Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rethink!

this is the first sweater i ever bought at a thrift shop with my own money. cost me a buck.

When I first began this blog in 2011, I had a few goals in mind. I wanted to share my passion for thrift shopping for a variety of reasons: support for charity, support for volunteerism, keeping things out of the landfill, and sharing the thrill of the hunt. While many of my posts (and often the most popular posts) feature a new thrift shop or something I’ve found at a thrift shop, I always wanted this blog to be more than just a way of bragging about the things I’ve found. I call it “thrift shopper for peace” because being a peace-maker is also a value that I hold dear and my passion for thrift very much stems from a desire to be a peace-maker with my environment and on a local, national and even global level. My tagline – reduce, reuse, recycle, rethink – is a way to emphasize ideals that are important to me.

I’m always excited when I discover others who also share this passion and two things have come across my radar in the last few days that I want to share with you.

Waste Reduction Week

October 21-27, 2019 is Waste Reduction Week in Canada. It’s actually a year-round initiative aimed at a circular economy, resource efficiency, and waste reduction. The goal is to celebrate innovation and encourage Canadians to make environmentally conscious choices. Each day of the week has a different theme:

The website is loaded with ideas, inspiring stories, and resources to help people get started. It can feel overwhelming but if you choose one thing – say, making a commitment to reducing food waste in your household – you’re already making a difference. Here’s an inspiring story I read in the Vancouver Sun this week:

Reduce, Repair, Reuse

photo: Jason Payne, Vancouver Sun

Monika Markovinovic is a woman from Port Moody who once lived in Toronto and worked as a fashion editor. She loved clothes and she always had the latest, trendy items from mass market, fast-fashion retailers. But as she learned more about the environmental and social impacts of fast-fashion, she began to change her habits. She made a commitment to eliminate all clothes shopping – not even second-hand shopping – for a year. She used what she had in her closet, learned how to repair pieces that needed it, and in the process, changed her life. Today, she shops less, shops second-hand, shops local.

Read the full story here – it’s more than just her story, there’s also great information here about the impact of the fashion industry on the environment.

Getting Active

And finally, I learned about Waste Reduction Week because of a Facebook post from the mayor of Abbotsford, promoting the Clothing Fix-it and Swap, coming this Saturday, October 19th to Abbotsford. At the event, you can bring clothes that need repair and someone will help you fix it. You can also swap good-condition used clothes for something new-to-you! I love the idea that someone will help you fix it – as opposed to dropping it off for someone else to do the work. You have the opportunity to pick up a skill as you repair something so that you can get more wear out of it.

I’m going to try and attend the Clothing  Fix-it and see if I can learn how to repair the lining of a beautiful winter coat that my sweetheart bought on our honeymoon at a flea market in Rome, Italy.

After 33 years, it’s still an excellent coat but the innards are in bad shape. I’ll let you know if I have any success!

What’s one thing you are committed to doing to reduce waste?

Posted in clothing, consumerism, environment, frugal living, second hand, sewing, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, Uncategorized, waste | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Friperie – Thrifting in Quebec

one of dozens of photos we’ve taken of fall colours in Quebec

My mom wanted to see fall colours in Quebec this autumn, so we have been exploring a bit of New Brunswick, the Gaspé Peninsula, and Ile d’Orleans. We also took my sister-in-law, Kim, along who is also a hard-core thrifter (she is one of the managers at a Bibles for Missions thrift store in Ottawa), so I was in very good company.

My sister-in-law Kim, me, and my mom (Susan) – thrift soulmates

We were surprised to find that thrifting is not as big in this region as it is in other places we’ve traveled to (i.e. in Scotland, every little town, no matter how small, has a thrift shop). We really had to hunt but the hunt was totally worth it. We found a great one in New Brunswick, and two in the Gaspésie – one really weird one and one really cool one.

Red Cross Thrift – Edmunston, New Brunswick

One of the things I love about my sister-in-law is that she is not shy. We went for lunch to a little bistro and she asked the waitress if there were any good thrift shops around. We were directed to this little gem of a shop. The shop is not big at all, as you can see, but it was filled with quality things at very good prices. Both Kim and my mom were worried that they had not bought warm enough clothing for an upcoming boat trip. Mom found two jackets, John and I found some touques, and Kim found a really nice sweater.

American made, leather uppers

like new!

