Thrifting: The Most Affordable Way to Decorate Your Home, Unless the Objects Talk to You, and Then it Gets Confusing


I have a lot of puffy-heart feelings about New Jersey, but her antique and thrift stores are life-giving. Living in New York nearly killed me, not because on any given day a tiny old man might hock up a big snot ball and spit it onto my boot (that really happened to me), but because there weren’t any good thrift stores. A vintage plate in an NYC Goodwill might cost $20. To add insult to thrift injury, I couldn’t bring home curb-side finds because not only were they few and far between, and not only did my arm muscles prove to be weak and incapable of dragging furniture half a mile (that happened once), but those curb-side treasures were likely hosting a multi-generational housing complex of bed bugs ready and willing to party all over our apartment (that also happened and my eye still twitches when I think about it).

Don’t get me wrong. New York is a decor lovers paradise. I spent hours in ABC Carpet and Home, and perusing shops like John Derian. But what really lights my candle is going shopping, amassing enough things to decorate an entire wall, brushing my knuckles across my shoulder, totally without humility, and saying “I got all that for 20 bucks” (that NEVER happened, but hope springs eternal).

And while I miss the excitement of the city and people who shout “CHEESEBURGER” when you accidentally sneeze in their direction on the subway (totally happened), I am so excited to venture back into the world of thrift and antique stores.

But with the return of one of my most beloved hobbies comes my penchant for attributing human emotions to inanimate objects. This is where things get weird.



Like when I discovered my Victorian china cabinet, rustic and worn with chipped green paint, I could almost hear it whispering, “Looooooook into my eyes, I neeeeeed to live in your house, I loooooook like something from the set of the Weasley’s home on Harry Potter….”



But the pendulum can also swing in the opposite direction. Once I found an old vintage photo in an antique store in northwest Arkansas (not the one above, but creep factor was same=same). It definitely spoke to me. But this item wasn’t whispering sweet nothins’ into my ear.



I was, at the time, creating this gallery wall in a former living room (I was doing a good job, apparently, because look how chill my visitors were). Purchasing that vintage photo should have been an easy call with its carefully crafted wooden frame, ornate with leaves and flowers, interesting photo, and cheap price. But instead it was very clear to me that the photo should be stored away in Ed and Lorraine Warren’s occult collection right next to Annabelle when the photo whispered, “Hey lady, I’m just a tiny bit cursed, but bring me home anyway. You’ll barely even notice. I might slam some doors. Or you know, throw myself from the wall every now and then when your daughter walks past. But it’s fiiiiiiinnnnneeee. Buy me!”

All that to say, every now and then I get a very solid feeling from an item. It talks to me a little bit, and it confuses the normal do-I-really-need-this-where-would-I-put-it-how-much-does-it-cost process of shopping. It ain’t ESP (although wouldn’t that be fun). It’s just a combination of my manic love of all things old and vintage, but also my writer’s brain which is always running a background script to make life more interesting.

“Hey! Look at that manhole cover. What if trolls live down there?”

“Hey! Look at that elderly man walking his dog. I bet he has a collection of glitter bowling balls and his wife’s name is Hecate.”

“Oh wow, that vintage car driving past was probably a getaway vehicle for a 1930’s bride named Irene who decided she could not say I-do to Bill’s peanut breath.”

This is basically what it’s like to live inside my head. On the upside, I am never bored.



Which brings me to yesterday. I was perusing my local Goodwill, hunting each and every shelf of glassware, when I spotted this oil painting. The Little Orphan Fruit Painting. It was in the middle of a giant stack of wall art, mostly 1990’s era Hobby Lobby style religious art (more angels than one could, or should, shake a stick at).

And I thought, “Well hello there.”

And Little Orphan Fruit Painting responded, “I know I’m not great art, but look at my cheerful colors, look at me trying so hard to get the hell out of this thrift store because let’s face it, everything in here smells like a tanning bed.”

And then I thought back, “Well of COURSE you’re cute, I’ll rescue you and you can live in my house. It smells mostly like coffee and Target candles, but I do have a first grader who is at her potty humor zenith, so sometimes you might have to deal with some gas aromas.”

To which the little painting replied, “That’s okay. You should see what I deal with here. The other day a man pressed his face closely to mine and then yelled ‘CHEESEBURGERS’ for no reason.”

To which I replied, “I KNOW THAT GUY! Okay. It’s settled. You’re coming home with me.”

So $7 later and the Little Orphan Fruit Painting was in the backseat of my car.

Whenever I look around my house, I see these items. They aren’t the practical things, like curtains or coffee mugs or rugs. They’re the antique and thrift store finds that at one point reached out and said, “Hey, take me home.” And I did. And I am always glad when I see them, little friends sprinkled around the house. Little items bought on rainy days when I needed a pick-me-up. Little items found on vacation that forever remind me of the smell of sunscreen. A plate bought when I was pregnant with Jane and couldn’t bend over to pick it up, so a nearby gentlemen got it for me (that plate said ‘I’ll always remind you of your baby’ and she does). A pillow bought with every cent of birthday money that I never could have afforded otherwise (she said ‘I’m GREAT for napping and I’m a good listener’ and she is).

Perhaps it should bother me that I have dialogues with inanimate objects, but it doesn’t. Instead, it makes the house feel happy and full of good conversation. Although, not in front of visitors because they totes would not understand why I walk past the Weasley China Cabinet sometimes, pat it, and say, “Hey hon, how you doing?”

Then again, I bet a few of people would get it. I can’t be the only one.


22 thoughts on “Thrifting: The Most Affordable Way to Decorate Your Home, Unless the Objects Talk to You, and Then it Gets Confusing

  1. I have a few inanimate objects around my home that I also talk to….you aren’t alone!! I have always admired your green china cabinet and happy to see it has followed you around for so many years!! I have to ask, because I have often wondered, what ever happened to Mabel?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your piece made me laugh out loud–and I’m in a VERY public airport right now. I, too, have adorable thrift-shop objects spangling my home that spoke to me and I, too, make up entire stories in my head about people and critters I see. Hail, kindred spirit!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep, I’m in the club too! I love thrift store items because so many treasures I find seem to possess a soul unlike new items. I love sitting and staring at my thrifted items wondering about what earlier life they lived, what stories they could tell?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. totally get it and my “treasures” have specific voices to go with them. i get so excited when the thrifting gods smile at me & i find an awesome new friend to take home (and drive my husband crazy since we live in a small rancher)

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  5. Vintage photographs that say they’re creepy should be listened to and definitely do not bring them home, lol. I didn’t listen and collected a handful of wonderfully creepy antique children photos… If you believe in that stuff you’ll be glad to know things settled down once they were disposed of, lol.


  6. I am in the club big time! Have been swap meeting, and thrift storing since I was a child. I now volunteer in a thrift store where all of the funds go to buying clothing and school supplies to needy children in the area. It has taken on a whole new meaning to me. I have always thought of these fabulous finds as objects with a story. I would much rather buy ‘vintage’ then new. I love the hidden story!


  7. I still hate that creepy photo at the Cracker Barrel! I’m convinced that he’s the real Bill the Vampire! But, my house has slowly fillled with happy things from thrift stores and estate sales. (All hail Roy Dudley!) It looks like I’ve lived here since the house was built in 1971.


  8. I too talk to inanimate objects. I talk to my plants, art that I love, furniture passed down to me by my grandma and a couple of other weird things that I won’t say any more about. I feel they have personalities and I’m just acknowledging that.


  9. Ps, I’m very sorry to hear about Mabel. Our first dog was a female miniature schnauzer, and your descriptive writing about Mabel’s antics was so spot on, perfectly describing their personalities. I’m sure she is missed.


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