A Philosophy of Used Things

Last night when EJ got home from work, he brought in a box of dishes that he had bought at a thrift shop on his way to work.

Wait, before I go further, let me pause to explain our Philosophy of Used Things.

I know some people want only expensive new things, but I do not like new things. I mean, I can appreciate the beauty and workmanship of expensive new things and sometimes I drool over them. I love beautiful homes (drool) or handmade furniture (drool), although I will never understand the appeal of clothes causing hundreds or thousands of dollars. And don’t buy me jewelry. I’d rather have books.

The reality is that we are not swimming in money, and we have a son, a dog, and eight cats. If we had expensive new things–depending on what the item was–we’d have to worry about them getting stolen, broken, ripped, stained, spilled on, or the dog shedding on them or the cats barfing on them.  I just don’t want the anxiety I’d feel if the cats scratched a new $800 couch or I stained a $60 shirt or something. So we visit yard sales and thrift shops, and if an item gets broke, ripped, stained, spilled or barfed on, we don’t have to worry. We just use the stained 25 cent shirt as a rag and buy another shirt, or find a new lamp to replace the broken one, or buy another old piece of furniture for $20 when the other one becomes too worn. In the end, stuff is just stuff, and even the most expensive thing becomes used the minute you bring it home from the store. I’d rather enjoy my family and pets than worry about keeping expensive things nice or safe.

Our $25 table and chairs.
Our $25 table and chairs.

A great appeal of visiting yard sales and thrift shops is that it is very much like treasure hunting. We never know what we will find. We might find nothing, but we might find something really cool. A few years ago, we bought a really nice couch for $10 at a moving sale. Last year we bought a very nice kitchen table and chairs for $25 at a yard sale. And we bought two lovely wing-backed chairs for $50 at a thrift shop. We get like-new clothes, many times of higher quality than we could afford new. Years ago, EJ found a full-length, fleece-lined, western sheepskin coat for $19 and last month he found an Australian Drover’s Coat for $10 at yard sales. Both were very expensive and had the sales tags still in them. Who can beat that? We even got a cat at a yard sale last year.

Sometimes we end up having great conversations with people operating a yard sale. For example, just a few days ago we stopped at a sale and chatted with the seller for 15 to 20 minutes. We started out by admiring the man’s beautiful dog, and then the conversation veered to other things–work and back pain and such. We could practically have pulled out a chair and visited all day. Once, years ago, the man running a sale actually invited us to stop in for supper sometime. We never did because, well, what were we supposed to do, knock on the door and say, “Hey, we are the strangers who stopped at your sale and you invited us to supper and here we are!” That would have been strange.

Anyway, back to the dishes.

One of our wedding dishes.
One of our wedding dishes.

When we got married, we were given a very nice set of dishes as a wedding gift. We have only a few left now because over the years dishes tend to get broken.

We had a complete set of apple dishes–including serving platters and everything– that we bought NEW at the store years ago. However, EJ read that many items from China are made with lead and are not safe, so last December he got rid of all our “Made in China” items, including the dishes. He purged them just before we were expecting a guest, which meant I didn’t have many dishes and had to wash the dishes frequently. Laugh. We have been searching for non-Chinese dishes ever since, laughingly grumbling about our lack of plates and bowls. We have been slowly finding replacement dishes. Most, but not all, of the dish sets come with serving platters and a creamer and sugar bowl (which we don’t use often). I like that we can choose the dish style or color that we like best on any particular day. Often we each use a different style for a meal.

Our beautiful Blue Willow dishes.
Our beautiful Blue Willow dishes.



We found a beautiful almost complete set of English Blue Willow dishes for $5 at a yard sale a couple of years ago. I had a nice chat with the woman selling these dishes. I love the pretty, delicate design. I use them on Fridays for our Shabbat meal.

Warm mustard yellow dishes.
Warm mustard yellow dishes.







A few weeks ago, we found these dishes at our favorite thrift store. We love the warm mustard yellow color.





The dishes EJ brought home last night are yellow and brown. Except for one bowl and plate, they are a complete set of stoneware made in the USA. They are sturdy. I like that the cups are large and can be used for small bowls if we want to. He bought them all for $15.

This latest set of dishes came with a Quiche dish. EJ said, “You know what you are going to have to do with this QUICHE DISH, don’t you?” (Hint, hint.) I guess I will be learning how to make Quiche. Smile.

Oh, we all have our Favorite Coffee Cups. No one can use another person’s Favorite Coffee Cup on PENALTY OF DEATH. Choosing a Favorite Coffee Cup is almost a sacred rite-of-passage thing. This is mine. I found a set of four at a yard sale so if I break one (gasp), all is not lost. I love the colors and design of this cup.

My Favorite Coffee Cup
My Favorite Coffee Cup

EJ read this post and said, “Why didn’t you also share my Favorite Coffee Cup?” So here is his. He likes things plain and simple.

EJ's Favorite Coffee Cup
EJ’s Favorite Coffee Cup

I think we now have enough plates, and bowls. At least for a while. If they get broken, oh, well, we will just find some more.

2 Comments on “A Philosophy of Used Things

  1. Suzanne loved the thrift stores in California and even had several herself. UM, that’s where probably over half the stuff in the 15 semi truck loads she moved to Mississippi came from.


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