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a thrift store mentality and its irony  RSS feed

 
Judith Browning
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I live out of thrift stores for my clothes (except for some shoes and underwear), for the few small appliances we use, for potting containers, cotton canvas shopping bags....and on and on. Two thirds of my weaving and rug making materials are from our local thrift store. It is a wonderful place run by volunteers where the profits go to help needy folks in the county. I've seen the clothing change over the years to more "upscale" brands, as more retirees move here. My husband, who keeps a close eye on the books found a signed Frank Lloyd Wright. I've found Coach bags and handmade leather bags. The joke among our friends is you haven't made it in the craft world until your work shows up in the thrift store. Quilters, weavers, costume makers and others use this place as a materials source. A friend "frogs" sweaters and re knits into hats and scarves.
The irony to this for me is that our "finds" and our income from our craft depends on a society of consumers. I've never quite reconciled the two in my head without some bit of guilt.
 
tel jetson
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I have the same dilemma at thrift stores. dumpster diving, as well. even accepting wood chips from county crews and tree services. the trick is to effectively make use of waste streams where and when they exist, but not to become invested in the way of life that leads to those waste streams. it isn't easy.
 
Leila Rich
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I'm ok with a bit of irony if it allows me to get my hands on wonderful old stuff
Actually, I have a kitchen gear addiction that makes me feel like a bit of a hypocrite sometimes!
But, I just scored a beautiful stainless-steel pressure cooker with Bakelite handles...
 
S Bengi
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The problem is not with making the money, but having expenses that require the money.
So if you have a problem with "making" money then minimize the need to make money other than taxes. Maybe you could become a non-profit, no tax and give away the amount you would normally spend to pay tax, which I am pretty sure you already do.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Judith

Very good point. Very very hard question. Try walking it to the other extreme - no thrift stores, no excess goods, shelves are... Not really full and you have to struggle mightily for what you need. What does that do for your intrinsic goodness? Not much, maybe? Would it make you a better person? Make anybody a better person? Unlikely, unless you want to say an alcoholic isn't and alcoholic if he's put in a position where he can't get booze.

My take is that if you notice some virtue to practice do it, but there is no virtue in berating ourselves and equally none in feeling proud of our position or what flows from it.


Rufus
 
John Polk
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If somebody has surplus, and donates it to a charitable organization, that eliminates waste.

If you (or somebody else) can benefit from it, then you have helped close the loop on waste.
That, in itself, is a virtue in a wasteful society.

Don't feel guilt - feel pride!

 
Dale Hodgins
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Probably 80% of all of the money I have ever earned has come from recycling materials from the waste stream. All of my clothing is second hand and I even kept a house that was destined for the dump. I'm constantly coming up with new business ideas and always find a way to tie in recycled feed stock.

I really hate second hand stores that masquerade as charities when they are not. Whenever I am left a house full of clothing and furniture, the spoils go to a real charity store like the Salvation Army.

I like to tell people that I'm a vulture, feeding from the rotting carcass of excess.
 
Judith Browning
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Good to have some feed back, thanks everyone.
I had this idea for awhile (in my forties and fifties) that I would weave up all the excess and sell it back to those who are the excessive consumers (and also my main customers). It was good for my business but did not make a dent in the waste stream at our local thrift store. There is a periodic clean out where the clothing is baled and shipped to other countries to be worn but also to be cut, woven, sometimes dyed and shipped back here to start the cycle all over again. Just the clothing waste stream is enormous and all of that manufacturing a terrible pollutant.
There is an essay by Wendell Berry "In the Presence of Fear" that has a quote that I think about, "An economy based on waste is inherently and hopelessly violent and war is it's inevitable by product. We need a peaceable economy." I think that is why I feel comfortable with the permaculture crowd...they are, whether consciously or not, promoting a peaceable economy.
 
Rion Mather
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I get the coolest guys t-shirts there for $3 or under. You know the type...discarded after a fundraiser, business promotion, one time sporting event, and the "look at what Ma got me" vacation. They are all brand new or almost brand new.
 
