Saturday, January 11, 2014

Bartering: How to live beyond your means at minimum or no output of cash.

Bartering is a wonderful thing. In olden times that is how things were done in small villages. Farmers would trade their precious crops for other commodities and services which tradesmen, artisans and people of diverse occupations were more than willing to exchange for their offerings. I have been bartering my flowers, cooking skills and decorating abilities for most of my adult life. It allows me to have luxuries and necessities which I could not otherwise afford, being a self employed person with no guaranteed paycheck. I have bartered my flowers for hairdressing, manicures, facials, veterinary services,and handyman jobs. I barter with my auto mechanic and have bartered with an electrician, a moving company and a doctor. I get wonderful massages every other week through my chiropractor's office and have even traded top grade meat from the butcher shop. No money changes hands. Services for services and life is good. Quite often when selling at the flea market I will trade fun stuff with my fellow vendors. It is not unusual to work hard all day with pathetic sales and you just feel that you deserve a treat, but cannot spend any money. We will all wander around to each other's booths and browse the goodies. It is always a thrill to walk away with a bag full of loot and all you have done is to let them walk away with a bag full of your previous treasures. If you have never bartered, you should try it! It is very satisfying to use your abilities as tender. If you are new to this, you may find it a bit daunting, but it gets easier and easier. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Think about your skills and what you have to offer. Don't be afraid to approach somone with a mutually advantageous proposition. The worst thing that can happen is that they will say no and you can just shrug it off and try someplace else. I have been turned down, and it's ok...I understand that bartering is not for everyone. But Hell, it sure works for me!!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fashion Dogfight....A Great Adventure for Hardcore Thrifters.

A couple of times a year you can make your fashion dollars stretch to the max if you are vigilant, patient and have great stamina. Those of us who are familiar with Goodwill Industries' semi-annual $2 clothing sale will tell you that it is quite an adrenaline rush and well worth the time and effort invested in shopping it. We patiently wait for the flyers to come out a couple of weeks before the event and then make sure that we put aside the budget and the time to be able to do it right. I usually start out a couple of days ahead of the date, casually visiting my favorite branch locations and staking out choice items that I would like to have. This year the prize for me was a 1950's red velvet "glamour era" coat with the original faded label that I spotted at a Goodwill that is about five miles away from my home. I toyed with the idea of buying it at full price ($20), knowing that it would never be there and I would not get to it in time otherwise. I sadly walked away from it. I always pick the location that is closest to home (2 blocks away) and that I can get to before the doors open. I go about half an hour before closing the previous evening and strategically position my favorite goodies in a place that I can get to immediately upon crossing the threshold in the morning. I am there before the doors open....poised and ready to grab one of the few shopping carts and do a "supermarket sweep". I run and scoop up my previously selected items and then quickly run through grabbing random good stuff and throwing it in my cart. You do not have time to carefully examine snooze, you lose. You can always put back unwanted items, but if you hesitate, they will not be there if you go back. Almost everybody makes a dash to the coat rack first. Fur and leather fly through the air at almost sound-barrier breaking speed. The fancy dresses go next. Within half an hour the checkout line will reach almost to the back of the store, so I make sure that I gather my purchases quickly and make it to the checkout as one of the first customers. I then go on to my next location, knowing that by the time I get there people will be leaving and I can get a parking space. I started out at about a quarter to nine on Friday. I managed to grab a parking spot and within three or four minutes the lot was completely full. On my way out I secretively motioned to a lady that I was leaving so that she could have my spot. Another driver saw me and tried to steal the spot but I pretended to go a different way so he kept going and she got the spot. He then proceeded to scream curses out of the window. Oh Well!! I then took a chance and headed to the store where I had seen the beautiful red coat. Not a snowball's chance in hell, thought I, but then who knows. OMG!!! The coat was still there!!! Hallelujah and praises to the Lord and my shopping angel! I scooped up a few more choice goodies, I, quivering with joy and emotion, and was able to leave the store within half an hour. Onward, hardcore shopper! More territory to cover. I headed to another store, where by this time the parking lot was an insane sea of cars parked, double parked, and idling. I somehow got a "parking angel" spot (my angels always take care of me)and made my way into a post-apocalyptic scene of surreal shopping frenzy, as though if people did not buy these items today they would have to go naked for the rest of their lives! Manners were out the window....children were out of control, with parents nowhere in sight. Clusters of hunched over people in different areas of the store hovered over gargantuan piles of booty, flinging unwanted clothing over their shoulders!! I must say, that of all the locations, this was the most uncivilized. I made a real quick run through and got in line, where I discovered that I was dragging a hitchhiking pair of shorts that had attached themselves to my purse! Sheer lunacy! It took me about 45 minutes to check out of this one, but on my way through the line I spotted a pristine rolling suitcase (which I had been looking for) for the give-away price of $20! SCORE!! The nice thing about these sales is that they do not get sold down to garbage. Goodwill keeps restocking goodies all day long until the sale is almost over on the second day. Knowing this, I went home for a lunch break and a nap. (much needed). I then hit another store about an hour before closing and then again the next day. All in all I got some great stuff for myself and for resale purposes....ah, the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of the treasures found. I took a pic of some of my favorite finds, among them the beautiful vintage coat, a Ralph Lauren tweed and velvet "hunting jacket" as a gift for my friend, a brand new Asian kimono, a hand-knit and embroidered sweater and a intricately beaded netting blouse. If you are not claustrophobic and can deal with drama and commotion,if you are a true thriftaholic bargain hunting junkie, then I thoroughly recommend this adventure. I might add that people used this sale as an opportunity to send clothing to relatives in third world countries. At one of the stores the two customers in front of me had approximately $600 in clothing! (That's 300 items, folks!)

