My Mom Could Teach Macklemore Something About Thrift Shoppin’

When it comes to thrift shoppin’, Macklemore is a mere rookie compared to my mom.

Mom can spend hours in thrift shops. I’m not mocking her; in a well-stocked thrift shop, I can do the same thing. I’ve been the beneficiary of mom’s many trips to these places and, in turn, she, my sister and my brothers have unwrapped gifts I picked up, certain they’d love the items as much as I did when I spotted them.

As a child of the Depression, and dirt poor even after that, my mom developed a fine eye for the good deal and for seeing the treasure in trash. When my mom was a teenager, she and her girlfriends started a club called the Penny Pinchers. They sang a club song with these lyrics:

Penny Pinchers, pinch them all,
What do you think you’ll have next fall?
Twice as much as a penny or two,
So pinch your pennies like the Penny Pinchers do!

Personally, I’m relieved that mom’s favorite places to shop are second hand stores. Because my mom doesn’t drive, it’s up to my sister and me to take her shopping. I’m no fan of shopping in general and I loathe the mall. I dread trips to department stores or the hybrid grocery/everything else mega markets. Frankly, I try to avoid buying stuff from China, but it’s next-to-impossible at department stores.

But it’s not about me. If taking my mom to thrift shops makes her happy, I’m glad to oblige. She can’t easily spend that much money there. And it’s a treat to see what delights her at these places. We’ll wander off in different directions and then suddenly meet in an aisle, her cart filled with gew gaws, tchotchkes and paraphernalia. She’ll say, “Oh, good, I was hoping to find you. I want to ask your opinion of these items.”

And then, one by one, she’ll pick up each item and exclaim her pleasure in finding another long-sleeved white shirt for two dollars, a green glass bowl for a dollar and a half, another pair of scissors for ten cents, a colorful scarf, and several mysterious objects with no discernible use—for twenty-five cents. And a pretty box. My mom loves pretty boxes. She has an entire shelf in her bedroom filled with boxes, a lot of which held items that didn’t give her nearly as much delight as the box itself.

But finding clothes at a bargain is what thrills her the most. My mom is the perfect size for great deals on gorgeous clothes. Given that designers design for waifs and given that my mom weighs about 12 pounds, it’s inevitable that she’ll come away with couture that anyone would envy. It makes me jealous!

Yeah, Macklemore might have bagged himself a velour jumpsuit, some house slippers and a brown leather jacket, but my mom brings home these:

  • Victor Costa black, waist length, dressy dinner jacket – $3.00
  • Ann Taylor tweed, zip up jacket – $2.00
  • Full-length fawn-colored cashmere coat – $1.50
  • Puget Sound all weather coat – $.50 (yes, fifty cents)

And they’re all in perfect condition! Lucky her. I can’t squeeze my girth or beefy arms into any of her clothes. Bummer.

One of the things I like to do when I go thrift shopping is to find the most peculiar, the quirkiest or most hideous item in the store and then choose a friend that I can gift it to. At Christmas this year, I received one of the oddest, dearest gifts I’ve ever unwrapped. It wasn’t easy to wrap, either. Mom found this gift in a consignment shop. My sister was with her at the time and she tells me that mom went giddy multiplied by a factor of 10 when she saw this thing. She just had to buy it for me!

kitschy toilet paper holder


kitschy toilet paper holder open

I get a laugh every time I look at it. I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but this piece is going to find a comfortable, cherished spot in her newly remodeled bathroom. Yeah, it’s beyond kitsch, but it’s functional. And it symbolizes the joy that mom felt when she saw it.

Eat your heart out, Macklemore.

digital illustration by snoring dog studio, digital illustration of older woman pushing rack of clothes

43 thoughts on “My Mom Could Teach Macklemore Something About Thrift Shoppin’

  1. My daughter, who’s 31 years old now, always shopped at the Salvation Army and Thrift Stores in the area all through high school and college, and even now as a working wife and mother. She taught me the value of it Thrift Store shopping! Over a decade ago my mom helped organize a Methodist Church run CLOTHES CLOSET in the old historic school in town so we have our own ‘thrift shop’ and the prices are actually a lot lower than any thrift store in the area. In fact I have gotten whole outfits there and we are thrilled when a Eddie Bauer or Land’s End or other “high end” item comes our way! Mom, who’s 79 now, doesn’t run the Clothes Closet upstairs, but is in charge of the small town library downstairs but you can bet you sweet bippy that she still goes shopping for her everyday clothes as well as her dress up clothes upstairs. In fact my whole family does!

