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.

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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?

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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?

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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!

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Thrift Mentors in Victoria Part 2

My sister, Benita and my mom, Susan next to the cool wall mural at the WIN Restore on Cook St. in Victoria

I already mentioned last time how much my mom has mentored my sister and I in terms of thrift shopping. She just instilled in us a desire to find great quality products at a fraction of the price and made thrifting cool before that was a thing. (Thrifting is totally cool, right? Can I get an ‘Amen’?)

The three of us with our treasures!

My sister is also one of my favourite thrift partners – she just has a nose for treasures, like some weird sixth sense that helps her zone in past the junk to the gold.

So naturally, when the three of us decided to take a trip to Victoria for a weekend, we had to build in some thrift shopping. One of my favourite thrift shops is the WIN Restore. There are several of these in Victoria and they all support Women In Need – such a great acronym. There huge shop on Pandora didn’t yield the treasures we’d hoped for (although I did find a really nice shirt for my sweetheart) but the newly refurbished WIN on Cook Street was a jackpot. We all found something.

My mom is jewelry nut – she always says her first words were “ear rings”. So naturally, she gravitated to the jewelry cabinet and found these beauties.

Mom bought this beautiful bracelet as a gift for a friend

The ring and ear rings were not sold as a set but mom thought they went together well.

My sister is a grandma (yes, I am SO jealous) and found these super cute Peanuts Vans for her grandson

We gravitate towards Charlie Brown themed stuff for Kian because he was born with a Charlie Brown head and only recently started growing hair!

Also this fun Pete the Cat books – the illustrations in here are great and when Pete breaks into rock and roll, well.

any other Pete the Cat fans out there?

Not that she was only shopping for him, she also found this great shirt for herself.

Lands End clothing is usually great quality

And I scored this cute Eddie Bauer skirt, perfect for the smokin’ hot days we’re experiencing in Abbotsford this week.

gotta love clothes with pockets!

Who are your thrift mentors?

Posted in family, second hand, thrift legends, thrift lifetstyle, Thrift Mentors, Thrift Shopping, thrift shops, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Thrift Mentors in Victoria Part 2

Thrift Mentors and Fun in Victoria, Part One

Me, my mom and my sister – my two favourite thrifting companions!

I don’t know about you but my sister and I learned to thrift from an expert: my mom. If you google what it means to “get blood from a stone”, you’ll find her bio. This is the woman who always had 2 months rent in the bank, managed to give us camp, holidays, Disneyland, piano lessons and more, first on a housekeeper’s salary and eventually on the salary of a care aid (a job she LOVED.) She managed to buy a house and retire mortgage-free and part of what enabled her to do this was being careful with her money and living frugally. Mom canned food, baked her own bread and desserts, and always shopped thrift. If she didn’t have money for it, she didn’t buy it. If she could get it cheap, she did. She also gives back to her community – she volunteers at her church and also at the local MCC Thrift Shop, which she loves doing. Today, she is blessing her daughters with all kinds of gifts including a weekend away to Victoria to see the sites and, of course, to thrift.

Government House, Victoria BC

Today, I’m going to share with you a great thrifty travel-to-Victoria tip. We learned that Government House, the ceremonial home of all British Columbians and the home of the Lieutenant Governor, gives free tours one Saturday a month. It just so happened that we hit that Saturday when we visited in July. It was awesome.

(I’ve created some photo mosaics below, just click on them for a larger view)

The tours are led by volunteers, our tour guide was an historian and she was great. We learned all about the things that happen at Government House – like swearing in ceremonies of government, awarding of the Order of British Columbia, military dances, and more. The current house if the third house to sit on this spot, the previous two burnt down, quite spectacularly.

Lieutenant Governor David Lam was the first Chinese-Canadian to hold this position and he was also responsible for the amazing gardens that surround Government House. The gardens can be visited all year long, also for free. They are amazing and they are cared for by an army of 400 volunteers.

The property is also home to the Costume Museum, which displays a large variety of period clothing worn by visitors and residents of Government House. The museum is in the former Carriage House and entry is by donation. Cary Castle Mews and Tea Room is also here and is open from May to August. They serve light lunch fair and desserts at reasonable prices.

