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

Pop Up Thrift Shop

This pop-up thrift shop was in Abbotsford, BC

Yesterday, I visited a unique thrift venture by Generous Clothing – a pop-up thrift shop focused on vintage clothing in plus sizes. They took over an empty store-front in downtown Abbotsford and filled it with carefully curated clothes that the three founders have collected from all over the Pacific Northwest.

The shop was well organized and there was a wide variety of styles and sizes. They came up with their own sizing system, hanging items according to bust/waist/hip measurement ranges – which means they had to measure every piece of clothing! That’s a gift to their customers because, as we all know, sizing is NOT consistent between brands.

The shop also included accessories and their clothing was for every season. Everything that I looked at was clean and stain-free, so the curators really put effort into selecting items that were only gently used. It was pretty busy when I popped by, so clearly, this is something people are looking for.

I picked up this great wool blend long vest by Alfred Sung. It’s something I think I’ll wear forever, it’s such a classic look.

I also found a Lands End waffle cotton long-sleeved T. I love the quality of Lands End clothing, so when I find it in thrift shops and it fits, I buy it.

I love the idea of a pop-up for this kind of thing – it’s like a high end garage sale: doesn’t happen all the time and not always in the same location but when it does happen, it’s better quality stuff and there’s fitting rooms! The woman I spoke with at the check-out said that they are planning on doing this again, so follow them on Instagram and find out when their next pop-up shop will happen! Also, read this article from Vancouver is Awesome for more details on where they found their clothes and their motivation for creating this brand.

What do you think about pop-up shops?

Posted in second hand, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Shopping, vintage | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Thank a Woman for Thrift Shops

The founders of the first MCC Thrift Shop in Canada. (photo: Mennonite Central Committee)

It’s International Women’s Day today and it occurs to me that the thrift shop movement owes its existence to women. I once worked for Mennonite Central Committee, the relief, development and peace organization of the Mennonite and Brethren in Christ Churches in North America. One of the ways that MCC funds its international work is from money made by its hundreds of thrift shops – which are largely staffed by volunteers, most of which are women (although there are, indeed, men who also volunteer – better say that now before there is an outcry. )

This is from the MCC Thrift website:

In March of 1972, Linie Friesen, Selma Loewen, Susan Giesbrecht and Sara Stoesz (shown left to right above) opened the first MCC Thrift Shop in Altona, Manitoba with an expectation the project might last “three to six months.” The shop began to thrive and produced about $1,000. for MCC during the first six months of operation. More than forty years later, their vision for creative use of local clothing and household surpluses has grown to be a North American network of over 100 shops, producing income for the programs of Mennonite Central Committee – more than 16 million in the 2014/2015 fiscal year.

Not bad for a vision that was only supposed to last 6 months. The MCC thrift shops here in BC began a year later and for over 45 years have contributed millions of dollars to support MCC’s work around the world. These shops were also started by women.

I don’t know the detailed history is of other charity-based thrift shops but I do know that when I visit nearly any thrift shop, the majority of the people who are doing the work are women. (I also note that most of them are older – but I’m going to leave that thought for another blog post). So, when you hit a thrift shop today – or this month – thank the woman cleaning up the fitting room, hanging new stock, tidying the shelves, or working the till. Thank them for making a difference to the charity for which they volunteer. Thank them for helping to keep things out of the landfill. Thank them for creating spaces for volunteers. Thank them for helping us manage our budgets by offering affordable products.

Happy #InternationalWomensDay!

Posted in second hand, thrift, thrift legends, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops, Volunteering, women | Tagged , , , , , , ,

I Went for Lunch and…

One of my new favourite places to visit in Abbotsford is Marketplace by MCC CE (which stands for Mennonite Central Committee Community Enterprises. We’ll just call it Marketplace.)

This is a new-ish venture for MCC, which tends to be known for its thrift shops. I’ve blogged about Marketplace before but just to refresh your memory – this is NOT a thrift shop. It sells new, consigned and vintage goods and supports local/Canadian artisans and makers. They also have a great café and bakery/deli. One of the really great things about Marketplace is that it employs people who live with developmental disabilities, like my friend Carly. You can read her story here.

So today, I went for lunch and intended to buy a Valentine’s Day chocolate bar, which would then qualify me to enter a contest to win some earrings. I came home with several birthday presents and the fantastic vintage dresser (pictured above), the happy “victim” of their great winter sales.

This beautiful dresser was on sale for $180. I’ve been looking for a small-ish dresser to put in my guest room and this fits the ticket. One of its more unique features are its Bakelite drawer pulls.

Bakelite products get their name from their inventor, Leo Baekeland, who invented the phenolic resin in 1907. It was first used as insulators against heat and electricity but as ways were discovered to colour it, it became a popular material for all kinds of things, especially jewelry – and drawer pulls. My dresser is missing pulls on the bottom drawer but I’m not too fussed about that – I’m sure I’ll find something suitable in a thrift shop or antique mall.