Judith Browning
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Probably 80% of all of the money I have ever earned has come from recycling materials from the waste stream. All of my clothing is second hand and I even kept a house that was destined for the dump. I'm constantly coming up with new business ideas and always find a way to tie in recycled feed stock.

I really hate second hand stores that masquerade as charities when they are not. Whenever I am left a house full of clothing and furniture, the spoils go to a real charity store like the Salvation Army.

I like to tell people that I'm a vulture, feeding from the rotting carcass of excess.


I think I have the same mind set but never anything close to your energy level, Dale...it's good to know you are out there doing what you do.
 
kathy harrison
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I make candles and use the thrift store for acquiring lovely wine glasses I use as molds as well as most of my clothing. I have found the prices have soared in the past 2 years. Coats are much more expensive as are wool sweaters.
 
Judith Browning
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kathy harrison wrote:I make candles and use the thrift store for acquiring lovely wine glasses I use as molds as well as most of my clothing. I have found the prices have soared in the past 2 years. Coats are much more expensive as are wool sweaters.


Hi, Kathy, welcome to Permies.com!
Our thrift store went from all of the clothes you could stuff in a grocery bag for $1.00 to double that a few years ago...I guess it's still a great deal compared to some second hand stores. Ours doesn't charge more than fifty cents for anything else...even small appliances, books, records, knick knacks and all. They have what they call a burn room for extra special things to give to folks who have lost everything to a fire.

I love hearing about craft from thrift store finds. Your candles sound great.
 
Lisa Paulson
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I also live in BC and find the excess of the society is reflected in the really nice quality items you can find at our local thrift shops . While I try to shun excess retail spending , I wince at how "enabling" it is for me to resort to a little retail therapy on a budget there . I may buy fairly practical things but I definitely buy more clothes than than most people will wear in a lifetime . So, yes it is optimizing reuse of a waste stream but maybe there is a down side for some people , like myself. I manage to rationalize this over and over again , but no doubt it does encourage some consumerism and materialism in myself .
 
Rick Larson
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My garage is full. My basement is full. My shed is full. And I still find room for more. When this economy crashes, I will have enough hand tools and other useful items to give to all my neighbors.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Judith Browning wrote:
Dale Hodgins wrote:Probably 80% of all of the money I have ever earned has come from recycling materials from the waste stream. All of my clothing is second hand and I even kept a house that was destined for the dump. I'm constantly coming up with new business ideas and always find a way to tie in recycled feed stock.

I really hate second hand stores that masquerade as charities when they are not. Whenever I am left a house full of clothing and furniture, the spoils go to a real charity store like the Salvation Army.

I like to tell people that I'm a vulture, feeding from the rotting carcass of excess.


I think I have the same mind set but never anything close to your energy level, Dale...it's good to know you are out there doing what you do.


Thank you Judith. --- I used to be a bigger fish in the recycling scene than I am now. There is a constant battle going on between those who would waste vast quantities of resources and those who wish to salvage them. In my region, the wasters are constantly trying to use government to put limits on who may operate a recycling business, while those in my camp work to expose waste and corruption while promoting new enterprises. The wasters are currently winning this war. The percentage of building materials salvaged has dropped greatly in the last five years. Now that I have less to lose financially, my video camera and computer have become my weapons. I probably have more than twenty enemies whose livelihoods I hope to destroy or alter, through publicity that would force regulatory bodies to act. Most of them are unaware of my existence or my intentions.
 
Lisa Paulson
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On that level you are talking about Dale we desperately need some heroes : )

A recent experience at the municipal garbage transfer station in Langley , I saw the closet hardware of my dreams in an inaccessible bin for recycling the metal and the waste just strikes me as so wrong. I would like to hear more about your endeavours if you have them posted on here or would consider it .
 
Dale Hodgins
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Lisa Paulson wrote:On that level you are talking about Dale we desperately need some heroes : )

A recent experience at the municipal garbage transfer station in Langley , I saw the closet hardware of my dreams in an inaccessible bin for recycling the metal and the waste just strikes me as so wrong. I would like to hear more about your endeavours if you have them posted on here or would consider it .