My big score was these leather upper dress shoes for $3 – look at the soles, they’re like new and they’re really comfy.

I really loved the note at the front of the store that basically affirms their volunteers (They offer their time, the energy, and their smiles) and asks that we, their valued customers, would support these volunteers by putting back the things we’re not going to buy in the place where we found them as it helps keep the story properly maintained. Our participation in this is greatly appreciated!

Deuxieme Vie (Second Life) – Grande Rivière, Gaspé, Quebec

Okay, this was maybe one of the weirdest thrift stores I’ve ever been in. It was half thrift, half retail. The retail was lingerie/sleepwear, some of it on racks, a lot of it in bags and boxes that you could rifle through.

TONS of kids clothes

The thrift was 90% children’s clothing, well organized on racks by age and size.

it was kinda like someone threw up their shoes into the entrance of the shop

You had to walk through a little hallway of thrift shoes – no rhyme or reason to these – in order to get to that part of the store.

The adult clothing, however, was a bit of a sh*t-show. It was crammed into a back corner – and I mean a back corner – no sizing, little organization, and nowhere to try anything on. Still, both Kim and mom found something to take home – mom found a quilted vest, Kim a coat for the cooler weather we experienced, both very reasonably priced. I just did not know what to think about this place.

Friperie le Grenier – Matan, Gaspé, Quebec

This was a total score. This little shop was well organized, everything quite clean, and prices very reasonable.

This was one of mom’s finds: he even looks a little cocky

I bought a long-sleeved t-shirt, my mom picked up a piece of brand new tupperwear for $1 and a few knickknacks, but Kim really found some gems.

love the bright colours in this piece

She’s moved into a new apartment and is looking for eclectic artwork. She found a few pieces like this folk art piece above.

a fairly large, framed print for such a great price

This print is my favourite one. It’s titled “Mes Enfants Dans La Neige” (My children in the snow) by Claude Picher, an artist from Quebec City. It came from a gallery in Matan. Kim got it for $10. I mean, you can’t even get a frame for that. Isn’t it lovely?

i just love this!

We’re almost done our trip and it’s unlikely that we’ll do any more thrifting but these shops were a lot of fun to visit. Do you thrift when you travel? What’s the most unique thrift shop you’ve every found?

Posted in art, second hand, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops, travel | Tagged , , , , , ,

Sunshine Coast Thrift

the family that thrifts together, saves together

My two favourite thrifting buddies – my mom and my sister – and I visited BC’s Sunshine Coast this month for a girl’s getaway that included visits to brewery, a cidery, and a really great distillery, a boat trip up Princess Louise Inlet and, of course, thrifting.

We started in Gibsons, at the Community Services Thrift Store. (i apologize in advance for my slightly blurry photos. i promise, these were taken before visits to brewery/cidery/distillery!) This was by far my favourite, for a few reasons. I loved the layout of the store – it’s deceptively large, going back a ways.

love this little encouragement

They don’t start with the clothes, which is what everyone wants to see first, they start with knickknacks and glassware, you walk through the books to get through to the shoes and clothing.

a well organized book section is always appreciated

Their book section was very impressive – I didn’t buy anything because I already own most of what they displayed, proof that this is a well read community (ahem.)

the fellow at the till was really friendly

The staff was super friendly and they played GREAT music – all bonuses as far as I am concerned.

it feels so soft!

I picked up a book and this cosy long top, I love the twist detail.

anyone read this book? i picked it up based on the sales pitch on the back cover.

Our second stop was the Sally Ann.

Salvation Army Gibsons

I love the new graphics they’re putting on their stores and trucks.

all these wonderful, positive words in myriad languages. so cool.

I picked up a few greeting cards, my sister picked up a few cute t-shirts for her grandson, but my mom made the big score of the day.

I wish I had the “before” pictures. It was so dirty!

She has been looking for a Braun dough machine for years, trying to replace hers. At 80, my mom still bakes buns and desserts all the time, so arguably a dough machine is the most used machine in her home. She tried a Kitchen Aid but hated the stainless steel bowl and no one in Abbotsford seemed to be able to sell her what she wanted.

it came with dough hook, whisk, instruction booklet, etc.

So when she saw this Braun machine, with all the parts, for $5, she snapped it up. She had them plug it in first so she could listen to the motor and deemed it okay. I think it was so cheap because it was filthy but there is no dirt that my mother cannot clean, so she was pretty happy with it.