And here’s some bonus eye-candy: my beautiful Underwood manual typewriter that I bought years and years ago at a garage sale in Kelowna for $5. It’s still works and it’s just one of my favourite things ever.

I’m pretty thrilled with my purchase. Oh, and yes, I did get that Valentine’s chocolate. I’d better win those earrings…

Posted in antiques, Bakelite, furniture, thrift, thrift lifetstyle, vintage | Tagged , , , , ,

The Art of Tidying

everything about Marie Kondo is tidy. honestly.

So by now, you’ve probably heard of Marie Kondo or the Kondo-Effect. Kondo has created a little empire around tidying up. She’s written a book. She has a Netflix series. She has a website. She has a franchise. It’s not about getting rid of your crap, it’s about choosing joy.

Let’s just think about that for a minute.

When you last told your kids to “Clean up your room right now, dammit!” were you thinking, hmmm, I wonder how I could turn this into an empire? Or even hmmm, I wonder how I can inspire my kid to choose joy while picking up the dirty clothes, snot rags, food wrappers, dirty mold-covered dishes, and did that dust bunny just move?”*

Yeah. Me, neither. Totally kicking myself right now.

The Kondo-Effect was featured in a recent Vancouver Sun article about how people’s new year’s resolutions to get rid of stuff often means that thrift shops see an uptick in donations in January. Kondo’s Netflix series on tidying up premiered on January 1st. Coincidence? I think not.

harry potter, yoga, good fridy blues files, warm fuzzies. all the important files.

None of this is bad. My husband and I recently spent an afternoon emptying a 2-drawer filing cabinet that we wanted to get rid of, which led to us reorganize our 4-drawer filing cabinet. All afternoon. We ended up with four bags of recycling/shredded materials and another box of documents to take to a professional shredder. It felt really, really good! And the little filing cabinet went to a friend, which also felt good.

give away my books? you may as well ask me to give away my children.

Kondo’s whole premise is, if it doesn’t give you joy, then get rid of it. Mostly I think she’s right. The one area where I disagree with her is books. She says read it once then give it away. Clearly, she is not a die-hard book lover. Once?! What do you mean, “once”?!

this is not my closet.

Cleaning out my closet after every season has been something I’ve done for years. If I haven’t worn it in a year, it goes to thrift (or family/friends.) What I’ve noticed in myself in more recent years is that I am becoming more and more discerning in terms of what I bring home in the first place. I still have the occasional impulse-buy but mostly I ask myself the “joy-question” on the front end and – perhaps more importantly – I ask myself if I truly need it.

this is my closet. i know, right?

So Kondo would approve. But that’s the easy part, she starts with clothing and moves her way through your house leaving sentimental items to the very end. (Side bar: I’d LOVE to see her try and talk me and my hubby into parting with sentimental things. That would make for some hilarity on her show, methinks. “But my son drew that picture for me in grade two and now he’s a filmmaker! I can’t possibly part with that!” or “I’ve had this Ottawa Athletic Club towel since I was 22! I loved that job!” – and then you’d hear the story of all the famous people who came into the Ottawa Athletic Club when my husband was on shift and how he knew exactly what all their needs were and… you get the picture.)

i do like her method for stacking t-shirts vertically. makes them much easier to see

So I’m realizing that I’ve intuitively been doing that around which Kondo has built an empire (sigh) but now I need to take it to the next level, moving beyond my clothes and filing cabinets to other rooms are areas in my house.

What I appreciated about the Vancouver Sun article today was a quote from the manager of the Union Gospel Mission thrift shop. Like many thrift shops, they give away a number of items to people who are in need.

“It’s really cool to see that something that may not spark joy anymore being life-changing to another person if you donate it.”

That’s the beauty of thrift, right?

Have you been influenced by the Kondo-Effect? How’s that going for you?

*Disclaimer: I may have exaggerated the state of my/your child’s bedroom. Pretty sure all the dust bunnies that used to live in my son’s room were inert.

Posted in kondo effect, thrift, thrift lifetstyle | Tagged , , , , , ,

Fluevog Find!

This Fluevog pin is about the only thing Fluevog that I can afford!

I love Fluevog shoes. If you’re unfamiliar with John Fluevog and you love shoes, you need to acquaint yourself with this artist. He creates the most amazing shoes: unique, quirky, statement pieces that you can spot a mile away.

These shoes took a starring role in Bard’s “As You Like It” this past summer. I love that Fluevog supports the arts!

This past summer, Bard on the Beach put on a production of “As You Like It”, set in the 60s in Vancouver. The female characters were all wearing Fluevogs and all the women in the audience knew it – you could hear them discussing the shoes!