We spent nearly 5 hours here touring the home and gardens and even at that we didn’t see it all. We did a number of other typical touristy things in Victoria but my mom, my sister and I all agreed that this was the highlight of our weekend away, and IT WAS FREE. In fact, if you live in BC, it’s technically your house, so you really should go see it at least once.

This is not Government House, it’s FanTan Alley, a cool gateway to Victoria’s Chinatown. Just to show you we did other stuff too.

Next time, I’ll tell you about our thrift adventures and show off the things we scored!

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Success on Salt Spring

sail boats could be seen all over the coast of Salt Spring Island

My sweetheart and I recently visited Salt Spring Island for the first time. It’s hard to believe that we’ve been on nearly every other gulf island but not the biggest one! It’s a beautiful place that lived up to its reputation of being a hippy-haven, filled with super creative craftspeople, artists and artisans, great organic food and gorgeous seaside vistas.

the famous Saturday market – it was busy when we were there but in July and August, the locals say it is over -run with tourists

We took advantage of a BC Ferries deal (I get the e-newsletter but you can also check out their regular promotions here) and stayed three nights in a rustic cottage place called Green Acres Resort (“resort” is pushing it). The cottage was on St. Mary’s Lake and was well situated for us to go exploring. We went on a hike every day, visited the famous Saturday Market, drank Salt Spring Island beer,  cider, and gin, and of course, visited thrift shops.

For a small island, I was impressed that they have two thrift shops and a consignment store. I didn’t visit the consignment place but hit both thrift shops. Here’s the scoop:

Transitions Thrift Store

we think that there must be a market for thrift store awnings – don’t they all look like this?

This is right in Ganges (the main village on the island) and is tucked in behind the main drag. Transitions supports Island Woman Against Violence, supporting crisis services to women and children on the gulf islands.

The shop is not large but is well laid out and has some really nice displays. Items were reasonably priced and the quality of the goods they offered was good.

i really loved this creative display

Everything was clean, no stains on clothes, lots of name-brand things. Volunteers seemed to know a lot of the customers, which always tells me something about the character of a place. I didn’t find anything for myself here but that’s just thrifting sometimes.

Lady Minto Thrift Store

This shop was a little bit outside of Ganges, closer to where we were staying. Lady Minto supports the hospital auxiliary and is staffed by nearly 60 volunteers. It was a hoppin’ place when we stopped by on Saturday afternoon.

The store is a little larger than Transitions and while it didn’t have the same kind of character that Transitions had, it had lots of good quality products on display. I did come away with a couple of things:

love skorts, they’re so practical

i also like the Puma logo – so sleek

This golf skort by Puma, in perfect condition, only $2

not a colour i’d normally wear but it actually looks pretty good on me!

This Jessica tank just a buck. I love the keyhole detail.

If I lived on Salt Spring I’d definitely frequent these two shops both for their contents and the good causes they support. Have you ever been to Salt Spring? What’s your favourite part?

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To a Tee

For the last several weeks, I have been on the hunt for a white t-shirt. That’s all, just a plain, white t-shirt. Should be easy, right?

Wrong. So, wrong.

First of all, finding one in a thrift shop that is not yellowed in the armpits or the collar is nigh impossible – that’s usually why white/cream t-shirts end up at thrift shops. I did try, though, I really did. I hit every thrift shop in Abbotsford, as well as the MCC in Mission.

Then I gritted my teeth, held my nose, and resorted to regular retail. I went to:

Reitman’s, The Bay, American Eagle, Old Navy, H&M, Marshall’s, The Gap, Cleo’s, Walmart, Montrose & George, Spruce Collective, Winners, London Drugs, Superstore, Suzanne’s, and I’m sure I’ve forgotten one or two.

All of these places had plain white t-shirts and they varied in price from $7 to $85. They were made in various places: Cambodia, India, Bangladesh, China – and even Canada (the one at Spruce Collective with a tag that said “Consciously made in Canada”. As opposed to Unconsciously? I should be happy that you were awake when you made this?) I tried on dozens of t-shirts but mostly I didn’t even get that far. Here’s why:

peek-a-boob! NO THANK YOU!

I found that nearly every t-shirt was made with really, really sheer, poor-quality fabric. Mostly, I just had to put my hand in the shirt and if I could see my hand, I knew that I would also see my navel and the outline of the waistband of my jeans, not to mention other things that no one needs to see on me. TMI, baby. Some t-shirts were so thin, that I could see right through them.

