Mea Culpa: confessions and discoveries

Rozelle Markets

Ok, so I haven’t been the best at keeping up my writing. Or my tallying. Or my research. Well, maybe not formal research, but I have certainly been doing a lot of field work. Bottom line: it’s really really really hard to avoid buying unused items. It’s not because I like shiny new things from Ikea or the kitsch purple two-ring binders, rather, used things are just too elusive.

Yes, I know, I know and I can already hear you saying “then you’re just not trying hard enough”. But I think that’s part of the problem. If it’s so hard to find quality used items, then how are we (as a society) expected to forego this new product compulsion? Heck, even going to the grocery store entails walking a maze of scented candles, kitchen gadgets and hair accessories – and it gets worse once inside. After all, who can resist a Star Wars pencil case? (It did take a lot of willpower to put it back down.)

Purple Kitsch

Purple Kitsch

Malls are Mastercard’s best friend

Like a chocolate muffin, it’s best to avoid temptation. That, “I’ll just have a bite” mentality applies to shopping as well. It starts off nice and innocent with the “I’m just going in to grab a birthday card” but quickly spirals down to a new day timer, fountain pen and a box of thank-you notes.

The List Maker

“If it ain’t on the list, it ain’t in the bag.” Sounds a touch cheesy, but it’s a little mantra I’ve used to remind myself to only look for things that I need; and by “need” I mean things like a soap dispenser, kitchen stool, clothes hangers, a sports duffle bag, etc. Stuff I’d normally just pick-up from K-Mart on the way home from work.

Ye Olde 80s Shoppe

Over the past couple months, I really have tried to find outlets and resources for pre-loved items. You’d think having at least 10 vintage shops in a 2 km radius from my home that this wouldn’t be too hard. Wrong. A) I’m not going to pay $40 for a blouse I essentially owned in the 80s, B) I’m not a size 2 anymore, C) I am allergic to hipster shop attendants and D) did I mention the outrageous prices on these rags?

So much for vintage stores as a reasonable resource.

eBay? Egad! 

Online outlets were a bust as well. For example, I went to ebay looking for a soap dispenser. First search brought back 2,086 items. I narrowed it down to ‘used’ and got 12. Of those 12, only four were feasible as the other eight were mainly parts. Gumtree was pretty much the same but just a bit less organised.

I did try the other items, including the sports backpack (3,583 items, nine of which were used and that includes the three ones with Dora the Explorer branding.)

Opt to Op Shop

Hit or miss. If I was looking for furniture, I’d be in luck, but the pieces these places have are still a bit expensive – which is a bit ironic considering that at the Salvo’s in Tempe, you can pick up new item at a comparable price from the Ikea right next door. If I was looking for pieces I intended to refinish and feature on The Block, sure I’d hit the Salvo’s, whereas things like clothes and shoes I just didn’t have much luck.

This Op shop adventure was a bit frustrating, but I think it’s because I had set my expectations a bit high. After all, the second-hand store where I scored designer items, including a pair of brown suede Gucci boots for $20, was a Goodwill near Beverly Hills (California). Ok, so maybe my expectation were really high.

Off to the market we go

Market day: part socialising, part eating, and part hunting. The variety of markets around Sydney have been my best resource so far and with my like-minded accomplice, who I’ll call Primrose, they’re actually quite fun. We’re starting to learn some of the tactics too, the best of which is arriving late when everyone is just wanting to get rid of stuff. Last week, she picked up a Veronika Maine two-piece $400 suit for $20. The woman selling it just looked too tired to haggle.

My main find has been a $2 soap dispenser, and a $5 backpack, both of which were on the list. Tick. Tick. Frustratingly, I saw the same dispense at K-Mart for $1.95.

Cooties begone

One of the main drawbacks, and usually a massive deterrent for me, is the dust, dirt and general yuck that comes with second-hand items. I’ve actually started taking hay fever medicine, tissues and wet wipes with me when I’m on the prowl and stocked up on cleaners for those gift-with-purchase cooties.

Initially I just laundered the clothes, that is until I read websites that, well, gave me nightmares. Cooties don’t die when you use basic detergent and contrary to popular belief, they don’t die when put in the freezer; that just puts the germs on ice. (Like how I did that one there?) Alas, you gotta bring out the big guns like Pine-Sol and rubbing alcohol. The latter is for shoes, both inside and out whereas Pine-Sol or another anti-bacterial cleanser is necessary for clothes. Because things have to be washed with those powerful liquids, I just avoid buying, or even looking at anything labeled delicate or dry clean-only.

So, now that I’ve cleared my conscience and typed out my confession, it’s time for dinner so I’m off to the grocery for a few fixing think  – by way of the back door of course

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