Too Thrifty Chicks

Think.Thrift.Create


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When Less is More: Thoughts on a Minimalist Life Pt. 1

I must admit I came to minimalism through tragedy.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, my mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. Part of dealing with her diagnosis has been dealing with her stuff: her house, her physical personal belongings, her finances.

I discovered that my mom, retired Army veteran, lover of all media, homeowner and divorcee had an overwhelming amount of stuff! Honestly, if she wasn’t so neat and tidy, I would call her a borderline hoarder.

And I, her only child, had to dive in, when she couldn’t.

The experience of going through her house — our house — and trying to decide what to do with it all broke me down. I cried. Sobbed in fact. I was overwhelmed with the amount of stuff, but also by the memories.

At some point in the process I realized my mama wasn’t ever going to live in her house again. She had no need of all of the things she had accumulated over her now 58 years of life. Me, her only daughter? I haven’t lived in the same city longer than four years. Ever. I’m a nomad, at home every where and no where. Where would I put all this stuff if I kept if for nostalgia’s sake? I don’t have a house and the way this journalism thing is set up, I might never have one.

I’m still dealing with what to do with my mama’s stuff. It’s come a long way since that very first time I went through it, but the process continues. Dealing with her stuff forced me to have a come to Jesus meeting with myself about my own stuff. I had questions.

  • Why did I continue to drag things from my imagined life of living in a permanent space into my actual life of living in temporary spaces?
  • Did I place more value on “owning” a thing, rather than on its function in my life?
  • What would happen to my self-worth, self-esteem if I gave a lot of it away?

These are questions that I am still trying to answer.

In the beginning

When I got my first full-time gig at The Tuscaloosa News, I was stoked. And I wanted a grown up apartment to go with my new job. I did no math. Rent in Tuscaloosa and Alabama can be cheap. I would not discover until two years later how cheap it could be. All I knew was that I could get a whole townhouse for less than $500 a month. But a whole house needs furniture, right? And decorations, and, and, and…..

Yeah. That was a thing. Until I realized how much money I did — or rather, didn’t — make. I had to move to a less expensive apartment across town and try to get my mid-20 something head around the dismal state of my finances. I moved from Tuscaloosa, Ala. to Sarasota, Fla. in 2005, for a job that paid more, but I couldn’t afford to take my stuff, which I’ moved to Georgia. The re-location money wouldn’t cover getting all that stuff to Florida and I was broke. I also didn’t have a place to put it. This was Florida, pre-housing bubble bursting. Apartments were being converted to condos and rents were outrageous compared to Tuscaloosa.

Instead, I shared space with great roommates until I moved to Anniston, Ala. for graduate school a year later. I was moving toward minimalism mostly by circumstance, and a little by choice. I lived for three years without most of my stuff. I told my mama to keep what she wanted for her daycare and sell/giveaway the rest. I was on the road to Montgomery, Ala. vowing to never, ever accumulate that much stuff again.

A broken vow

While I never accumulated a house full of furniture again — Reese can attest to this — I still managed to amass a closet full of clothes, kitchen supplies and books. Oh, and there were the huge pieces of art that I had been dragging around since my summer internship in Zambia, circa 2001! And did I mention the heavy, vintage typewriter? Yeah. That was a thing. My house was mostly a statement in minimalism, but it also didn’t feel like home. It felt empty. Disconnected. I knew I wanted less stuff, but I didn’t have the language to talk about it when everything about growing up seemed to be about getting more stuff.

Two steps forward, two steps back

I got to test these questions again when I moved to the DMV. I left Montgomery, Ala. with only what I could fit into a two-door, 1997 Saturn SC2. Clothes, kitchen supplies, books. I was jammed in that car like toes in too small shoes. And still I ended up leaving a lot of things behind at a good friend’s house.

Though I had successfully managed to give away a ton of stuff, I still couldn’t bear to part with anything more. I mean, for goodness sake, I got my book collection down to four small banker’s boxes. Who does that? I vowed to purchase a Kindle and to never physically turn a page again.

And then I met Reese. This girl loves books. When she became my roommate, she came with books. Her books reminded me how much I enjoyed reading. How much I enjoyed turning a physical page and devouring a book in a 24-hour period. Her books reminded me how good it feels to walk into a book store, especially in Washington, D.C.

Our nation’s capital is home to Sankofa Video, Books and Cafe, The Children of the Sun, Busboys and Poets and Kramerbooks & Afterword Cafe. Not to mention thrift stores where you can find out of print books dirt cheap. (True story: I purged my suitcase while in Memphis because I bought books at a thrift store. Reese still had to bring some of them when she last came to visit.)