I did not find one t-shirt that was 100% cotton, they ALL had some percentage of elastine or spandex added to them. I appreciate these stretch fabrics in jeans, pants or skirts, but I find that in tops – unless you’re very slender and toned, which I am not – stretch fabrics cling in places you’d rather not be clung.

i even tried on white tops that are not t-shirts. still see-through. see what i mean about TMI?

Seriously. How hard can it be?

I finally found one today at Costco for $9. It is also a mix of cotton and stretch materials but it’s made in Canada, which I appreciate, and the fabric is thicker. It’s a titch long for my taste but I will wash it and throw it in the dryer and see what happens – it may shrink to the perfect length (but hopefully not in any other way!) I’m not too hopeful, though, since it says it’s pre-shrunk. I’m curious to see how long this t-shirt will last before it yellows or gets a hole in it or whatever. I’m not hopeful about that either.

I have a couple of theories as to why it’s so hard to find a good quality t-shirt. Part of it is because most companies are trying to maintain the retail prices that their customers have come to expect. Since most of us expect to pay $10 for a plain t –shirt (or less), they have to find a way to make that happen, amidst rising costs of resources and transportation (human resources, sadly, are often not counted in that mix.) My second theory is more cynical: if it’s true that there’s a sucker born every minute, why make something of good quality when you can make something cheap, charge whatever you want and someone will buy it? To be honest, I would have paid $40 for a t-shirt if it had met my requirements. I would not have paid $85, mostly because that’s out of my snack bracket but also because I don’t believe it costs anyone quite that much to make a t-shirt, even if they’re being paid a living, North American wage. And truly, the $85 t-shirt was NOT a good quality shirt (in my opinion).

What’s your theory as to why it’s so hard to find a good quality t-shirt? Do you have a go-to place for these kinds of wardrobe staples?

 

 

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A Small Wonder

When I first started blogging several years ago, I was motivated by other bloggers who make a living as re-sellers: people who find treasures at thrift shops and then resell them to those who don’t care to do the hunting but value the product. Turns out that wasn’t really for me; it really is a lot of work to make such a venture successful. Still, I admire those who do this. One of those I admire is my friend Mackenzie who recently launched her Etsy store, Small Wonder Shop.

Mackenzie (seen below) has always loved fashion and the way clothing says something about the person who wears it. That, combined with a love for period drama and a desire to create her own unique look, naturally drew her to seek out one-of-a-kind clothing in vintage and thrift shops.

Mackenzie models a lot of the clothing she sells in her shop.

“I wanted something that allowed me to express myself without being trendy,” she says.

Thrift shopping was the norm in her family and, like so many of us, she developed a love for the treasure hunt. As she’s gotten older and learned more about the fashion industry, thrift shopping has also become a matter of making ethical choices around consumerism, waste and the treatment of workers in the garment industry.

She also realized that she was good at thrift shopping and joked about the blessing/curse aspect of the ability to find great stuff but not wanting to be an over-consumer. She desired to turn her “weird knack” into something positive and earn a little money on the side. Her mother’s nickname for her is ‘small wonder’ and so, Small Wonder Shop was born.

her shop sells both clothing and accessories

One of the things that makes any reseller legit is their in-depth knowledge of their product. In preparation for starting her business, Mackenzie did quite a bit of research into what makes an article of clothing quality vintage. She discovered that it’s a combination of fact and intuition.

“Etsy has specific guidelines for what defines something as vintage. It has to be 20 years old or older,” she says. (Anyone else suddenly feeling vintage?) “I also learned that where and how something is made can determine its age.”

made in Canada!

Clothing with tags that tell you they’re made in Canada or the U.S. will almost automatically make it older since most clothing these days is made off shore. Seams are trimmed with pinking shears or sewn without a serger will tell you the clothing is likely hand-made.

the stitching around the zipper tells you the quality of the seamstress, as does the fact that the dress is fully lined

“The longer you do it, you develop a sense for whether or not a piece is vintage and if it will sell,” she says.

