Used Things

I have never enjoyed shopping the way many people do.

In my earlier years, I do remember adoring that one time of year when my mother would take us clothes shopping before the the start of the new school year. I did love those days. Maybe because I was spending someone else's money...

When I got to the age of buying things on my own, the only time I adored to shop was to find treasures in more uncommon places, like thrift stores and garage sales. I have always loved finding a good bargain. But more so I loved finding things that were used.

That word "used" can often make some people cringe. Something "used" can often be seen as dirty, worn out, smelly, or just plain falling apart. And that was exactly what I loved about my treasures.

I remember there was a dance in high school when I chose to wear a red dress to the "Black and White" themed event. Other girls had on beautiful pieces, sparkly and new, and all black or white. And I wore my red dress, which I found at Value Village and was made of gorgeous lace and had a few broken clasps. It was undoubtedly hand-made and probably sewn together several decades ago. But I couldn't have felt more pretty in anything else.

Places like Macy's or Nordstrom carry beautiful items. Everything there is so perfect, but there is no story to the pieces I pass by there. Nothing is worn in. I'll tag along to shop at the mall with family or friends, but I never seem to enjoy it as much as everyone else.

When I do shop, which isn't often, I give myself a couple of hours to explore some of my favorite places on earth: thrift stores and antique shops. I'll spend hours looking through racks of clothes, sifting through books and perusing dusty records and china. Sometimes I will go home with some great finds, other times I will go home empty handed, but with a full heart. You see, for me thrift shops and antique stores are like going to a museum that you can buy.

Several months ago I moved into my own place. It is a rather large space with two bedrooms and a full living room, kitchen, and nook above the stairs. When I left San Diego I left all furniture I owned behind. So when I made the choice to move here I knew I wanted to fill the space and make it mine.

As the story of my life goes, my budget was next to nothing, but I knew I could still find the right things to fill my new home. Through the mighty power of Craigslist and thrift stores around town, my home is fully furnished. I own a beautiful kitchen table that was repurposed and repainted. Some of the chairs are missing parts, but they work. I have a gorgeous leather, sectional couch that has a huge section taped over with black duct tape, because that is where the previous owner's dog ate it. As I sit here and type, I am at a wonderful wood desk that has beautiful little carvings and paintings on the drawers. One of the drawers has a pencil mark on it too deep to get out. And I love it. I love all of my pieces.

My kitchen table

As I've sat and reflected on why I adore these "used things" so much, and why I have put them in my homes many times over the last decade, I realized that perhaps I like to be surrounded by things that remind me of myself.

I, Mandi, have also been used, and worn, and discarded at some times in my life. And when I say "used," I don't really mean in the harmful way. I love my desk's squeaky drawers that need a little extra muscle to open or the wear on the top of my kitchen table. I love it because it shows me it was used for a purpose. Not to look pretty and not be touched. But because life happened around it and on it.

I love sliding into a pair of jeans or a cute dress I bought from Goodwill because I know that when I wash these things, they won't shrink or fade. They were made to last.

I've got some big, wonderful things coming up on my horizon, which I hope to share with you soon. But I am thankful for this time I have had to be reflective. Sometimes I wish my thrifty pieces could talk and tell me the story of where they have been and what they have seen. Like the housewares and furniture do for Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

Perhaps it seems silly to think that old furniture and clothes can teach you a lesson, but for me they have. What they have taught me is that we all start out shiny and new, then life happens. We get bumped into things, worn down, stretched out, scribbled on by youngsters, but there is always someone out there who is going to absolutely love those things about us. And see that those scrapes and rusty hinges are what make us beautiful.

I'm so looking forward to the people, and my eventual "person," that I meet that will love these things about me too. And I am so thankful for the many of you who already do love me with all my bumps and scrapes. People who are capable of searching me out in a mess of old and used things, and have so much love for me that they want to bring me home, and into their hearts.

Because like my things, I have a story. And unlike them, I have the power to tell it.

"The red dress"


  1. Mandi, I love everything about this post, and especially your "voice". You are a great writer! I was raised on hand-me-downs, garage sale and thrift store items. I laughed when the recession hit and so many magazine articles appeared about the joys of upcycling and thrifting. I thought "Wow, I've been cool for years and I didn't even know it." I completely agree with your point of view, and would still buy second-hand even if I was a millionaire.