  2. My mom taught me the love of thrift shops, too. We were very poor when I was young, and it was the only place we bought clothes and toys. As we became more affluent, my mom became an antique dealer and brought me into that world, as well…but we both still LOVE to explore in thrift shops, always hoping for the elusive treasure that someone else missed!

    1. Hi, Lisa! I think thrift shopping with your mom is a wonderful bonding experience and a way to learn some history and a bit more about your mom’s life. My mom has pointed out things that she had in her childhood and given me a wonderful glimpse into her younger years. That’s priceless stuff!

  3. I’m more the estate sale fanatic myself, although I do shop at the thrift stores for everyday clothes a couple of times a year. Great bargains, and sometimes some real finds….If something looks lousy when I get home and get it on, no problem…it didn’t cost enough to worry about. I love the toilet paper thing…Parker would love it…he made a rack that held three rolls at a time when we were in iowa…I said NO here…lol..

  4. I’ve actually seen one of those! (yours is nicer, though – it has curtains and that “smoke” out the top – not just a place for hiding extra rolls – very thoughtful design and all those little details)
    Thrift shops are lot of fun if you’ve got time. Used to shop in those during college. One of my uncles retired then bought a “junk store” He was quite a horse trader and always ended up with the most amazing stuff. I was sad when he retired again and sold it…
    Glad you can enjoy her adventures and find – some couldn’t ( and what fun they miss)

      1. interactive entertainment! Maybe a sunspot disruption of internet might not be so bad – give people a chance to discover other ways of spending time. People in a box all day long miss so much – and don’t even realize it. WHile it may be a nuisance sometimes, you’re lucky you can walk to work?

  5. Love this! One of my sisters had the gift for thrift as she called it. I still remember a full length, black velvet coat she found (and I stole from her) for $5. Stunning.

      1. I’m not tiny either. Sigh. But in ever find anything when I go to thrift stores. I think it is a gift. I don’t have it

        I am also the only person on the Laney who can go into any store on France and buy a bad bottle of wine!

  6. A birdhouse for the Charmin in the Lincoln Sitting Room spotted by Your Eagle-eye Mother — that’s hilarious. Please tell me that it wasn’t made in China. If she runs across a deer-butt bottle opener for under five clams, you know how to reach me off the ‘sphere.

    1. I’m thinking that the bare bones of it was made in China and then someone picked it up in a craft shop and painted it. If it was made in China, they sure do have weird ideas about us here. Or not. I’ll keep my eye open for that bottle opener.

  7. Oh, how I miss thrift shopping. We don’t have them here in Cuenca. We have fabulous Mercados with incredible prices, but it’s not the same–especially when it comes to clothes. I love finding the designer stuff for a steal!

    Hugs from Ecuador,

    1. Well, perhaps you can start the trend there? Oh, I’d miss my thrift shops desperately if I had none. It really is an entertaining hour to spend. I try to imagine the people who owned the stuff that ended up there. It’s a neat experience.

  8. Just yesterday, I went to a local thrift store called Repeats. I bought a hooded sweatshirt, a tee-shirt, and a long-sleeved pullover. The total was less than fourteen dollars. And none of the items is from China: One is from Namibia, one from Pakistan, and one from the Mariana Islands. Big savings and a geography lesson!

    I have no idea who Macklemore is, but I loved this post.

  9. I wasn’t such a big fan when Mom moved down here, but she was one of those who could go and browse every single day. We finally struck a deal. I would take her once a week, and I promised never to gripe while we were out. It worked out just fine, until her stamina started to give out and then we went to twice a week.

