Thrifting is More Than it Appears

Modern day treasure hunting!


Photo by Nosiuol on Unsplash

Sign pointing the way to the thrifting motherlode, Goodwill.

Ancient pirate map where X marks the spot for treasure.

Adventurers, pirates, and even common peasants were always searching for treasure that would catapult them to fame and riches. Some were just in it for the thrill of the hunt. But most of all they were all looking for a story. And now in the 21st century we look for their stories. Glimpses into lives we will never know. Perhaps something forgotten in a pocket, or a box, or something donated after a loved ones death or a breakup. We may never know their journey to end up in second-hand stores but its more fun to guess.

It’s easy to not think of people in history as being as “real” as we are today, but their old possessions can help paint a brighter picture of their lives. They felt love, happiness, pain, and grief just like we do. They had preferences about their clothing, their cutlery, and other little things that make a house a home. Its absolutely insane these pieces of history being sold for $3.99, but I’m not complaining because it gives me the opportunity to create a new story from the old.

A small painted box that rattled when I picked it up. I look in every box I find but I’ve never found anything before then. Looking inside I see gold, no pyrite most likely. For me it might as well have been gold I was so excited. Perhaps some parent carelessly donated a child’s box of treasures after their departure for college.

A little free library in Richmond, Virginia a tiny box that contains big stories.

Old books contain so much more than the stories their covers advertise. I’ve found books dated throughout the 1900s with gift messages to loved ones. And when they finished the book they passed the love on to someone else who needed it more. If you’ve ever seen a Little Free Library and perhaps taken or given a book you too have contributed to history. I’ve found annotated books and books signed as gifts, old words still radiating love.

Snapshots of families perhaps all gone or perhaps donated out of anger at estranged parents. Once again the thrill is in the mystery.

My mother handed me down a music box that was hers as a child, when I find other music boxes I can’t help but wonder if their stories are similar. How many family heirlooms have ended up in thrift stores to become heirlooms to another family? Even more innocuous items carry tales; reminds me of the saying “If the walls could talk”. Imagine if those well worn sweaters, fancy plates, and gaudy jewelry could tell you of their past owners, their past lives.

Mugs upon mugs reading “Number 1 Dad”, “Bride to be”, and so many more thoughtful words discarded. Every time I find one of these porcelain treasures I can’t help but speculate on its journey from dusty shelf to different dusty shelf.

Records, CD’s, cassette tapes give you the opportunity to listen to music that has been played for years, perhaps before you were even born.

A sad polar bear stuffed animal sitting on an armchair in the Restore people watching.

Stuffed animals that are husks of their former selves, destroyed by love. But the child grew out of that love, such is the cycle of life no matter how sad it is to see them laying there unwanted. Grandma’s cherished knick-knacks that their kids donate when they pass on. Its interesting how some cling to memories while others find them too painful to keep. At the end of the day its a beautiful cycle an unwanted item becomes wanted again by another and the cycle restarts with a new person and a new story.

A lot of people think old items are haunted and maybe they are. Hopefully by benevolent spirits though because if my thrifted books start trying to kill me that would totally ruin the vibes of thrifting. So far me and the ghosts are homies though, so we are chilling.

Notebooks are a jackpot of stories despite my inability to read old fashioned cursive. I’ve never looked at the recipe books in a thrift store, but I am just now realizing they too would hold some insight into random lives. Why do some people give things away? Why do others keep them forever? All I know is I will continue to treasure these memories.

Silly antique bears on a shelf in DAV.

I asked my fellow classmates about their thrifting experiences; I was surprised to find many had never ventured into a thrift store. Fortunately for this article though some had.

Stephanie Dukart-Anderson was excited at the mention of thrifting and told me about the first finds that came to her head: a “cool” cardigan and a Carhartt beanie at an estate sale.

Chris Powell found Adidas shorts for cheap at Goodwill.

To wrap things up I highly recommend going to Goodwill, DAV, or any other thrift store near you. Go forth and find your own stories and treasures. Most of all have fun!