The Greatest Thrift Store on Earth

You have probably heard me mention the Bargain Barn at some point in my ramblings here. It is high time that it get its own post, seeing as how it is the greatest thrift store on earth! It’s in my hometown of Memphis, and it’s always the first place I want to go when I come home. Luckily, I have a marvelous thriftily-inclined mom, so we team up to tackle the awesomeness, and I usually come back to California with a year’s worth of clothes crammed into a huge duffel bag. I love the thrill of the hunt, and I’ve never found a better open season than the Bargain Barn. Pretty please open one in Pasadena, Goodwill!

What exactly is the Bargain Barn, then? Well, it’s the back room of Goodwill, where clothes are sold *by the pound.* Everything is tossed into huge bins for your hunting pleasure. And it’s $1.45 per pound. Friends, you cannot clothe yourself more cheaply than that. And you cannot possibly find such an eclectic mix of crazy vintage pieces and designer items with the tags still on them. It is the most glorious combination! The picture at the top was taken in the summer of 2009 by my sweet husband (then my boyfriend), who very self-sacrificingly came along with me, my mom, my awesome aunt Ellen, and my cousins to do some digging. It is not exactly his dream shopping locale, but he was such a good sport. He’s earned a pass for life now, I think, so he can stay home with my dad and watch football while we lady folks attack the Bargain Barn with gleeful abandon. The next picture was taken last week. As you can see, the place has taken on a more austere character and has been stripped of its attendant red barn emblem. I do not approve of this. But I will still be just as devoted!

Now, I do realize that clothes sold by the pound, and ones you have to dig through, may not be your cup of tea. And to you I say: “More for me!”

So as to prevent chaos, this barn has rules, which, most of the time, I find pretty funny. The social dynamics of the Bargain Barn are a post unto themselves, but on the whole, people are so kind and friendly. On many occasions, someone will overhear me say I’m looking for something in particular, and then they’ll find it and bring it over to me. So sweet. Sometimes people just bring things over and say they thought I might like it. They are usually right! By the same token, my mom and I always hand baby and children’s clothes to moms who are there with their charges, and we all help each other find a missing shoe or belt. The unparalleled friendliness of my hometown is a thing that makes my heart swell with pride, and I love seeing it in action at the Bargain Barn.

The store is divided into two sections, which I lovingly refer to as “clothes” and “stuff.” In the “stuff” department you will find everything from books and shoes to purses and toys. Once, as my mom and I were giggling at all the Danielle Steele novels, my awesome aunt Ellen pulled out a copy of Madame Bovary. In French. You never know what you’ll find, and that’s the most fun part!

Our strategy is to start on one side or the other, and to position ourselves on either side of a bin and work our way down. Because the bins are several feet wide, it’s kind of a two-woman job. We pile anything that looks interesting into our cart, and after we’ve tackled all the bins, we have The Reckoning, in which we vote yea or nay on our finds. We usually leave with a cart full of stuff, and it never costs more than about $30. It is so wonderfully exhilarating! When we get home, we put on a fashion show for my dad and make him guess how much we spent. This is quite possibly even more fun! I would say, at this point, that this where 70% of my wardrobe comes from. And also all of my boots and purses, which cost $1 each. It is safe to say that the Bargain Barn has ruined me for all other thrift stores, and I frequently find myself gasping in shock at the prices at the Salvation Army, or wherever else I may find myself. I know, I’m a little ridiculous. But the Bargain Barn is just way too much fun, and way too much great value for your dollar to ever be beaten. Can’t wait to see you again, BB.

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