    I honestly believe most of the pleasure for her was just the power to purchase – anything. They were so poor when she was growing up it always amazed her that she could have the things she wanted. But she didn’t really need anything, so she enjoyed picking up books, teacups, scarves – all the little things that make up the bulk of thrift shopping.

    I did take her a few time to the Blue Bird Resale Shop, which is extremely high end, and supports programs at one of the hospitals in the Texas Medical Center. She got a full-length cashmere coat for $30, and talked about it until the day she died.

  10. What a lovely story. In just a few words, you have given me your Mom. Someone I would love to meet and get to know. I especially love the image of your Mom giddy multiplied by a factor of ten. What a great phrase. Such good writing here.

    When I look at certain items, I like to listen to those items and hear what stories they want to tell. Sometimes I write them down. Sometimes I don’t. But I always find them worthy of listening to.

    1. What a sweet comment, Don! Thank you so much. I’m so grateful for being able to spend these years with my mom. I’ve been enriched beyond words. I’m looking forward to seeing what other surprises she finds at the thrift shop!

  11. Once again, I’m caught out in La La Land. Twice today I’ve seen the word Macklemore and wondered who the hell is that? Guess it’s time for a trip to Google.

    I didn’t grow up shopping in thrift store. Actually, I never got a chance to shop. My mom’s tactic was to hit the after-season sales while I was in school. I’d come home to find my bed piled with out of style/season clothes that I was supposed to save for next year.They rarely fit and I rarely liked them and I resented that I never had any say so in the process.

    I’ve never been an astute shopper. I wish I were. I’ve struggled with thrift stores in the past. But lately, I’ve become much more comfortable in them. I think two things are at work: the emphasis on reusing has compelled more rich bitches to take their once-worn items to the thrift store rather than throwing them out. Also, I don’t feel so guilty if I make a stupid purchase that was already on the rack for the second time and cost me fractions of what it cost the first person.

    I love your mom’s find. (Well, not enough to put it in my bathroom, but the idea is cute as can be.)

  12. I’m not much of a shopper either, but there is a local thrift store here called Housing Works and a portion of every sale goes to help people in need. I bet your mother could find a world of treasures there.

    That toilet paper house is beyond awesome. You won’t find that at a box store!

  13. Good on you and your Mom! I’ve worked in the rag trade most of my career and in one office we used to compete to see who could spend the least on clothes. Sample sales, thrift shops, attics and garage sales were all game. And for those of us who were slight of build, the boys’ department was “aces.” It takes a whole lot more creativity to dress yourself when you don’t have an unlimited budget.

    1. That sounds like fun – and yes, creativity is a help. But most people can’t tell you’ve shopped at thrift stores, which is super. I suppose if you were into labels you could show the one on your 2 dollar Ann Klein sweater.

  14. Too bad they didn’t have a thrift shop on the cruise. Before we knew it Mom had blown $600 on jewelry and other useless gifts for you and Carolyn. Hope you enjoy them. We thought of returning them but boy, Mom got a lot of pleasure out of putting all her goodies on her bed and telling me to look and see how pretty each item was. She really enjoys buying gifts for people so I was happy for her.

    1. Yeah, when I was helping her unpack, I kept pulling out bag after bag of jewelry – she’s already got her Christmas gifts for next year. She does love her shopping, and you’re right – she gets a lot of pleasure out of giving stuff to her family.

  15. After mom’s death, and surviving have a severally depressed individual in our home for thirteen months, I needed to re-enter society and be presentable for social consumption.So what do I do? Quit a nice paying, though highly stressful, job and went to work at a thrift store. It is ran as a fundraising arm of a non-profit hospice organization. I love it and the fact that we help people dress nice and get needs in a severally depressed economy is icing on the cake. I personal have shopped there for years.
    Best deal: A Ralph Lauren suit, originally purchased at Macy’s, for $3.00! Yep, love my thrift shop!

    1. That sounds marvelous. I bet the experience gives back so much in ways beyond just being able to get great clothes at next-to-nothing prices. What a wonderful alternative to a very stressful job! I’ve always noticed how very nice the thrift shop workers are – nothing like those I meet at the big box chains.

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