Thrifty Finds

This week’s Thrifty Finds (16-23 July)

 

This Week's Thrifty Finds via secondhandtales.wordpress.comHow was your week? The kids broke up for the summer on Friday and, beforehand, I was really busy finishing off my end of school year jobs list. However I did manage to find some time to myself and go on a very successful Thrifty Finds shopping trip:

  1. I bought a few more items on my summer holidays clothes list: a pair of navy shorts and khaki vest top for just £1.99 each from the British Heart Foundation shop; this brand new blue dress for £8.49 from the same shop:

 secondhand, charity shop, navy dress, British Heart Foundation

I think I will wear this to work with leggings, as well as taking on holiday.

I also fell in love with this Henry Holland/Debenhams print dress, which was £8.50 from the Julian House shop:

charity shop Thrifty Find secondhand dress

You know when you see something on a rail and you have to have it? This was how I felt about this dress. Every so often on my secondhand shopping trips I get a real emotional response to an item of clothing and am reminded why I love charity shopping: amidst all the ill fitting Primark and Tesco cast offs there will be a unique outfit that I know no one else will be wearing. What I love about this dress is the style (Tea Dress, just above the knee so perfect for holidays), and the 80s style pattern: geometric blocks and – for some reason – horses and carriages!

2. As well as my successful clothing haul I also found some activity books for the kids to take on holiday. I’m not a big fan of comic books (especially when they have plastic tat stuck to the covers). I often find unused activity books in charity shops which are a cheaper alternative.

3.The children broke up from school on Friday and I completely failed at bringing in any Thank You presents. Instead, the Teachers and Teaching Assistants received personalised thank you cards from the girls.

4. My husband and I went on a weekend trip to London to catch up with old university friends. It wasn’t particularly cheap but I did reduce our train fare costs by buying single, instead of return tickets.

5. I also took my trusty zero waste essentials with me – reusable coffee cup and water bottle. However, once more I failed on the plastic straw front. I didn’t even think to ask for ‘no straw’ when ordering a glass of lemonade at a restaurant. However I did refuse their disposable handwipes.

 

 

I’d love to hear about your Thrifty Finds too! Please  share your Thrifty Finds on my facebook page, or use #thriftyfinds on Twitter or instagram

Some retail (charity) therapy and a denim bargain!

Last week I found myself with some unexpected spare time in Bath. Whenever I have time to myself and I’m in town I find myself wandering around the charity shops (see here for my guide to secondhand shopping in Bath).

I don’t always expect to buy something in these stores but I love to browse. Although charity shopping is a fraction of the cost of High Street stores (except perhaps Primark and H&M) I am still careful about what I buy. Having flirted with Project 333 for a while I am still strict about what clothes I wear and buy. The danger of charity shops is that you can end up with an armful of clothes that you are a) never going to realistically wear and b) never going to realistically fit into!

I don’t have much on my mental shopping list at the moment but I have wanted to pick up a shirt dress. I have somehow got into denim this year and, while still transforming old jeans into a skirt (nearly there) have been thinking about a denim dress. I recently spotted this one in Fat Face for £45:

 

Fat Face Denim Dress

On my trip to Bath I had wondered about popping into Fat Face to see if it was reduced in the sale but, lo and behold, the British Heart Foundation shop on Green Street came up trumps. I picked up this brilliant Dorothy Perkins denim dress for just £5!

£5 denim dress

Needless to say it has now become a wardrobe staple and can be worn with lots of layers, leggings, jumpers and shirts. It is also hard wearing and even came on a camping trip last weekend.

It has also sparked my interest in denim and I have added a denim jacket and denim dungarees to my mental shopping list. Whether I can pick them up for a bargain fiver each will remain to be seen…

In the meantime the inspirational Samantha from the Fake Fabulous blog has this post here about wearing denim to work.

Welcome to National Secondhand Day: my top five picks

 

secondhand

Today is the fourth national Secondhand Day, as organised by the Preloved website. It is a way to celebrate and promote all things secondhand.

Now I don’t need any encouragement to buy secondhand as most of my wardrobe is sourced from charity shops, jumble sales, vintage boutiques and clothes swaps.  But there are other items that I love to source secondhand. Buying secondhand is cheap, recycled, unique and (often) a way of giving to good causes.

Here are my top five non-clothing secondhand picks:

  1.  Books

secondhand Persephone books

One of my favourite things to do is to spend time in a secondhand bookshop: surely one of the greatest joys in life is to browse their shelves. I love the Persephone books but they are expensive firsthand and a rarity to find secondhand. The two editions above, though, were picked up from charity shops.

