Goodwill), $.93 at Michaels (for paint and a new brush), and $4.81 at Jo-Ann Fabrics for fabric and trim. The cork board is complete and the total cost was $11.05. I had fabric glue and spray mount on hand, so I did not include those numbers in the cost. The next cream-colored cork board recipient will benefit from this weekend’s purchase of trim paint and brush. I’m comfortable with that type of accounting for this particular project since I’m aiming for averages. As for the costume jewelry, I grabbed a cameo at the Estate Sale of Win for $1.

I read that the key to great craft photography is lots of natural light. Did it work? With all that natural light, I can see that there’s a small area in the upper right corner of my board where the fabric looks wrinkled. >:-(

Did I tell you about the Estate Sale of Win? It was a crazy. Dude had like 300 metal files. I wonder if he kept all his files in files? Did he have to categorize them by genus and file-um? And really, what do you call a person with so many files? A fileophile? I sure hope they managed to sell them all. That would be a lot of file-o dough.

I have also purchased the following, which we are considering capital investments at this point. These items haven’t been applied to gifts yet, so they’re totally going to skew my average. The idea, however, is that it should all work out in the end. Right? Right.

  • Glass & Tile Pliers, Estate Sale, $2
  • Wreath stamp and Fimo (gift tags), Estate Sale and Michael’s, $1.50
  • Vintage Xmas Tin, Saver’s, approximately $3
  • Reptile Skins, Saver’s, approximately $10
  • Vintage Document Box, Saver’s, approximately $4

Woof! That’s a whole lot of ching for a Thriftmas! Should balance out soonish, though.

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I’m a big proponent of working with what you have. Did you buy a house with 1970s Harvest Gold appliances? I recommend a nice, autumnal paint palette. Sure, you could paint your appliances white and attempt to achieve the cottage chic kitchen of your dreams – but it’s going to be a huge pain in the butt and it’s probably going to look like crap. Painting furniture, in fact, is something that I’ve given up on altogether. Appliances can just screw right off.

In formulating my Thriftmas plans, I’m trying to apply the same philosophy. Anyone who has ever crafted knows how quickly the price of an item can skyrocket once you start buying equipment and materials. I can’t be doing that, especially this year.

The question I’ve been asking myself is – what do I have a lot of?

Right now the answer to that question is broken glass (there was a storm – it was a whole big thing). So, I guess I could make… Sand? Probably be murder on the food processor. Stained glass? Except I don’t have the equipment or skill. Mosaics? Maybe. I’ve got some jewelry-fu, so if I could get it into reasonably sized pieces there’s some potential there.

Here are the ideas I’m currently contemplating:

  • Etched glass pendant, something along the lines of this
  • Glass painting – final form to be determined
  • Making a clear glass mosaic over a thrift store print

I’m open to other ideas.

As an aside, Harvest Gold is back! I could not be more pleased.

I snapped up a very retro glass and tile cutter pliers at an estate sale this afternoon in preparation. It was a dollar.

I also snagged another cheap bulletin board at the shiny new Goodwill by my office. It can be difficult, however, to craft with cats around the house.

Phat Loot? Flat Loot!

Who had the best day at the thrift store EVER!? That would be me.

Thanks to my sister’s eagle eyes, I scored two bags of mixed reptilian skins ready for stuffing. Lest you are totally grossed out at this moment, I mean this variety of reptile:


Six frogs! Eleven gila monsters! Twenty-one lizards! And a partridge in a pear tree. And so very, very cheap. I am pretty jazzed about the whole thing. All I need now is beans. I struggle and struggle with Merry Thriftmas presents for kids – boys especially – and these are perfect.

I also saved these super retro vintage tins. One is a standard vintage Xmas cookie container, and the other a snazzy mortgage document holder. So dreamy! At first I thought I would try to sell the portable file on Etsy, but I don’t think I will part with it.


Oh, and I nearly forgot my “new” green beads.

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