Salvation Army Sechelt, same graphics on the windows

Our last stop was the Sally Ann in Sechelt. A rainbow crosswalk led right to its front doors. This was a little smaller than the one in Gibsons but nicely laid out with pretty displays and again, friendly, cheerful volunteers. I came away empty handed from this one but I bet if I lived in Sechelt, I’d find some great deals eventually.

The view from Chatterbox Falls, Princess Louise Inlet

Although it’s called the Sunshine Coast, we did have cloudy/rainy weather but the nice thing about thrifting is that it is not weather dependent, so it was a great weekend all ‘round. My only advice if you’re going, is to reserve the ferry way, way, way in advance, or you run into the challenge we did: a 2 sailing wait. Good thing we like each other.

Have you been Destination Thrift Shopping this summer? Tell me your favourite!

Posted in family, second hand, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Festivals for the Frugal

Harrison Lake is pretty spectacular on a sunny day

My sweetheart and I love going to all kinds of festivals, especially if they have free or inexpensive options. This summer, we attended the Harrison Festival of the Arts (HFA). This festival runs for a week each July and might be the best kept secret in the world.

HFA is truly an arts festival: there are theatre presentations, literary readings, music concerts, workshops and a fantastic arts/crafts market. Some of the concerts/events are free and some you pay for but the costs are really affordable.

Mid-week, we saw an amazing performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night put on by the Chilliwack School of Performing Arts for only $17.50 – when was the last time you paid that little for excellent theatre? The staging, the projection/lighting, the sound, and the acting, all superb. If you get a chance to see this anywhere, take it!

The Aerialists

We returned to HFA on Friday and took in two free concerts on the beach: The Aerialists, a band made up of Canadians and one Scotswoman, who play an eclectic mix of folk/jazz/indie/rock featuring violin and harp.

their harpist is originally from the Isle of Skye in Scotland

Their violinist studied Norwegian folk music so their music has a cool blend of that, gaelic fiddle tunes, and jazz

We first discovered them at the Jazz Festival last summer. We loved them so much, we were thrilled to be able to hear them again.

Afro-Cuban band, Okan

Then we were introduced to Okan, a Cuban/African band that defies genrifying. Super high energy, tons of fun.

amazing percussion

so much energy!

These women look like they stepped out of Harlem but sound like they stepped out of Cuba… which they did. Their music was infectious.

And then, dear reader, we took in Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hell Raisers. I know, right? Best name ever. We read about Dwayne in the Vancouver Sun and when I read “blues accordion”, I said, “What?”, watched a You Tube video, and promptly bought tickets. Friends, this was maybe the best concert I’ve ever been to – ever – and it cost me $25.

Dwayne and Paul, the washboard guy, took their instruments to a whole new level of art. it was unreal.

For $25, we got 3 hours of fantastic music, amazing musicianship, and unreal entertainment. The Harrison Hall is a small venue, so no bad seats in the room. The sound and lights were great. They even served local craft beers at the concession.

he played like a madman AND he could sing!

The band had us dancing, clapping and singing along from the get-go. Dwayne and his washboard player came off the stage and into the crowd and played right amongst us.  They came out during intermission to sign CDs and interact with the audience. The second half was just as energetic and entertaining as the first. We had a solid 3-hour concert – for $25!

I truly appreciate festivals that recognize that not all of us can spend, say $90, (the cost for a weekend pass at the Mission Folk Festival ) or $160 (the cost for the same thing at the Vancouver Folk Festival ), even if that is a smokin’ deal for a whole weekend of really great music. While both of these events let children under 12 in free, neither of them offer free events to the public.

Other festivals, like the TD International Jazz Festival, the Vancouver Children’s Festival, the Vancouver Writer’s Festival, all offer some free things throughout their run. I believe that it’s these free events that create loyal consumers who keep coming back and eventually may be able to afford to pay for ticketed events. At each of the events I just mentioned, I discovered artists I would not have found on my own and have purchased their work. I think that’s a win/win.

Other events around my area, like Jam in Jubilee (a weekly free concert series in Jubilee Park in Abbotsford, every Thursday in July) are fully free, exposing audiences to new, up-and-coming musicians. There’s always a crafts market, food trucks, beer/wine garden – it’s a great way to spend a summer evening. I say “free” but I realize that events like this actually cost organizers who work hard at getting grants and other sources of funding to make these things available to the public. These small arts councils give a whole new definition to the word “frugal” so it behooves us to support those who make these events happen.