Thanks Lisa. Eventually, I intend to create a thread documenting some of my out in the open, lobbying, permit seeking, city hall type resistance. For personal security and legal reasons, some of my work must never see the light of day.

I think we'd better get back to thrift stores, so I don't write a long diatribe that goes well outside the topic of this thread and Paul's comfort zone.
 
Lisa Paulson
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Welcome to the forum Kathy ! Waving from the Synergy Sporthorse farm in BC .
 
Galadriel Freden
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Judith Browning wrote:A friend "frogs" sweaters and re knits into hats and scarves.


I do this! I even re knit them into other sweaters I have a bag full of luxury yarns unraveled from charity shop sweaters--cashmere, angora, etc--which I could never have afforded to buy new. I have also just unraveled and resold the skeins on ebay for a small profit; considering the work it takes, it's not much, but I figure any profit is better than nothing.

I will also buy any cashmere item to cut up and sew baby clothes to sell online. And to clothe my small son in! I made this set of jammies for him and he practically lives in them.


(Edited for clarification)
 
John Polk
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Heck, if I had a pair of cashmere jammies, I'd probably live in them too!

You're spoiling the little tyke. LOL

 
jacque greenleaf
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I've also contemplated what would happen in my life if there were no abundant waste stream for me to take advantage of. Frugality tactics in a society where tons of stuff trickles down allows for noticeably more leisure time than a society where even waste is scarce. At least I'm now old enough that I actually have stocked up enough stuff that I won't outlive it if a major crash does come - I have enough yarn, fabric, clothing, shoes, kitchen stuff, books, and garden tools to last me, and plenty extra for trading. And where I'm living now - a century farm - building materials have been accumulating for a good long time.

As a side note, I'm curious Galadriel - when you unravel a sweater, do you do it entirely by hand, or have you found some tools that make it easier?
 
Fred Morgan
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I love shopping at thrift stores! Since 95% of my time is inside plantations or around wood harvest, I want clothes that are nearly disposable. The weird thing is that the clothes I get from good will (when I visit the USA) are often so good, I feel bad about wearing them in the plantations... lol

one man's trash, is another man's treasure. As long as people are throwing away perfectly good stuff, feel good that you are saying it from filling up the landfills.

By the way, you know how in the USA, come trash day, there is always things by the side of the road up there? You NEVER see it here. Everything is reused to the point that it is mere scrap, and then it is sold as scrap.
 
Galadriel Freden
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jacque greenleaf wrote:
As a side note, I'm curious Galadriel - when you unravel a sweater, do you do it entirely by hand, or have you found some tools that make it easier?


When I first started I unraveled by hand, but I now use a ball winder to unravel. I particularly like men's extra-fine merino sweaters to knit socks with, but unraveling one could take a full week by hand! I can usually unravel one in an hour or two with the ball winder, and with thicker yarn, it's even faster. However, I know a few people who don't even bother unraveling first, they just knit straight from the original sweater.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Thanks! Makes sense...
 
Hal Terran
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There is no real irony if the choices are considered,

because as it stands, either those bottles, wood chips and clothing are going to go to waste, along with all the materials and energy used to produce them,

or they are going to be reused and repurposed.

The choice is obvious!

As an analogy, it's like having a wasteful roommate that buys pounds and pounds of produce and doesn't eat them, and you use all that waste to make compost.

Should you feel guilty for making compost? No! Better not gone to waste.

There are still years ahead of us for our society to become sane,
but in the meantime we need to use transitional strategies, such as thrift stores, to mitigate the damage we do to ourselves.

Eventually, everything will be biodegradable and hemp while all nondegradable materials will be recycled 100%.

But as we grow to that point, the more damage mitigation the better. And if that means benefitting from the scraps of mindless consumerists, then so be it. No irony in this inevitable transition!
 
Micky Ewing
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Making a living or partial living by diverting resources from the waste stream of society is one of the noblest things you can do. I think Dale's posts on deconstruction and salvage of old buildings is some of the most inspiring writing I have found on Permies.com.

