For the love of Old Stuff & your own style.
I know not everyone’s into it. You know, the car boot & the markets and the rummaging in old boxes. That for a lot of people Sunday is definitely a pyjama & netflix day.
Most people’s buying experiences these days are mostly limited to online shopping, the supermarket & the high street.
Oh but not for me this modern way. I find new things so very boring & frankly even if you do find your own style, anyone could just easily copy it. I get so much joy & satisfaction in finding old things that need a little bit of elbow grease, or a needle & thread to bring them back to sparkling joyous near new perfection. Like the velveteen rabbit, there are so many things that get better with age.
A beautiful woollen shawl that has softened with age but needs a darn for an unfortunate hole in the middle. No problem. Use multicoloured threads to fix it and then build around it & watch it become a beautiful woollen shawl with some added art & a new life. Then comes the moment where a friend asks you where you got it and you say “oh you know, I picked it up on my travels and fixed it up a bit” and they look both impressed and then vaguely disappointed they can’t just go online and buy it. Which does, I’m afraid to say, make me feel a little bit smug (I’m only human after all.)
Except they could get one if they really wanted to. They could search the charity shops, the markets, or even, maybe from a well known auction site & find one that they could do their own art on. It would be the same in that it would still be a woollen shawl but it would truly be theirs, in their style, not mine. Is that not far more desirable, for them & for me? I know it’s easy for me to say, because half of my livelihood comes from restoring textiles, so I get overly excited about sewing projects. But if you applied that philosophy of mending and personal style to your wider lifestyle, wouldn’t that be such an interesting development?
I could write a huge list of things I have found, repurposed, rescued over many adventures & years but really, it wouldn’t be very interesting for you the reader because those are things that are personal to me, not you. Instead I’d like to tell you why this lifestyle is a passion, a love that only grows with the increase of my own age & why, as I’ve entered my third decade I will be ramping up this thrifty adventure.
“Oh it’s just a fad, vintage/thrift/recycling is very ‘in’ at the moment, it’ll be yesterday’s news tomorrow”
Yeah you’d be right, except it’s already yesterday’s news & everything in the world comes in fads (the recent & slightly alarming revival of the shell suit springs to mind.) But to me this way of life is not a fashion statement, or a hipster moment. I’m not having a fling with thrift, I’m revelling in a lifelong adventure to expand my creativity, help this planet so it’s still here when I’m gone for my children & their children and so on. It also happens to be an excellent way of saving money. I’ve been on this road since 2012 & the distance to travel grows larger not smaller, I don’t think there is a final destination to this journey.
On a Sunday morning as I drive with my toddler down to our local car boot, I always experience the same flutter of anticipation & excitement. What will we find. a whole tray of fresh tomatoes to make passata sauce from for £3? Hydrangeas for £1 a bunch? A large enamel bowl perfect for handwashing in for a couple of quid (broke the not listing rule sorry!)
There is a comforting familiarity & rhythm of exploring the car boot traders first, as though it were a bit of a race to make sure you haven’t missed anything you’d regret and then finishing with the food shopping. The regular market traders smile with recognition — a sense of community in that temporary space. I always buy my eggs from the same man and our weekly fruit & veg from the bigger market there. I always take £20 from the food budget, but rarely spend that even though my bags are overflowing. Every week I come home with a different selection because I only choose what looks and smells fresh & good. I also find that only buying what I can carry reduces wastage greatly in our fridge, something I had trouble with when relying on the supermarket for everything.
My 2 1/2 year old finds a brilliant freedom in being allowed to freely explore the “our kids are too old for this stuff now and we are making room” stalls. She can pick up whatever she likes the look of & I don’t need to have heart in mouth syndrome at the price or breakability of said item, the way any parent does with a toddler in any retail shop in the whole of the world.
If she immediately finds an attachment to a toy or book, we discuss together why she likes it, does she need it, is there something better and when we jointly agree on something I give her the money to pay the seller. So even at her tender age, she understands that sometimes I’m going to say no and even if she doesn’t like my answer, she respects it (sometimes tearfully but she still accepts it.) For her too, she knows that it’s different every time we go, sometimes she’ll get something and sometimes she wont & there’s excitement in that. I also think it’s healthy for her to see people selling their own things because we live in a two bed apartment & we can’t keep everything forever. Soon she’ll be outgrowing some of her things and we will have our opportunity to pack our own car boot and sell things on. It will make perfect sense to her that it’s good for us & the environment to earn a little bit of money back, reduce what’s going in the bin and give other children an opportunity to love her toys just as she once did. Sometimes people are extremely kind and just give her stuff (whether I want them to or not) and sometimes people can be mean and try and force her to fall in love with things (like a giant Tigger) so I have to buy it (this doesn’t work, I always very loudly say we can’t afford it and walk away to make them feel bad because my daughter is not a bargaining chip!) So really it’s a smorgasbord of real life in a one hour trip to the market. Fresh air included for free with the life lessons kiddo!
But moving on from the parenting feel goods, as an individual I feel strongly that we should all be more connected to our purchases. We should be thinking about where it came from, who made it, what did they use to make it, how far has it travelled, is it necessary, could I do without it, if I can’t why can’t I. All of these things are things that we have forgotten in our 24/7 techno lives. Haha she can talk, you’re thinking, writing this blog on her macbook. True and it’s a fair point. Then again I’m not suggesting we all flog all of our possessions and live in a yurt. We can’t take on all the battles in all the world. But we could easily buy less, enjoy what we have more & connect with the possessions we do have more earnestly.