I spend a lot of my life in what Brits call charity or junk shops, and what Americans call thrift stores. In England you go to Oxfam or the British Heart Foundation; here in LA you go to Goodwill or Out of the Closet, (which my friend Ki and I call The Aids Shop, because we are five.)
Anyway, I’ve been a repeat offender in charity shops since I was about 13 and developed an obsession with wearing oversized blazers that always made my grandmother protest, “Ugh darling, you can’t possibly buy that, a man surely DIED in it.” I suppose if you’re a granny, you know that charity shops are where clothes go when you die, but 13-year-olds with limited pocket money are immortal.
Here is what you should buy in charity shops:
1) VASES. Old dead people always have the best vases and you can pick them up for about dirt cheap. There is literally no need to ever buy a vase in a normal shop ever again. Charity shops are OVERFLOWING with the stemmy buggers.
2) BAKING DISHES that look a bit like Le Creuset casseroles and may in fact be just that if you’re lucky. Also any sort of glass dishes to bake things in. Or trays, or eggcups. But NOT mugs. You must only buy the mugs if you never had a father and need to pretend that somebody in your family went on a corporate away-day to SUNSHINE GOLF TAMPA RECRUITMENT JAMBOREE in 1987.
3) BOOKS about gardening. This isn’t proving so true in America, where the books sections are full of self-help tomes about how to get your meth addict boyfriend to call you when he says he will, but in England you can always score the most amazing books about flowers.
4) BLAZERS, macs and woollen winter coats. Men’s or women’s. Thin enough for tennis or thick enough for Siberia. Always amazing. I think every coat I own comes from a charity shop and people always ask me where they’re from, so they must be brilliant. Unless it’s the stench of death that’s attracting all the attention. Hard to know for sure.
5) Specifically: this season’s camel coats! I’ve just been reading Vogue and it’s full of eulogies for autumn 2010’s camel-coloured wool coats. So I went straight out and found one for ten dollars at a Goodwill in the Valley, and another for 20 bucks in one of those council thrift stores on Fairfax, West Hollywood. The latter one is particularly fine. Proper vintage American and looks like it cost ten times that amount.
In fact, here it is:
6) ART. Even if you don’t like any of the paintings in there, take a close look at the frame. I often buy crap paintings with a nice frame and just yank the art out of it when I get home. Sometimes I do feel a bit evil, as the picture tends to be of some soggy begonias that someone’s uncle painted while his wife lay in the hospital wearing all of his blazers and dying, dying, dying. But it’s no more evil than wasting your life on the internet, and yet here we all are, rolling in the mud again.
7) DESK LAMPS. I realise that buying second-hand electrical goods gives you the winning card in the How To Die In A House Fire game, but all I can say is that I am Not Dead Yet. Unlike all the men who once owned my coats.
So, all in all. Charity shops are full of death, but a nice sort of death that really wants to come to life again. The world has limited resources – why not buy stuff that already smells a bit?