The real worry I have with this strategy/lifestyle is that as the affluence of our society declines (and in case you hadn't notice, it's happening now), "waste" will become more widely recognized for the resource it is. Good finds will be more and more rare and competition for them will become stiffer. If you've been at it a while, your refined eye for value will still give you an edge over the nouveau pauvre, but when times are hard for everybody, the times will be hardest for you.
 
Delilah Gill
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I've been in the waste and recycling business for many years. I always encouraged people to recycle or to repurpose materials, or at least to donate them to the charity of their choice. Under RCRA, EPA regulations, state governments require the county and towns to reduce their amount of waste, and it has to be quantified and measured based on the amount of waste going to the landfill starting on a base year, i.e. 1989. Eventually everything goes to a facility for disposal, but the preference is to divert it for as long as possible into other uses. I would encourage everyone to please reuse materials that otherwise would go to landfills. Many county and state agencies run services to assist with this endeavor including recycling divisions and waste reduction divisions. As a former recycling coordinator, I endorsed thrift stores and highly recommended them to citizens for shopping and donating items. For donated items and for hunting good materials, other non profit groups exist as well, like Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. and still others like freecycle.com. During good economic times, the landfill waste goes up, but when economic times are hard, the goals of reducing become easier to meet. It's one of the few jobs where you encourage behavior changes in people that could put you out of a job if they in fact do change. Happy thrifting!
 
shawn dunseith
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Ive worked at a landfill for the past 6 years and it has shown me the true meaning of waste.
earlier this year I saw a local uniform company thow away 4 or 5 40 yard dumpsters worth of brand new jeans, button up shirts and huge peices of material.
There was enough to fill 100 thrift stores easily but they just threw it away. it was sickening
 
wayne stephen
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I don't see thrift stores as part of the loop in an economy of frivolous consumption . Donations to St Vincent DePaul do not give the donor fuel to continue their life long buying sprees . Take for instance the used car market . A person who wants to always have the newest and stylish car can trade it in every 2-3 years and get enough value to continue this cycle . The auto resale market can make as much commission from used vehicles - if they buy low and sell high - as new models . The finance companies get in on the action . Thrift stores are not like pawn shops with their trail of tears . So , thrift stores do not fuel the clothing market and using wood chips from tree cutters does not fuel that industry either . The original producers of those services don't recieve any benefit from these fringe markets . The waste stream would occur anyway . If any thing it takes away from the retail economy . Found a pair of levis' for 5 bucks at Goodwill thats 5 bucks that did not go to the Gap . Dump truck full of wood chips is 50 bags of municipal compost potting soil not sold at Wally World . So , guilt free it is .
 
tel jetson
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wayne stephen wrote:I don't see thrift stores as part of the loop in an economy of frivolous consumption . Donations to St Vincent DePaul do not give the donor fuel to continue their life long buying sprees . Take for instance the used car market . A person who wants to always have the newest and stylish car can trade it in every 2-3 years and get enough value to continue this cycle . The auto resale market can make as much commission from used vehicles - if they buy low and sell high - as new models . The finance companies get in on the action . Thrift stores are not like pawn shops with their trail of tears . So , thrift stores do not fuel the clothing market and using wood chips from tree cutters does not fuel that industry either . The original producers of those services don't recieve any benefit from these fringe markets . The waste stream would occur anyway . If any thing it takes away from the retail economy . Found a pair of levis' for 5 bucks at Goodwill thats 5 bucks that did not go to the Gap . Dump truck full of wood chips is 50 bags of municipal compost potting soil not sold at Wally World . So , guilt free it is.


I don't think the suggestion is that diverting waste streams directly encourages those waste streams. what it might do (though it might just as easily not do) is more subtle: create a motivation for those doing the diverting to keep the waste going. or on the flip side: remove a motivation for folks to take steps to prevent waste.

if I benefit rather handsomely from a dumpster of perfectly good food tossed out by a restaurant or grocery store, I might potentially be less likely to suggest to that business steps to reduce their waste. I wouldn't dream of suggesting that diverting waste streams isn't a terrific idea. I might suggest that we need to be careful about how it affects our habits of thought.
 