John Fluevog is a Vancouver shoemaker but his shoes are sold all over the world. They are amazingly comfortable. I love that he includes little messages on the soles of all his shoes, words to remind you of good things. I visited their flagship store in Gastown, Vancouver, several years ago just to try a pair on. It felt like I’d been wearing them for years. Oh my.

Here’s the thing, though; as with all good art, his shoes cost a fortune. (Insert heavy sigh here). For years I’ve said, “I’m waiting for a pair of Fluevogs to come into a thrift shop in my size.”

Well this past Friday (the 23rd of November) half of that wish came true. I was at the MCC Thrift Shop in Abbotsford and Liane, the boutique lady, approached me and said “Guess what came in? Fluevogs!” Alas, they were not in my size – they are a size 9 – but they’re in great shape and I love the message on the bottom of each boot. There was a time when I might have bought them to resell them but I’m not that interested in the resale side of thrifting anymore. So, if you’re a size 9 and you want a chance at a deal on Fluevogs, go check them out – they might still be there!

Anyone out there ever found a pair of ‘vogs at a thrift shop?

Posted in second hand, shoes, thrift, thrift legends, Thrift Shopping | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Happy National Thrift Store Day

I don’t know who decided that today is National Thrift Store Day and it’s not like any of us thrifters need a special reason to thrift shop but heck, if it gets someone new into a thrift store, all the more reason to celebrate!

Here’s why you should support thrift – not just today but always:

1. Thift shopping is a great way to help us rethink consumerism. Why buy a new item when a used one is just as good? Ask yourself why you purchase anything and why it has to be new.

2. Thrift shopping is great for the environment. Shopping and donating to thrift keeps perfectly usable things out of the landfill and is the best way to recycle.

  1. Thrift shopping supports charity. Nearly all thrift shops support some kind of charitable cause either locally (like the Salvation Army) or overseas (like the World Serve I blogged about last time) or both (like Mennonite Central Committee).

  1. Thrift shopping supports volunteerism. Many thrift shops run almost completely on volunteer-power or with minimal staff. Volunteering is good for your physical and mental health – a great way to support your community and your favourite causes.

Piggy Bank and canadian dollars close up shot

  1. Thrift shopping saves you money. Do I have to explain that?

love the Vancouver skyline in this shirt

So I did my part today and stopped by the local Sally Ann. One of the things I”ve been looking for is a new Whitecaps T-shirt for my sweetheart. We are season ticket holders and love our boys in Blue&White but their merch costs an arm and a leg. This t-shirt is in great shape and sweetheart will look fabulous while showing his team pride.

yes, mom, i promise to iron this before i wear it

I also found this Cleo tank in great shape – it’ll come in handy next week when we’re supposed to go back to 30+C (is anyone else done with summer? I need autumn to start soon!)

And because it’s National Thrift Store Day, I got all this for $2.10. See what I mean? Get out there any/today and support your local Thrift Shop/s!

Why do you shop thrift?

Posted in National Thrift Store Day, second hand, thrift, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

White Rock Win!

A couple of weeks ago I had a chance to visit an area of White Rock to which I had never been and wouldn’t you know it, there was a really cute little thrift shop right across the street from my lunch place. Naturally, I had to stop.

The World Serve Thrift Store supports churches worldwide with pastoral training and Bible distribution as well as famine relief, community health initiatives, micro-business projects and more. It is a uniquely  Canadian ministry and one of the ways they support their work is with 3 thrift shops, one here in BC, one in Alberta and one in Saskatchewan.

The White Rock store is a nice size – not too big and not too small – and even though it’s in the ground floor of a larger building it is bright and well laid out.

love the creative use of furniture

The displays were very well done, clothing nicely organized, and the fitting rooms were a good size too.

loved this display

i really liked their fitting rooms – clean, nice size, chair, nice mirror. could have used one more hook.

I scored some nice things: a pair of brand new Dockers for my sweetheart and a brand new bra for me. Dear reader, neither of us are going to model those things for you. Sorry.

check out the good condition of the soles

But I will show you this score: I found these beautiful Clark sandals for just $6. If only I’d found them a week earlier! These were exactly what I needed for a garden wedding I attended recently. But no matter, I’ve worn them quite a bit already. They are comfortable and pretty and in such great shape!

pretty and comfy!

And here’s a bonus for you: aren’t my nails pretty too? I get the best pedicures at Nail Queens: nails and cuticles trimmed, foot and leg massage (with hands AND with hot rocks), all the dry skin and callouses dealt with and then this artistry, all done free hand. It only costs me $35 for all of this and for me, it’s worth it for the foot care alone; the pretty nails are just a bonus.

Have you just happened upon a thrift shop on your adventures this summer? Tell me where!

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