Ahh, glorious books. Truth be told, if it wasn’t for Operation Do Better, we would have spent every dime we made on books. The public library near our house, saved our pocket books to be sure.

But then it was time to move. And we both realized that in creating a home together, we had managed to amass a lot of stuff. That troubled the minimalist spirit that had developed in my heart from all my previous moves. Orchestrating a move is not my most favorite thing in the world, even though I have moved a lot in my 35 years. (Hello, Army brat.). I felt it whenever we visited friends, who had these spry, carefully edited apartments. Nothing more, nothing less. We had created an amazing space, but it was starting to feel like too much. Moving helped us both realize just how much it was.

Throw it out

When a friend posted a great article that encouraged us to throw everything away, ish got real. We jumped on a challenge to intentionally get rid of three or four things every day for 30 days. Because I was in transition, I had to modify the challenge. But I’m happy to say that by the time I unpacked my last box at my new space in New Haven, I managed to purge about 200 items over the last month.

While my stuff is still a little bit more than is necessary, it’s not much more, and that feels right. I learned while living with Reese what it means to create a space with intention, and I believe I have achieved minimalism without sacrificing comfort in my new place. I have some thoughts about how to ensure that I continue to travel light and ready for new adventure that I will share in another post.

So, I’ll leave you with these additional question to ponder: If you had an opportunity to pick up your life and move it to another country, state, city would your stuff hold you back? Would you chuck it all for the experience of a lifetime?

My courageous line sister recently did it. Check out her story and blog chronicling her adventures teaching abroad.

Do you consume, therefore you are? Share your thoughts on minimalism in the comments below.

-Ricks


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Mellow Yellow: A Little Touch of Sunshine

When one of my favorite people in the world let me know that her boo “Liked it and put a ring on it,” I wanted to turn cartwheels. When she told me soon after that she and said boo had no plans to wait and were getting married in Las Vegas in July, I almost fainted. Not because of the quick turnaround, but…Las Vegas…in JULY?! There was no doubt that I was going to be at the ceremony, but Jesus be a fence, a bottle of water, a kiddie pool and a sprinkler.

If you’ve never been to Las Vegas in the summer, you don’t know about the triple digit heat that cools down to 99 degrees when the sun goes down. The only thing that is remotely equivalent is if you stood in front of your oven, turned it up as high as it could go and then opened the door. It is that HOT! How were we going to keep from dying of heat stroke? Could we be sweaty and cute? But more importantly, what in the name of all that is holy was I going to wear?

Operation Do Better was already being thrown a curveball by the unexpected trip and I knew that buying a dress to wear for the ceremony was out of the question. Enter Reese and her giveaway pile of clothes. My roomie extraordinaire just happened to be chucking this adorable yellow dress that she liked, but didn’t really love. She suggested that I give it a try before I broke down and bought something new. Lo and behold it looked great. All I needed to do was take it in around the bust area.

Check out these snaps of me rocking the frock and me and the newly made missus, Tia C. Harris-Kinard!

Yellow 1Yellow 2

IMG_1170

Me and Mrs. Tia C. Harris-Kinard. This was taken before the actual deed was done, but isn’t she lovely? 🙂

I always thought orange and red were my favorite colors, but I think yellow is my ministry. This sunny shade pops off my skin and just makes me feel really beautiful. The light, airiness of the dress was perfect for letting me get a little ventilation without looking under dressed for the occasion.

Speaking of yellow — I bought a little something at the 1st Annual FABULOUS Second-Hand/Vintage Clothing Pop-Up Shop that we blogged about in June. I never got a chance to show you all the fabulous find I snagged from Patrice “Patty B” Boone of The Prissy Tomboy and BTwenty3.

Well here she is in all her glory. I wore this vintage jumpsuit in NYC during Blogging While Brown for an advance screening of Fruitvale Station, a must see movie about the death of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old Bay Area resident, who was shot and killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer on New Year’s Day 2009. It is a powerful movie and it is in theaters now. I recommend that you check it out. Me and the roomie plan to go see it again this weekend.

As for the jumpsuit, my goal is to add some straps to the top part since I’m not particularly blessed with enough bust to keep it up, but I look forward to rocking this look many times this summer! Enjoy the view! — R&R

Yellow 3 Yellow 5 Yellow 4


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Solo Thrift: DAV Thrift Store and Goodwill

I happened to be near Danville, Va. during Veterans Day weekend and I couldn’t resist finding a thrift store and checking it out. When my aunt and uncle said there was one on Main Street, my cousin and I said, “Game on.” We didn’t have as much time to the peruse the racks as I would have liked, but I managed to find a few things and spent $10. I definitely intend to make the trip back for a longer look.