What’s your favourite festival and why?

Posted in festivals, free, free concerts, frugal living, thrift, thrift lifetstyle | Tagged , , , ,

By the Side of the Road

The thrifting ethic runs deep in my family – I think we may actually have developed a gene (which sounds so much better than “addiction”, doesn’t it?)

Alivia in one of her natural happy places

My niece, Alivia, may actually put most of my family to shame. I visited her in the little basement suite she shares with her equally thrifty hubby, Luke. She indicated that nearly 90% of the things they own are either thrifted, gifted, or “found by the side of the road.”

So, naturally, I asked where exactly that road is.

Luke and Alivia on their honeymoon, hiking in Hawaii

While some of her furniture was, indeed, found and some gifted by family, other pieces come with a cool story.

love the wall display above the futon

They found this futon on Craig’s List and when they went to pick it up they just naturally started a conversation with the couple who were selling. They discovered that they all attend the same church and when the couple discovered that Luke and Alivia were relatively newlyweds as well as volunteers in the church, they gifted them the futon.

This beautiful wooden kitchen table was made by Alivia’s uncle, who is a gifted finish carpenter. I believe the chairs were also found by the side of the road.

Luke is working on honing these skills too. He is studying to be a high school trades teacher and has begun to create unique pieces for their home like this dog dish holder for Seymour.

That’s Seymour – Alivia says even her dog is second-hand.

Luke also made this beautiful bench, made from a reclaimed Cultas Lake park bench.

isn’t the pallet deck a great idea?

The teak patio table and chairs were found on that road she keeps talking about. The patio itself was made from palettes that Luke refinished and painted.

Consider this the “before” photo…

The canoe has its own story that I will tell you another day.

Mid-century modern chair, found.

moose antlers. also found. RIGHT?

Alivia and her dad built this kitchen island together

Luke built this nightstand. The bed linens were thrifted at (evil) Value Village


and then there’s this. also found by the side of the road by Luke. his favourite, apparently – not hers. but you know, with new cushions could be a pretty skookum chair!

Alivia has always been a thrifter, finding great deals on clothes and household items at brick-and-mortar thrift shops as well as online forums (oh, and that road, of course.) What’s encouraging to me is that this ethic/attitude seeps into most areas of their lives. She and Luke value things handed down to them and being able to reuse or recycle as much as possible. Alivia works for Parks, primarily at Cultas Lake in BC. Her love for the outdoors informs her care for the environment, something that thrifting is naturally a part of.

Now, if only she’d tell me where that road is…

Have you ever scored something great at the side of the road?


Posted in free stuff, hand-made, reclaimed, recycling, repurposing, second hand, simple living, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, used furniture | Tagged , , , , , ,

Yoga on a Budget

high crescent lunge – taken at Haven Yoga and Wellness, by one of my yoga teachers, Dawn

So some of you may know that I did my yoga teach training last fall at Haven Yoga and Wellness in Abbotsford. Yoga has become a way of life for me, a practice that I have incorporated into my daily routine at home as well as at Haven where I am still a student (now a teacher, always a student!) The word “yoga” means “union” – the union of body, soul, and mind – and it is exactly this holistic experience that attracts me. It has simply become an essential part of my life.

I recognize, though, that yoga can be challenging for some budgets. Here are some ideas for those who want to pursue this practice but need to keep costs down:

  1. Practice at home with a video or online instructor

check our Adriene’s youtube channel

This is actually how I began my practice. I found a $2 yoga video at my local thrift shop and bought a $10 mat at (evil) Walmart. I have since upgraded to a much better, Halfmoon yoga mat (bought at Winners) but I still use an online yoga class when I travel. I really like Yoga with Adriene, a sweetheart of a girl from Austin, Texas. Not only are these options cost-effective but they offer the most flexibility. You can do it in the privacy of your own home whenever it is most convenient for you. The downside is that you have to be disciplined if you’re going to make this your only practice. It’s too easy to say no to yourself. The other downside is that you don’t have an experienced teacher’s eyes on you, ensuring that you are doing a pose correctly and you could run the risk of injury. These are just things to remember if you choose this option but it is a good way to get started. You can combine a home practice and hit a yoga studio once a month to get advice and ensure that you’re practicing safely.

