Saturday, November 07, 2009

ode to recycling

recycle: to undergo reuse or renewal; be subject to or suitable for further use (Random House dictionary)

I was into recycling before it was hip--although I didn't realize what I was doing back then!

My initial experience with recycling involved garage-saling with a quirky young man from our first youth ministry. Randy invited me to tag along with him and his grandma one Saturday morning as they followed the intimidating maze of Garage Sale signs around the sleepy burg of Turlock, California.

I'd never heard of such a thing. The very term garage-saling conjured up bizarre images of Randy's grandma's buick, pirate-ship sails unfurled and billowing, driven through town by the central valley wind. Plus, the thought of shopping in other people's garages rather unsettled me--until we made our first stop and I realized this was one of the most brilliant things I could ever do.

I ended up lugging home a crib, matching dresser and bags of baby clothes that day, all for under $50 bucks--sweet finds for a struggling couple fresh from seminary. To say I was hooked is an understatement--I'm still treasure hunting 30 years later!

I didn't apply the term "recycling" to my hobby until we moved to Alaska in 1989. As the new pastor's wife on the block, I got invited to attend the annual spring brunch and fashion show. Several of the church ladies worked at the Nordstrom's in Anchorage, so the spendy store's new spring designs were featured by the models.

Prior to the event, someone at the church discovered that I sported Nordstrom threads from time to time--and that I'd never paid more than $2 for an article of their clothing, no matter how upscale the label. They thought it would be fun for me to model my second-hand finds, contrasting the price I'd paid with the newer versions.

I usually took great delight in boasting about my clothing coups. But I was a little hesitant to admit to this group of well-heeled women that I bought most of my clothing in other people's garages. It was then I hit upon the concept of "recycling".

To break the ice at the fashion show, I had a friend of mine strut down the runway dressed as a bag lady--representing the ultimate second-hand-clothing consumer. Nothing matched or fit my maverick model--and she topped off the outfit with a rainbow-colored beanie (which, I recall, had a propeller attached). Once the ladies stopped laughing, I came out wearing my swankiest outfit and espoused the benefits of buying recycled clothing.

New, my dress sold for $75.00. I'd paid fifty cents for it at a garage sale! I also had my daughters model cute outfits I'd purchased for them at either yard sales or thrift stores.

All the Nordstrom junkies skittered up to me after the show and gushed about my wonderful presentation. I'm glad they liked it, but I never ran into any of them at any garage sales after that. But still, I'd made my point.

Speaking of great deals, I'm still gloating over the suede boots I found at Goodwill last week. I've been wanting nice dress boots--something I could wear with skirts--but was appalled by department store prices. So as I made my regular circuit of Portland thrift stores, looking for books and paper for the recycled journals I make, I kept my eyes open for the perfect boots. And I prayed--fully aware that this was definitely a want and not a need. But I asked anyway :)

And then last week I found them--the sweetest pair of boots with just the right heel, right style, right size, and right color. They didn't appear to have ever been worn, either. When I got them home, I googled the label to see what the boots were worth.

Did I score? Let's just say I could make our next house payment if I could sell those boots for what they were going for online (if they aren't knock-offs, which they probably are).

But I won't, of course. I'm pretty sure those boots were "recycled" just for little old me!