2) Games

board games at Christmas

As a family we have picked up many boardgames secondhand. Some will stay with us for a long time while others are re-donated, as the children grow out of them.

3) Vinyl

NOW That's What I Call Music

While we have quite a few albums from our teenage years, the purchase of a new record player a couple of years ago, has led to my husband and I searching for secondhand vinyl. We’re quite pleased with our growing collection of Now That’s What I call Music albums, bought for a few pounds each from charity shops.

3) Furniture

second-hand furnishings in cottage sitting room

We practically furnished our lounge with second-hand furniture last winter. The chair was picked up for free from the street. The lamp and keyboard came from the local Dorothy House Furniture and Electrical Appliance store and the shelves were upcycled from old floorboards (also not shown is our secondhand sofa, picked up for £35)

4) Appliances

secondhand breadmaker

We have picked up breadmakers, hoover, toaster, kettle and now an ice cream maker from specialist charity shops that sell furniture and electrical appliances. All the appliances are PAT tested and are so well priced I would never buy firsthand again.

5) Jewellery

secondhand necklace

Not strictly clothing so I’m going to include this. I have picked up rings and necklaces secondhand and have never regretted any purchase. I seem to wear this necklace nearly every day as it goes with everything: not bad for a couple of quid from a charity shop.

If you’ve never tried second-hand before I would really urge you to give it a go. If preloved clothing isn’t for you then skip the garments and go straight for the bric-a-brac or books section. I can assure you that rummaging through charity shops and bagging yourself a bargain is sheer joy!

If you are interested in secondhand clothing I recently wrote about why I’m still charity shopping in my 40s for The Thrift blog here.

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Our new (to us) keyboard!

In which we swapped this:

decluttering the piano

for this:

second-hand keyboard

 

If you dip in and out of this blog you may have noticed that I’ve become interested in minimalism, or living with less. Having read a few books, seen The Minimalists talk in Bristol, and followed initiatives such as Project 333 I have started to question what we own, and why we own it. Of course this approach has also been affected by the fact that there are five of us living in a small space (and we are set to stay here for the future).

You may have followed our Sofa Saga from earlier in the summer where we were – accidentally – left without anything to sit on! Since then we have acquired a great second-hand sofa and have not been in a hurry to purchase a second one. The space that we had gained in the lounge also led us to make a family decision to get rid of our piano.

It was an old instrument which, to my shame, was badly out of tune. Although I play a little I didn’t really use it and it is only our youngest daughter who now has piano lessons. It was also taking up a lot of space and I was forever dusting it! If I wasn’t vigilant it also became a catch-all for lots of photographs, candles and objects that could be put somewhere else/given away.

So, last month we said goodbye to our piano as it went to a new home. As promised to the girls we spent some of the money on a keyboard that they could play with (and plug headphones into). Last week we found the brilliant Casio keyboard and stand for £35 in our beloved British Heart Foundation Furniture shop in Chippenham.

I know it may not be to everyone’s taste to replace a beautiful (if out of tune) old piano for an electric keyboard. However for us as a family it has been a great purchase: the girls enjoy playing it, we can move it about the house, and we have gained some much needed space….

Our Sofa Saga…

At the moment our lounge looks like this:

image no sofa lounge

Notice something missing?

Oops we haven’t got any sofas!

Now as much as I have been trying to follow the minimalist way and to declutter perhaps a lack of sofas for a family of five is going a little too far.

In my previous post I included a picture of one our sofas that I had attempted to mend:

sofa darning

But, knowing that both of our hand-me-down sofas were on their way out, we had been looking for a replacement. Over the last couple of months we have been popping into the excellent Dorothy House and British Heart Foundation shops in Chippenham which have a good selection of second-hand furniture. They also sell good quality electrical appliances where we have previously bought breadmakers and a vacuum cleaner.

Ten days ago we came across two matching three seater sofas in the British Heart Foundation shop at the bargain price of £130 for the two. While we had only planned to replace one sofa at a time these were such good quality that, after some quick measuring, we decided we could fit them both in the living room.

We live in a small, old cottage.It was originally a stable but was converted into cottages in the 19th Century so we have high ceilings downstairs. Unfortunately we have low door thresholds, as the picture below indicates:

lovely old thrifted armschair, and low door in our cottage

 

We have since learned that they are only 180cm high. So when the sofas came to be delivered last week they wouldn’t fit as the only way to bring them into the house is to upend them. No matter how hard you try, 205cm long sofas will not compress into 180cm long sofas.

The sofas had to go back to the store and, because we had been so organised and got rid of our other sofas at the beginning of the week, we now have a rather empty lounge!

