One of the best things about my experiment to buy no new stuff this year is hearing from people who’ve been living this way for a long time, cutting their carbon footprints, saving money, weathering the recession, and rejiggering their priorities to favor family, friends, and financial sanity over credit card debt and mindless materialism.

These “no-new” veterans will proudly tell you that new stuff, with all its high-priced packaging, shipping, off-gassing, and carbon-intensive manufacturing, is way overrated. But that doesn’t mean they hate stuff—or even shopping! Au contraire. There are plenty of connoisseurs, even collectors, in our no-new ranks. One reader characterizes herself as an Elite Thrifter. I love that!

And because they hunted and foraged for these treasures, pawing through lots of other discards to find them, they often cherish them even more than items purchased new. Indeed, most thrifters I know relish a chance to recount their acquisition stories and show off their big thrift “scores.” (Alternatively, some don’t want to let the cat out of the bag about the good deals to be found at thrift shops! Competition is already stiff enough as is.)

So, it’s time to share some of our readers’ second-hand finds. The photos you see here are just to whet your appetite; there’s more on our Pinterest board.

  • Piper’s awesome thrift shop accordion kicks us off (above). It’s a thing of beauty, indeed! And by all accounts, she skipped all the way home from Goodwill after finding it there.

    And how about this frilly vintage dress, modeled by Sightline friend Amanda Mathson? Gorgeous! (The dress was found at a thrift shop by the expert thrifters and high fashion recyclers at Lodekka in Portland. Amanda is photographed by Michael Travers Lee of Focus97.)

    Michael T Lee, Focus97.

    Here’s a detail.

    Amanda Mathson, photographed by Michael Travers Lee.

    And here’s Portland designer, photographer, and friend to Sightline, Patrick Barber’s detail of a vintage men’s shirt he got at a thrift shop.

    Patrick Barber.

    Sightline’s Eric Hess got these cool bar stools second-hand.

    Brooke has a good eye for thrifting and photography. She writes about her fabulous finds, along with tips about mending used items to give them new life, lessons learned about the Art of Thrifting (not to be missed!), and other insights about simple and good living on her blog, Secondhand Goods. Check out these red boots!

    Brooke, Secondhand Goods.

    Jordan sent us this note with the photo below. What luck to have a magical alley!

    The framed poster of Tivoli is from Value Village, the organ from our “magical” alley (we live between two high-turnover apartment buildings), the chair was my grandparents’, and the rainstick and stool from a yard sale.

    Jordan West Monez

    Kurt Guenther—also a good friend to Sightline—made an outdoor art installation from second-hand stuff. He writes:

    For three years, I collected used glass plates, vases, broken bits and marbles and added them to the phone pole in front of our house. It became a sort of tree in bloom by the time we moved at the end of last year. The new owners are keeping it and the utility company has let it be.

    Dearborn and Ballard Goodwill stores supplied most of the glass with additional finds at the ReStore and yard sales. The lights are from Goodwill’s Christmas in July. It’s about 15′ tall.

    Kurt Guenther,

    Here are some kitchen essentials that Joan found at yard sales.

    Joan M.

    Melanie wrote: “This brunch set for $25 made my day!”

    Melanie Coerver

    Clark, a friend from Tri-cities, wrote: “ANNA, THE CHAIR, DESK AND EVERYTHING ON IT—AND ON THE WINDOW LEDGE—ARE FROM CRAIG’S LIST OR GARAGE SALES.” (Don’t worry, he always uses all-caps, I don’t think he’s “yelling.”)

    Clark D.

    And here’s my aunt’s collection of thrift store candlesticks, purchased one by one over the years. When they’re all blazing at her dining room table, the effect is dazzling–and very chic! (Thanks, Janet!)


    Janet M.

    Maren’s friends Anne and Doug found this darling tea set for her 2 year-old at Goodwill (toddler hand pictured for scale).

    Maren M.

    Scott Lindberg, a guy I connected with on Flickr, is a self-described “thrift shop archaeologist.” He also jokes about “thrift karma,” a concept I’ve come to understand myself over the years. But he seems to have a serious amount of karma—along with unflagging patience, endurance, and a keen eye for designer pieces that the rest of us would invariably overlook. He writes about his second-hand finds at Ars Longa. Here are two pieces that he’s particularly fond of, both “unearthed” at thrift shops.

    Russel Wright sherry pitcher, a thrift-store find by Scott Lindberg.

    You know that feeling when you happen on to something really special? Here’s how Scott described the moment he found the piece below by Corita Kent (a.k.a. Sister Corita):

    …the blood drained from my face I found myself aghast, wondering if I really could be standing in front of a Sister Corita serigraph in a thrift shop? Was I daydreaming again? Fortunately my dream had come to reality. And now for five dollars, I am the owner of an original signed piece of art by Sister Corita.

    Corita Kent, signed serigraph, thrifted by Scott Lindberg.

    Seattleite Leslie writes: “Wow, do I have some great photos for you! (I’m almost reluctant to share them because I don’t want anyone else to know that thrift stores are treasure troves.) I’m just attaching one picture of baby shoes. They’re a Goodwill find; I think they were $2.99.”

    Leslie S.

    Nobody likes spending a fortune on over-sized, plastic baby gear—even if it’s stuff that really helps maintain new parents’ sanity. Kristen got all these useful baby items second-hand—and mostly free!

    What’s your thrift store or garage sale prize?

    Please keep the photos coming! I’m working on a used toy edition. Second-hand fashion edition. Musical instrument edition. Home decor…Tools…Kitchens…Anyone?