The Disabled American Veterans Thrift Store is a pretty cool place to spend some time during a Veterans Day Weekend.

Keeping my military theme going, a couple of weeks later, I made the trip down to my adopted hometown of Hinesville, Ga. to handle some family affairs. If you don’t know anything about this part of Georgia, it’s near the east coast of the state and a part of its charm is that it is close to Fort Stewart, an Army installation, and about 45 minutes away from Savannah, Ga.

I paid my first ever visit to the Goodwill in Hinesville and boy am I glad I did. I was there to drop off some donations, but I couldn’t resist a peek inside the store. Pure and simple, this place rocks!

Goodwill Hinesville, Ga. a great shopping experience.

Thrift stores near military installations — think Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy — are the prefect place to find a military style jacket — a classic hot fashion item. I am enamored with the Marine Corps dress uniform and was all too happy to see the selection that I found at this Goodwill. In fact, I was surprised at the selection that I found for each of the services. I lucked up on a Marine Corps dress jacket and an Army dress uniform jacket that was actually made for a woman. Score!

Best place to get that military look for less is to checkout thrift stores near military installations. Troops tend to discard their service uniforms that they can’t fit or don’t need after they end their service.

I can’t sing the praises of this place enough. It’s not huge, but it is clean, incredibly well organized and when the cashier asked, “Would you like to join our preferred customer program? It’s good at all of our stores in the Coastal Empire.” She could have knocked me over with a feather. A preferred customer program that I can use in pretty much any of the cities in east Georgia? Please and thank you. Preferred customers get a point for every $1 they spend and customers that earn 250 points get 25 percent of their shopping experience! And if you are military or a military dependent you can get 10 percent off your purchase every day.

I can’t lie, I earned 35 points in my first trip. But what I got far exceeds what I spent — two vintage dresses and sandals for next summer. My thrifty heart and my wallet are forever in the service of the good folks of Goodwill.

My only complaint — and it is very minor — is that there are only two dressing rooms and a three item limit. Y’all know what I did. I simply tried on all my items right near the racks out where everyone was shopping. Yes, I got crazy side-eyes. No, I didn’t care. Reese would have been proud.

If you live near a military installation and like military inspired clothes, a thrift store near a military base is a way to go.

Until next time…keep it thrifty.

— R&R


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Get Some, Give Some: Huge Thanks!

We asked for donations, and our readers came through! Thanks to the generosity of several people, we donated four trash bags and one plastic bin of clothing, coats, shoes, and blankets to The Great Clothes and Coats Give Away.

We can’t say it enough. THANK YOU, THANK YOU! When I dropped off our donations, the volunteers were stoked to see all the things we contributed! The items you donated will be given to individuals and families in the Washington, DC area absolutely free of charge. Because of your generosity, someone will be warmer this winter.

With all that’s going on in the world–wars, natural disasters, etc.–I’ve been thinking a lot about giving and service. DC’ers let out a sigh of relief when Hurricane Sandy didn’t destroy our area as it did others. We were blessed to not have widespread power outages, gas shortages, mass transit chaos, or rising death tolls. However, the reality is natural disasters, wars, etc. are always hard on those who have the least. Life is often hard on those who have the least. We’re happy we could contribute tangible things. As M. Ricks says, “It is truly a blessing to be a blessing.”

If you’re in the DMV, there’s still time to donate before the event on Saturday, November 10th. Drop us a line in the comment section so we can coordinate!

Until next time,

-A.Reese


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Get Some, Give Some

We love the idea of recycling. Aside from how fun it is, thrifting is one way we choose to contribute to reducing waste on this planet.  But we don’t simply relish in the thrill of our finds; we also give back by donating to our local thrift stores or local charities. We all know people who take and take and take some more. And we all hate to see those people come our way, don’t we? So don’t be that person.

If you incorporate thrifting into your lifestyle, get some and give some. Get some really great stuff, but also give really great stuff for others’ benefit. Thrift stores and charities thrive on our generosity. If you expect someone else to give, why shouldn’t you?

FYI: If you’re looking for an opportunity to clean out your closet, consider donating items to Emory Fellowship’s Bridges of Hope Great Clothes and Coats Giveaway. On Nov. 10th, the ministry will give away  (at no cost) clothes to women, men, and children in need. If you have gently worn clothes or coats, blankets, or comforters, let us know! We’d be happy to pass on more information or even coordinate picking up items if you’re in the DMV.

We believe in giving back, ya’ll. We hope you do too! Support your local thrift store or charity!

— R&R