  1. Practice at your local rec centre

The Matsqui Rec Centre in Abbotsford

Typically, yoga classes at your rec centre are less expensive than at a yoga studio – but there’s a reason for that. You will not get the same ambience or access to props that you get at a good studio. Yoga teachers here may not be paid as well as they are in a studio setting either, so you may end up with teachers who have less experience. That said, I attended a class at my local rec centre with the same teacher for nearly a decade and loved the experience. (I quit when the rec centre didn’t renew her contract, even under great protest from all of her students.)

  1. Take advantage of free classes

June 21st is Global/International Yoga Day and many studios and teachers offer free classes on this day (and other times of year as well) as a way to give back to the community. You can sometimes find free classes at festivals or on summer holiday days (like Canada Day). Haven Yoga and Wellness in Abbotsford is offering a variety of things on Saturday, June 22nd all for free: an early morning hike, several classes and some workshops. Check out their website and sign up!

  1. Find a studio and explore what they offer

child’s pose, also taken at Haven, photo by Dawn. Haven has a very clean, white esthetic and i love the way the windows are mirrored in the floor in this shot. the studio is, for me, very much a haven.

Many studios will offer a deal for first time students. In Abbotsford, Abby Yoga offers beginners to their Iyengar classes, their first class for $10. Haven has a great deal where you pay $35 and take as many classes as you want in a two week period. They also make their studio, with all of its props, available to use for free (without an instructor) at certain times of the week. Parallel Yoga offers first time students a free class and an introductory offer of a month of yoga for $49.These are excellent opportunities to find out what a studio is like, the kinds of amenities they have on hand, and which classes suit you best.

tree pose at Juniper Point, Lighthouse Park, West Vancouver. photo by John Dawson. if you try tree pose, don’t do it like i am in this photo! your foot should always be either above or below your knee joint – hard to do with hiking boots on!

For those of you who practice yoga, what other suggestions do you have for people who are looking to incorporate this practice into their lives?

Posted in balance, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, yoga | 2 Comments

Tupperware – good or evil?

This May, my sweetheart and I will celebrate 33 years of marriage. (I know, right? And mostly bliss, for which I am very, very grateful.) Lately, I’ve been taking note of all the things that I still use regularly that we received as wedding gifts: casserole dishes, mixing bowls and measuring cups, serving platters… and Tupperware.

I love these cups and spoons – the shape of the spoons especially – but the spoons are so worn they don’t stay in the holder ring anymore.

I know that plastic is generally evil but honestly, if it lasts three decades, that’s gotta count for something, doesn’t it? (or is that the whole point? that it never dies?) I am trying to weed single-use plastics out of my life. I use cloth shopping bags. I have mesh produce bags and reuse the plastic ones I have over and over and over. I have stainless steel smoothie cups with stainless steel straws. I have stainless steel containers with silicone lids that I use for taking leftovers to lunch. I have glass ones as well but they have pathetic, plastic lids that do not last.

one of the motivators for getting more Tupperware was an infestation of cupboard moths last fall.

yup. more storage.

and i LOVE these spice containers. and clearly, i like spices that start with “c”.

Which brings me back to Tupperware. This stuff was made to last and I have a lot of it. Large containers to store dry goods, the aforementioned measuring cups and spoons, smaller containers for storing leftovers, two crispers, and more. But after 33 years, some of the lids for these containers are starting to wear out and don’t seal* properly.

doors opened at 9:30. this was 9:31.

So when my local MCC Thrift Shop announced on Facebook that they were going to have a huge Tupperware sale, I made sure I was there on opening day. Me and several dozen other people who know the value of this product! It was reminiscent of the Army & Navy shoe sales in Vancouver, only a little more polite.

All this for $49.70

I bought a wide variety of things (for myself and for my son) at a fraction of what this would have cost me new.

I am still pondering whether or not I made a good decision here. I could have simply decided that instead of replacing my Tupperware with more plastic, I should replace it with something else. I really like my stainless steel except I don’t like it that I can’t see what’s inside. I like the glass but it’s heavy in my backpack when I’m walking home from work – and I already told you about the crappy lids. At the end of the day, I succumbed to my deep, thrifting instinct and just got more Tupperware.

What do you think? Did I make the right choice?

*I know, dear reader, that Tupperware will actually replace broken product in perpetuity but my stuff is so old, that they don’t actually make those lids any more.

Posted in MCC, second hand, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments