Thursday, December 8, 2011


A Very Special Junk-Shop Gift Guide

Stop it with the big-box stores, you guys. Here’s a shopping tip: your local junk shops and thrift stores have thousands of gifts that your loved ones don’t even know they didn’t want. For example, the junk shop where I work has it all for every special person in your life, including this Gumby arrangement — a good option for your beach bum friend who also likes leafless plastic plants.

Can’t afford to get grandma into the pears of the month club? Here's a dirty candle that's shaped like a pear but doesn't smell like one.

All the right pins in all the right places. For ages 6 months to 2 years.

Holiday time is the right time for learning about 500 superstitions. Ex: “Lettuce, Eaten in large quantities at Roman banquets because it was supposed to prevent drunkenness and at wedding celebrations because it was believed to be an aphrodisiac... love potions... medieval...” Okay. This is why lettuce was the keystone of What Is a Wife. [Ed. – But wait, this is an amazing present?!]

(Also: "Hairpin, Because of its association with hair, the humble hairpin is not without magical significance. Finding a hairpin promises making a new friend; losing one is more ominous, suggesting that an enemy is close at hand. If a hairpin works its way loose in the hair this is taken as an indication that someone has that person in their thoughts — though in Germany this may signify the end of a love affair.")

Does your mom like fun? Get her a mouse poop magnet, and throw in a bagel one with yarn hair.

For your truest of the true.

The sticker bottle!

Wait! No wait. This one.

... Or, a voodoo doll.

Ugh the lid doesn’t open! But maybe still okay for the jokester in your circle?

Not quite gravy-watch-level. But good for the Beyoncé in your life.

Previously: Yearbook Poetry.

Libby Alexander also runs a pop-up flea market in Chicago.

56 Comments / Post A Comment


Gimme dat pickle watch.


@yeah-elle My sentiments exactly.

Also, that first "baby" -- with the sticker bottle? What? WHAT!


@Hellcat What is going on in his Special Area?!


@laurel THANK YOU!


@Hellcat seriously, the sticker bottle was the least of that lil' guy's problems. I list lack of pupils, for starters.


@candybeans With the groin issue and the way his hands are placed, it totally looks like he'd be saying, "Heeeeeyyyyyy!"


@laurel I think you mean 'butt, etc'.


@laurel Suspicious package.


@hideously That made me go like this at work: "HA!"

The Lady of Shalott

I, um, actually own a dictionary of superstitions. What? I got it as a gift because I really am 100% legit crazy superstitious!


@The Lady of Shalott I have one too! I got it from this awesome barn-turned-used-bookstore somewhere in New Brunswick I think. It's amazing! It has all these cures for what ails ye, like sticking a frog on your throat if you have whooping cough!


@The Lady of Shalott @girlandtonic I actually really want one now that the concept has been presented to me! I was bummed that it was presented as a laughable present.


@The Lady of Shalott I am physically incapable of *not* throwing spilled salt over my left shoulder. Like, I've tried to leave it, but I just stare at it and obsess about it until I finally cave. I am pretty sure the entire universe would implode if I don't do this.

Also, every single time someone asks me about a loved one and I say, "Oh, they're doing great, thanks!" and immediately knock on wood just in case I have cursed them and they are about to get hit by a truck. I fear the dictionary of superstitions - it could only make this worse.


@miwome At first I was like LOL and then I was like ooooh. This book is in my purse at all times now.


@Bebe I always knock on wood b/c remarking on something being good is jinxing yourself. Because the universe is always laughing at us. But if there's no wood do you knock on anything? I do, particularly in the car. Related: don't comment on the niceness of things, problem solved!

Katie Scarlett

I really love these posts! My favorite picture here was that sad little red haired doll.

Also, Libby Alexander, we are neighbors! I'm also a Far Northsider! And I also love old junk and interior design! I keep meaning to go to one of your flea markets but then I always forget, ugh. Maybe I'll drag my soon-to-be-married-friend-who-has-no-interest-in-weddings along for the one in January?


@Katie Scarlett Please do! Or come to one of the non-wedding ones we have planned for 2012. Will be posting a (hopefully) complete schedule in January.


Whenever I read style blogs that encourage shopping at thrift stores for amazing finds, this is the kind of stuff I think of.

The Lady of Shalott

@likethestore I always wonder where these people who encourage thrift store shopping are coming from. Because every time I go to the Sally Ann, the only things I find are like...a teal sweater with kitten appliques on it, a size 24 denim maxi jumper, a Lanz of Salzburg nightgown with fraying edges that smells faintly of urine, and T-shirts from the 1995 East Bumblefuck Memorial Charity 5K Run Sponsored by The Kozy Kitchen Diner and Scotiabank.


@The Lady of Shalott Yeah, I don't get it either. Maybe it depends on the area. My city (Ottawa) isn't particularly wealthy or fashion forward, so thrift stores are full of 80s prom dresses and size 24 denim jumpers. I'm going to Florida for Christmas so maybe I should thrift there - lots of rich old ladies dying!

Pound of Salt

@likethestore Florida thrift stores have the best winter coats! Yay rich old retired ladies!


@likethestore Haha Victoria thrift stores are great for the same reason as Florida!

tea tray in the sky.

@likethestore Ottawa shout out wut wut


@Twinkle Little Bat Holla!

tea tray in the sky.

@likethestore The last time I was at Value Village (Baseline and Merivale?), I saw a: royal blue, full length, tapered leg, with stirrups, pleated waist with a faux belt jump suit WITH: a faux-velvet/sequined open lapel with gold trim. I swear to god.

The Lady of Shalott

@Twinkle Little Bat Why didn't you buy it????? (And then go to Sushi Kan to celebrate?)

tea tray in the sky.

@The Lady of Shalott Because it was like, $25?! The tag was really the punchline to the joke that was that garment. The REALLY tragic part of all though, was that I'd gone to a Tacky 80's-themed party a WEEK earlier! Gah!

Rachel Austin@facebook

@The Lady of Shalott It totally depends on the neighborhood. I live in Boulder where there are loads of wealthy people, and I've scored wool and cashmere skirts from Austria and Italy, among other amazing things. I never even go to a retail store.


These things seem simple but actually they are important for someone as they represent a part of their lives. I also have a lot of things I care about and I stored them in a special place under the stairs, my nephew promised me to buy some Sanding Sheets from fintech and make them look like new.


Aww I love the hairpin superstition! It's so very appropriate.


@redheadedandcrazy I know, right? FINDING A HAIRPIN MEANS FINDING A FRIEND.


@miwome But this confused me "Finding a hairpin promises making a new friend; losing one is more ominous, suggesting that an enemy is close at hand." What if you lose it and someone finds it? Are they now your frenemy?

Or maybe just framing you for a crime?


@Craftastrophies I dunno. Either they are two unconnected actions--like, the Meaning of the hairpin starts out totally fresh for each new owner--or maybe they're your enemy and they've separately found a friend? Or if your hair is still in it, they could probably use that to curse you.

I could go on for ages, but I'll stop before I freak myself out. *thinking desperately about everybody mean who might have some of my hair to do magic on*


@Craftastrophies If hairpin = bobby pin then that really explains my bad luck in the last, oh, decade.


@Nutmeg hairping = bobby pin = ... kirby grip? I think?


@Craftastrophies Kirby grip = page 12 of Kama Sutra?

Michaela Daniel@facebook

I find great things while thrifting, but never, NEVER, the type of artsy fartsy crafts in this list! I am envious.


Once at a Salvation Army, I found a huge, smoky-cut-glass floor lamp with a red velvet shade with gold fringe. It looked like it belonged in a bordello. I couldn't carry it myself and my friend thought it was so ugly that he refused to help and I had to leave it there! I am still mad.

Just had to get that out -- I'm sorry. Carry on.


I am going thrifting tomorrow and I have been having a debate with myself about whether it is tacky to buy people Christmas gifts from a thrift store. What if they are things in really good condition and not obviously pre-loved? Am I a deceptive/cheap friend if I do this?


@MademoiselleML Maaaan, I think it's fine. I buy people used books, especially if they have pulpy 60s sci-fi covers, and I'm usually on the lookout for clothing for my friend because who's going to turn their nose up at an amazing skirt for four bucks? Not I and not her. As long as it's clean or can be cleaned, go for it! Creates less waste, (sometimes) puts money towards a good cause!


@MademoiselleML I think it depends who you're buying for. There are some people who just will not get over the notion of AUGH SOMEONE MIGHT HAVE TOUCHED THIS BEFORE ME PLASTIC CLAMSHELL WRAPPING IS THE ONLY WAY, and if some of your giftees are like that, it would probably be a little out of the spirit of giving to get them something pre-loved. (Though my true, vindictive nature says it would be well deserved on their part if they couldn't tell and lived with it FOREVER, NEVER KNOWING.)

But probably most of your friends wouldn't care! They just want something lovely from someone who loves them. I got my dad a used graphic novel for Xmas, because guess what? They don't print this particular comic about Jewish baseball teams in the early 20th century anymore, and if there is one person on the planet who needs to read it, it's him. He is not going to care that the library binding is still on it.


@MademoiselleML I think most of us would know in advance if we had a friend or relative who would be completely NOT OK with it, and also where people's "lines" are in terms of used stuff? I don't know. I can be pretty germ-phobic and grossed out by certain things, but I have my own sliding-scale "rules" about what's OK and what's not, as do my friends (and my rules allowed me to get a "lightly worn" pair of Jeffrey Campbell boots for cheap from Ebay! It was a bitter battle and I got 'em!). Like --and this might be a stupid example -- if want to give someone a plain black t-shirt, maybe you get it new at a regular store. But if you want to get him a black t-shirt featuring a beloved '80s hair band, maybe the secondhand place is much better.

Mostly, though, I find that it's what you just happen to see while you're browsing around, not looking for anything in particular; if it screams "[Friend] would love this SOOOOOOO much!" go for it, give it a proper cleaning, and prepare to be crowned Awesome Gift-Finder Extraordinaire.


@MademoiselleML Ehhh, for me it depends on the person. Like, I have a friend who I know is looking for a certain pair of boots, and we are both poor so I know she would be totally okay if I got her Goodwill boots for Christmas (depending on whether I find what I am looking for in her size). My dad who refuses to dry his hands on anything but paper towels? not so much.

Although I would probably not get my dad a pair of size 10 ladies boots anyways, so I think we're good there.


That Dictionary of Superstitions is an amazingly good time, my sister and I have spent many an irony-free hour thumbing through its pages. "Sneeze on Monday/Sneeze for Danger! Sneeze on Tuesday/Kiss a Stranger!"


BOSTON AREA PINNERS: that weird(ly expensive) hardware store in Harvard square has keychains shaped like pigs where they both poop and their eyes pop out when you squeeze them. All of your presents for everyone are all set


@Nutmeg That place is so weird!

fondue with cheddar

@Nutmeg I've seen those other places, usually at the register. They make cow ones, too.


@SarahP I want everything in there and can afford none of it ($20 for a mason jar???).


I don't understand the bagel with googly eyes and hair.


My life will not be complete until I own that pickle watch.


My amazing roommates are thrift store/back alley treasure hunters and our house is full of crazy little tchotchkes like these--in strange places too, like hung from the ceiling or perching on a light fixture. I love our house.

fondue with cheddar

All I could think when I saw #6 was FOR BRITISH EYES ONLY!


i would love love love that pickle watch. do the pickles move? cause that would make it even more cool...if that is possible.


I'm poor and I thrift a lot. Fun stuff like all these examples, but mostly clothes & shoes. I like to think of my closet as the "revolving wardrobe" because I'm bringing home thrift finds and donating things I've gotten tired of (Queen of the short attention span, right here) on a continual basis. When I drop off large garbage bags stuffed with stuff, they never, ever look through them or sort them... at least, not while I'm looking. So I guess my question is do thrift stores and junk shops just take EVERYTHING people bring in and try to sell it?


They probably don't want to make anyone feel self-conscious about if their stuff is "good enough", so they'll accept everything and sort through it once you've left. Now we all donate without worry, and they can rifle through our bags in the back and giggle about our fashion sense.


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