Micky Ewing
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Tel's quite right. Furthermore, the market for used goods, free items on Craig's List or Kijiji, dumpster diving and all other forms of diverting the waste stream reduce the cost to the primary consumer of disposing of their so called garbage. If there's nobody ready and waiting to help you offload your crap, you're going to have to pay someone to haul it away, or you'll have to do it yourself.

That's not to say these things are as bad as the rampant consumerism that makes them possible. But it means that second hand consumerism is not entirely guilt-free nor without it's cost to the environment. "Reduce" is still king of the three Rs.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Micky Ewing wrote:Making a living or partial living by diverting resources from the waste stream of society is one of the noblest things you can do. I think Dale's posts on deconstruction and salvage of old buildings is some of the most inspiring writing I have found on Permies.com.


Thank you Mickey. I fully acknowledge that I am a vulture living on the carcass of a failed society. The buildings that I dismember usually cost the developer about $10,000 to have them removed. My price is usually about $1000 less than it costs if they smash it all and it goes to the dump. If the building in question is a single family house, it is generally replaced by something costing more than $500,000 and in several cases the replacement has cost several million. The one thousand savings does not drive the activity of replacing perfectly acceptable homes with palaces.

Hundreds of reasonably sized, useful buildings have been constructed from this bounty.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
I won't be as heavily involved in this in the future. Almost a year ago, I filmed some very questionable dumping activity. Recyclable drywall was being loaded into 60 yard demo trailers, then covered with wood waste and hauled to an Indian reserve for open pit burning. My video was used in investigations conducted by the Ministry of the Environment. I was assured that my involvement would not be revealed. A couple months ago, I was outed by the loose lips of someone fairly low on the totem pole. They blabbed to a relative of one of our worst polluters. Jobs have become more difficult for me to secure as a result. I'm not sure what my next move will be. Any system that I am shut out of, rises to the top of the list of things I'd prefer to destroy.
 
Jeremiah wales
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I have been very lucky using thrift stores and Auctions.
I use everything around the house.
Tin Cans, I use many of them to hold stuff in my shop, Keep scissors in and more. Why would I pay to get rid of stuff at the dump. They actually charge if you go to the dump out here. I don't use it.
But anyway. I find that many items in thrift stores are very good quality donations. Its all hit and miss. I have purchased Down filled winter coats in the summer for two dollars. Then in winter I am very warm. I wear all old tee shirts to work in around the property and save my good clothes for more special times. My Clothes last forever that way. Clothes are my best find at thrift stores.
Auctions are a windfall for me. I go to an old farm or community auction. Then after they have gone thru choice several times. I buy everything that is left over for a Dollar or two. I pick out 3 or 4 items that may be keepers for the property and then I load up all the boxes into my trailer. Three times a year I take my trailer to a busy place in the road. I set up a ONE DOLLAR Yard Sale. I then have 1200 odd things that people dig thru and they pick out a few dollars of stuff. They think it is a wonderful game anything being a Dollar. I make several hundred dollars each time and then next year I do the ILL Buy everything left for a Dollar at the auctions again. Its great.
Hint. If you Dress up a little when you have your yard sale. People think the stuff is somehow better. But if you are wearing Torn Jeans, Stained Shirt and messy hair. They think it is Dumpster Stuff.. Just something that Really works.... More money for that smile you give them too. Everyone stops at a Yard Sale.
My stuff gets recycled thru several owners in a year. I Love doing it.
 