She is picky about her product and won’t buy it if it’s in poor condition. Clothing and accessories that she brings into her shop are carefully laundered (also tricky if the clothing comes without any tag identifying fabric used) and she uses a steamer as it is easier on clothing than a traditional iron. She keeps the clothing in a separate room to keep them clean.

Sometimes friends also model for her. This is Anna-Marie, Mackenzie’s sister-in-law, also a seamstress based in Winnipeg who owns Reclaim Mending

The most time-consuming part of her shop is the photography. At this point, she models most of the articles herself. That means taking the time to do her own hair and make-up and set up the room where she does her photography. Since she doesn’t own a lot of photography equipment, that means having to do it when natural light is available. Then she uploads to her Etsy site with descriptions and costs.

“Determining shipping costs is the hardest thing because of being in Canada,” she explains. “Shipping from Abbotsford to Vancouver is a lot cheaper than shipping to Winnipeg or Halifax. I had to do a lot of calculating to determine a flat rate.”

photographing an article of clothing gives you a chance to highlight its details, like the scalloped edge of this body suit’s neckline

One of the nicest things that Mackenzie does is pay attention to detail in the packing of her clothing. She folds the clothing neatly with a ribbon and attaches her business card/tag to it. She has collected stationery sets and hand writes a thank you note to each customer.

“This makes it more personal,” Mackenzie says. “When you’re buying vintage, you’re literally buying a one-of-a-kind item, so it’s more like sending a present to someone.”

For someone who is committed to thrift/vintage shopping and sharing the treasures found, reselling is a natural next step. Even so, it matters to me to purchase from a reseller who does their homework, understands both their product and the customer, and takes care to make the purchase experience a good one. Take some time to visit Mackenzie’s shop for yourself: Small Wonder Shop.

What about you? Is reselling something you’ve ever thought of doing? Have you bought items from a reseller you’d recommend?

 

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The Marketplace

The Marketplace by MCC CE is the latest venture from MCC BC. For the uninitiated, Mennonite organizations LOVE their acronyms: MCC CE is Mennonite Central Committee Community Enterprises. The BC is British Columbia. (The reality is that no matter how many letters they put after their name, everyone is going to call it The Marketplace, so why bother?) This is new territory for MCC because it is NOT A THRIFT SHOP. So don’t go in there expecting thrift prices. What it is, is a community enterprise and it is super cool.

The Marketplaces sells upcycled goods, products from local artisans (local meaning BC), some higher quality consignment clothing, and food products. It is not run by volunteers but by paid employees. They have a deli and bakery, so it’s a great place to go for lunch or afternoon tea and then shop for cool things.

The long-term goal is to also make this an employment training place where people can learn upcycyling, retail, food services skills.

The store is huge but beautifully laid out with large pergola-type structures that create “rooms” so that furniture pieces can be displayed to their best potential. Some of their products support women’s employment projects overseas. The consignment pieces are well curated and include jewelry, clothing and accessories.

My son has wanted a cast iron frying pan for ages and I had several to choose from here – he was thrilled when I brought this one home.

looks rustic, eh? ya, that’s actually my oven. don’t even try and talk about that to me.

there was another pan made in Canada but this one was in much better shape, so i went for quality over patriotism

I picked up these great, waterproof, Hush Puppies ankle boots (made in Canada!) for only $20.

i also like the paper bag packing materials that they use at the store.

The soles are in great shape and I’ve already walked home from work in them and they were very comfy.

fun fact: i didn’t notice the jewels in the watch face until i saw this photo.

I also picked up this Calinda watch for $10. These are always iffy purchases for me. I had to get a battery and had to have a couple of links removed so it would fit my wrist. That added an extra $25 to its value but I have been looking for something like this for ages with little success. It stopped working after two days but I took it back to the charming fellow at Quartz Jewelers (right across from London Drugs in the West Oaks Mall in Abbotsford), and he oiled the gears for me and it seems to be working again – fingers crossed!.

The Marketplace by MCC CE is located at 34377 Marshall Road in Abbotsford. They’re open 7 days a week and open late some nights so you can check them out after work or on weekends. Follow them on Facebook which is updated regularly with new goods coming in. If you’re looking for quality goods that support local artists, the environment (by upcycling) or are consigned, then the Marketplace offers great variety. Oh, and try their London Fog, it’s excellent!

What’s your favourite upcycled-goods-store?

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