At first the girls thought it was fun and the good weather has meant they have been outside most of the time. In the evening husband and I sit down to read or watch telly on an assortment of chairs:

– Ikea folding chair

– Blue camping chair

– lovely old armchair (in picture above) which I had lent to friends long term when trying to declutter the house for our house sale (more on that in a future post). It’s been great to be reunited with this old chair which we picked up for free on the street and which proved to be the best chair ever when breastfeeding my younger two daughters.

I realise that to have a sofa free lounge isn’t a long term solution, no matter how much it follows the minimalist mantra of only having what is useful in your home. I do rather like the large space the lack of sofas has given us, and how easy it is to vacuum. But there is still nothing like laying full length on a sofa reading a book or watching tv.

We have started to look again for replacement sofas. My first choice is to re-use what someone no longer wants but both charity furniture shops don’t have much choice at the moment. A trip to Ikea is too expensive and I’m reluctant to buy new for many reasons. We could try ebay or the local facebook and freecyle sites.

We just need to have a measuring tape handy this time…

 

Back to school: Project 333 goes primary

IMG_9529

I have decided to carry on with my second attempt at Project 333. For the next three months I intend to limit my wardrobe to just 33 items (incl coats and shoes). I blogged here and here about my first experience with the project last Autumn and Winter.

What I like about Project 333 is limiting my choices and being forced to re-assess what I really need. So for this next installemnt I will be getting  rid of all the browns and beiges which were starting to bore me (one of the things I don’t like about the Project is that clothes can be rather samey).

This time I’m going for greys and blacks which I have a lot of. Because most of my clothes shopping is done in charity shops I do tend to pick up a lot of these colours.

Because it’s January and my mood needs lifiting I have decided to add lots of bright primary colours to lift the blacks and greys. I was given a couple of things for Christmas (including the red pussy bow blouse) and also some money which I spent yesterday. The results are below:

IMG_9526

Actually only the yellow skirt is new (from H&M). I’ve never bought yellow before but it was really calling to me. I like wearing orange and the citrus colours seem to appeal to me. The yellow tights came from the children’s department (!) of Marks and Spencer and were £2 in the sale. These will go well with blues, blacks or greys and, of course, the yellow beads I picked up second-hand in Windsor.

I did have a good browse around Bath’s charity shops as well but because I was looking for specfic items and colours I found this harder. Because Project 333 is making me focus on buying clothes that match or complement I’ve found that my sporadic shopping technique has to change. This is where charity shops can work – or not:

– Because they are not constrained by colours and styles that are currently ‘in’ these shops have a wider range.

– About half of the charity shops I visited yesterday weren’t even constrained by the seasons and, had I been more organised, I could have picked up some great summer clothes!

– You can’t be too prescriptive when shopping second-hand, which is where it can falter. For the past eighteen months I’ve been searching for a yellow belt but have failed to find one anywhere.

– Charity shops only stock one of a kind items. Yes, this is why I love second-hand clothes as it makes them unique. However it can be really frustrating if something isn’t in your size. Yesterday I hesitated on buying a cobalt blue jumper and when I returned to the shop it had gone!

I did, however, pick up this great jumper which cost £4.99 from the British Heart Foundation shop:

IMG_9531

Here it is being worn with my blue jeans:

IMG_9534

It’s originally from Oasis and I love the zip detail at the back.  I also bought a new black polo neck for £4.99 from the same shop to replace an old one.

At present I have 33 items (if you count scarves and necklace). I feel there may be a couple of gaps and am rather nervous as I’ve reduced the number of trousers and dresses in my wardrobe. I’m more confident, however, that the clothes I have will make me enjoy this project more as I can still add an individual touch with the primary colours.

 

 

Breadmaker Part Two

About eighteen months ago I blogged here about our new second-hand breadmaker that we had bought for £10 from the local Dorothy House electrical shop. The breadmaker was an unusual make (Bellini) and came without instructions but made a decent simple loaf.

However a couple of months ago it stopped working and we were unable to fix it. I had just started to get fed up with eating store-bought bread again when my mum picked up this fantastic second-hand Breville breadmaker for £15.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

It came from the British Heart Foundation electrical store in Chippenham and, this time, it has an instruction book. This model seems more sophisticated than the Bellini as we can make different size loaves. So far we’ve baked some simple bread but I hope to be tackling Italian bread and fruit loaves soon.

I love these electrical appliances shops and I think they’re a great tip for finding second-hand kitchen accessories, such as coffee makersand food processors. All the electrical items are PAT tested and my breadmaker came with a six month warranty. Not bad.