The following is a special guest post from Nancy Matson, creator of Stuff You Don’t Want, a handy blog for getting the most out of used, unwanted, and thrifted items.
In a city where fashion trends come and go in what seems like weeks and 26-year-olds scour their faces for wrinkles, it’s easy to think that what’s not shiny and new is played out.
Don’t fall into this trap, fellow Angelenos. If you’re smart, instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, you should be trying to figure out where to snap up their castoffs on the cheap.
Here’s a guide to get you started, from clothing and books to furniture and flatware.
You can’t beat Wertz Brothers in West Los Angeles for sheer volume of inventory combined with reasonable pricing. Their warehouse is 55,000 square feet of coffee tables, coatracks, dressers and wardrobes representing every style and period of furniture from the modern age. They’ll have something you like whether you’ve got an unlimited budget and a specific decorating need or are just looking for a non-IKEA dresser for a couple hundred bucks. They also sell dishes, artwork, lamps and mirrors.
If you’re going vintage/antique, Studio Antiques in El Segundo is another great option. I’m not the only one that respects the taste and knowledge of the couple that owns and operates the store – they’ve been featured on shows like Storage Wars as well as Baggage Battles. The store is on the cluttered side, so if presentation is important to you, you’d best shop elsewhere. If you enjoy the hunt, you’re in for good times ahead.
There’s always somebody trotting out a story about how they found a Kate Spade bag under a pile of umbrellas for six bucks at their local Goodwill, but that’s not something you can plan on. (I wouldn’t even put money on the pile of umbrellas.) If the cheapest possible price point is your number one priority, I recommend Out of the Closet, which has multiple locations throughout Southern California. Their clothing section tends to be better curated than your average Salvation Army or Goodwill, and yet they maintain true thrift store prices.
If you want to take it up a notch but price is still your bottom line, Crossroads Trading is a good option. I stopped in at the one in Santa Monica store recently and found a Lucky shirt for half-off $12.50 ($6.25 for the math impaired) as well as a glitzy black Bebe shirt, new with tags, for $15.00. There are some nasty Yelp reviews from people who tried and failed to sell their clothes there, but that shows they’re picky about inventory, which is good for shoppers.
If you’ve got a little more to spend, or are looking for a special piece for your wardrobe, I recommend It’s A Wrap. They resell clothes (often unworn) from movies and TV shows. You can find good deals here, especially in the racks out front in both the mid-Wilshire and Burbank locations, where I’ve gotten many a $5 item. Do your homework, though. Some of the items are incredibly overpriced. It’s not uncommon at all to see a used Banana Republic sweater for $35.00 when you could quite easily get a brand new one on sale for half that. Yet I’ve gotten Theory pants here for $40, so how much of a hater can I be?
Keep in mind since the clothes have often been worn by actors, they tend to skew petite.
Except for the week and a half I spent in high school working at Burger King before I quit to bag groceries at the supermarket – no regrets, FYI – I’ve never been required to wear a uniform at work. I know if I did, and I was also required to pay for said uniform, I would bitterly resent it.
If you have to buy scrubs for work and live in the southern part of our great city, you might want to stop by Savers Thrift Store in Lomita, which is the only thrift store I’ve seen with a dedicated uniform section. Their uniforms go for a buck or two, which is significantly less than buying them new. It’s an okay thrift store overall, though I wouldn’t otherwise rush to get there.
4. Refrigerators and Other Large Appliances
One word: Craiglist. Note that there are several people on there who buy and sell refrigerators as a business, which is not necessarily bad, but there are also average people who simply have to unload a perfectly functional frig. Refrigerators have an average lifespan of 13 years, so I would recommend buying one from the last five years or so, and finding out the exact type so you can do a quick search of reviews to make sure you’re getting a quality item. If it looks clean and they still have the original paperwork and instructions, it’s a sign that took good care of it. If you can, make sure you get one that’s Energy Star certified, as your refrigerator is by far the biggest drain on your electric bill, and an efficient refrigerator will save you a lot of money in the long run, as well as burn fewer greenhouse gases.
I am appalled by people’s insistence on buying new dishes at low-end department stores that are going to chip the minute you drop them when you can pick up a quality used set of dishes for next to nothing. Because previous generations typically had an everyday and fancy dish set, the used dish market is flooded with beautiful dishes in need of a good home, as well as more modern sets that can be snapped up for a song. I see these all the time at Council Thrift, which has eight locations, including three in the Valley. If you’re in Santa Monica, you can try the Salvation Army’s boutique store, which is next to the regular store. I saw this lovely yet sturdy 25 piece set for $75 at the Council Thrift at Canoga Park less than two weeks ago. That’s three bucks for each piece, including plates, bowls, and a teapot. That’s equivalent to this cheapo set that’s on sale from Target.
The best used bookstore in Los Angeles is easily The Last Bookstore downtown. If you’ve got the time, you can cruise their attic, which is jam-packed full of titles that go for a mere dollar. Plus they collect used books from throughout the city, reselling what they can and distributing the rest to various non-profits with Re-Book It, which makes us love them even more.
I can also personally recommend Angel City Bookstore in Venice, as well as Friends of the Library book sales, which are happening at some branch of the Los Angeles Public Library virtually every weekend.
7. Camping Equipment
I am pleased to live in an era where being continually outside, exposed to the elements, and cooking over an open fire is no longer necessary, but I am open-minded enough to recognize that not everybody agrees with me on this point. If you only camp for a week or so every year, your most eco-friendly and thrifty option is to rent equipment from Adventure 16. A one or two person tent is available from them for $18 for the first night, and a mere $3 per subsequent night. That means you can rent one for an entire week for a mere $32 at while a brand new tent is going to run you $200 minimum. That means you’d have to use that tent for seven weeklong vacations to make the numbers crunch, and that doesn’t account for the inconvenience and potential cost of storage. They rent backpacks, sleeping bags, and everything else you might need, too.
If you are intent on owning your own equipment and your usage makes this a more economical choice, keep your eyes peeled for REI’s sales of used gear.
8. Everything Else
If you crave a department store experience at thrift store prices, why not take a field trip to St. Vincent de Paul’s, just north of downtown? They have basically everything, from pianos to wedding dresses. Now that I write that, I realize it’s the perfect place for a spontaneous wedding. Something to think about!
If you’re looking for something vintage, the Rose Bowl flea market, which happens on the second Sunday of every month, is the obvious option, but the Torrance Street Faire, at the other end of the city, is also great and much less of a project. It’s held on the fourth Sunday of every month.
I also urge you to join your local Buy Nothing group, where you can exchange unwanted items with your immediate neighbors. There are a number of active chapters in Los Angeles, including the one I belong to in Marina del Rey. It’s also a great way to borrow big ticket items or lend them out if you have them.
Finally, there’s neighborrow, a program which formalizes the borrowing and lending of items to neighbors for a small fee. You simply sign up, ask for what you want to borrow, or offer an item you’re willing to lend. It’s in the early stages, but there’s already a lawnmower available for $5 a day, as well as a drill for a mere $1 a day. The next time I need a ladder, I’m signing up.
Let’s do this thing, Los Angeles!
For more information on Nancy be sure to follow her on Twitter @StuffuDontWant