Dave Burton
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I see no problem taking advantage of the current economic system, however, as many people have noted, the current economic system is unsustainable. I found a nice TEDtalk by Tim Jackson that goes over this topic, and the main problem that he notices is that the current economic system nurtures only one of the combinations of human traits- self-care and a desire for novelty. The four primary traits that he notices in humans is the desire for novelty, the desire for tradition, self-preservation, and care for others. The evolutionary root for the care for others is species survival, and self-care makes sure that individuals survive, too. Then, novelty helps a species survive change, and tradition helps maintain stability in a species. The irony in nourishing self-care and novelty in the current economic system is that we end up "spending money we don't have on things we don't need to make impressions that won't last on people we don't care about," and that makes absolutely no sense! So, one possible solution would that he suggests is for people to spend money and investments on meaningful and sustainable processes.



This leads to the concept of a resource-based economy, an economy that is based on long-term survival and growth.



Sorry if I took the conversation too far off topic.
 
Micky Ewing
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Great post Jeremiah. Makes me wish I had a truck.

This winter, I was biking home from an errand and dropped into a St. Vincent de Paul thrift store to warm up my toes (Ottawa winters can be cold). I found a 1960's era Singer sewing machine for sale for $35 (Canadian dollars). I'd been sewing the cover for a yurt with my sister's late model "heavy duty" sewing machine and really struggling with the heavy fabric. Well I couldn't resist, so I bought this old baby and let me tell you, it sings (is that where the brand name came from?) right through that canvas like it could take twice the load and the action is so smooth you almost want to weep.

I feel lucky to have stumbled on such a bargain. Truly, it would have been a deal at 20 times the price I paid; they will never make machines like this again. The ones they did make will last forever with proper maintenance. Luckily they are still easy to find on eBay, as most people do not understand their value and are taken in by all the gadgetry you get now in place of high quality, robust design these days. You'll spend a pretty penny on shipping if you can't find a machine locally though. There's a lot of iron in these things.

My advice is to look for the oldest machine you can find that can do zig-zag stitching. That's all you'll ever really need, and the older belt drive ones like mine can easily be retro-fitted (yuk yuk) with a treadle drive for off grid use.
 
Glenn Herbert
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Location: Upstate NY, zone 5
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I have sewn a number of large tent roofs and the like from Sunforger (heavy duty waterproof canvas), and the old industrial sewing machine I had gotten was no better than the 1960's Singer I inherited from my little sister thirty-some years ago when she got a better one. That Singer is good for anything less than leather Only shortfall is it doesn't zigzag.
 
Jeremiah wales
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I am in Wisconsin and wish I could get an old treadmill machine
 
Joel Bercardin
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Location: Western Canadian mtn valley, zone 6b, 750mm (30") precip
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I’m glad to find this thread. Interesting to read people’s experiences and views. Thrift stores are one of the places to go for useful “cast-offs” and “passed-alongs” of society - along with “secondhand stores”, “transfer-station” free stuff, yard sales, pawn shops, flea markets, dumpsters, building-salvage. To be sure the exact nature of each of these varies, and so do the ironies. But…

Actually, what prompts me to post is that I think we’d all get some inspiration and ideas if people would post some of their re-use stories - preferably with pics - on this thread that Dale started:
http://www.permies.com/t/12412/frugality/projects
 
Len Ovens
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Location: Vancouver Island
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Only one comment. My wallet decides... Yes it is good to recycle, but I am not going to pay extra to do so. Make sure you know your prices, the thrift stores are full of good and bad deals. I have found enough items at a lower price new than used to be sure. It very much depends on the item. It is generally cheaper to buy a kids T-shirt new, but a kids dress shirt used for example. Stereo amplifiers are best bought at a thrift store used... probably buy speakers new while remembering the most expensive do not always sound better (test listen before buying). Kitchen supplies... you really have to know what you are buying, in general, a cheap pan and a good pan will cost about the same in a thrift store... and a cheap pan may be less new (anything with a coating is not worth buying anyway). Never buy a printer used. WIFI hubs (if you can't get one from the garbage) are fine if they come complete with power supply, they are all factory resettable. Never pay more for a used computer than what the case/power supply is worth because everything else in there is out of date.
 
Live a little! The night is young! And we have umbrellas in our drinks! This umbrella has a tiny ad:
Systems of Beekeeping Course - Winterization Now Available
https://permies.com/t/69572/Systems-Beekeeping-Winterization
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