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Gee, has time passed that quickly? Well, I guess that when I'm busy and distracted (which happens everytime a butterfly passes) everything that I want to do and meant to do becomes just a fleeting flutter in my brain. Right now I'm pretty pissed off about something, so I guess that it's as good a time
as any to share a story with my friends.

For those of you who know me, you will have a slight inkling that I take great pleasure from food.
Food is not just for nutrition, it is for massive hedonistic pleasure! I revel in creating new and wonderful recipes, like a mad scientist taking joy with the endless flavorful, bounty of ingredients that God has showered upon us.....a big Lego box of culinary delights.  Well, unfortunately, this nasty little obsession of mine has caught up with me and I find that while I adore food, it is time to restructure
my food intake for health and vanity.

One of my dear friends (she knows who she is ;)  ) has the same, love, love that food, but hate, hate, hate the weight that comes along with it. We often find ourselves out, partners in gastronomical crime, licking our fingers and muttering "manana".  A couple of months ago she
started juicing. A good friend of hers is keeping an eye on her caloric intake and providing her with nutritious and Ph balanced juice meals. Even with her indiscretions, she has managed to lose over twenty pounds in about a month. Awesome!! Phenomenal!! Love it!! Kudos!! I could do that....after all, I adore fruits and veggies and mix and matching interesting combinations. I determined that obtaining a juicer was of paramount importance pretty damn soon....before the holidays bombard me with all of their wondrous butter and sugar.

And so, after a quick trip to COSTCO to evaluate what a starving artist (well, starving is really not the problem here, is it? haha) it became apparent that about a hundred bucks would be necessary to get started. Sigh!! In resignation I purchased a few bottles of Naked Juice...carrot and mean green machine, along with berries and other natural foodstuffs. Well, for now my reliable red Osterizer would have to make smoothies. Not quite the nutritional bonanza of juicing, but helluva lot better than huevos con chorizo!

AND THEN....two days later I awoke in the middle of the night and started flipping channels on the tv. As I rapidly flipped, I passed a scene of a huge mountain of fresh fruits and veggies. HOT DAMN! I'll bet that was a juicer commercial! I quickly flipped back and caught the tail end of the snake oil salesman with the smarmy smile and the mindless, nodding audience pitching the "Nutribullet".
This was exactly what I needed! It was small, unobtrusive and powerful. And the best part was that if I called in the NEXT EIGHT MINUTES, I could make six easy payments of $19.99 with free shipping!! BUT WAIT!!!......yeah, I know.  Well, faster than a trout latching on to a beautiful night crawler I was hooked. I whipped out my debit card, determined that I had $19.99 in my account and trustingly gave my info to a really sweet lady who assured me that her daughter was in heaven with her machine.\

I put it on facebook....I called my friends....I was so excited. I have awaited the FedEx man on my doorstep like he was a lover bringing me Godiva chocolates (well, not really).  So.....that was only three days ago...calm the hell down, girl.  Today I dawned on me that I needed to get down to the bank and deposit a client's check in my account. I called the bank to check the state of my affairs.
YIKES!!! I was $165.75 overdrawn.  How could this be? After speaking with a bank rep it was determined that this "retail merchandising company" had debited out $159.75, plus an overdraft fee of $35 which the bank took. Oh no they didn't !!!! A wealth of creative expressions left my lips. I subsequently spent another 45 minutes on the phone submitting a claim with the fraud department.
This little fiasco is going to tie up my account for weeks until these unscrupulous people acknowledge the claim and reverse the debit. In the meantime, the funds are being returned by the bank contingent on that resolution. I will be afraid to write any checks or take credit cards with my new "Square" system that I just installed on my brand new Iphone. Crap!!!

Needless to say, this has cured me of any future temptation to whip out my debit card in the middle of the night. Future purchases will be cash and carry with merchandise and receipt in hand. Just sayin', friends, buyer beware!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


I started out with the best of intentions a while back, but somewhere along the line my ADD got in the way and joined forces with my great skill at procrastination.  I want to get in my "way back machine" and start to blog again about my life and the cluttermonkeyness of being me.

I tend to get bored very easily, get sidetracked with new projects and shiny things and all of this
ultimately impedes any progress that I need to make with important things that need completion.
I must say, though, I am a wonderful juggler and manage to do a little of this and a little of that which
does feed the gypsy in my soul but creates a bit too much havoc.

A couple of days ago I decided to sell vintage stuff at the antique flea market. Insanity does not run in
my family, but I get great recessive bursts of it every now and then. The weather has been so hellacious that nobody wants to shop in the heat, but Sunday was not a day for common sense. I hauled it all over to Irvine, spent two hours setting up, sat in the hot sun all day and watched shoppers scurry around like frenzied ants on the hot asphalt. I sold a few things between 8:30 and 11:00 and then NADA.  Time ticked away  like maple syrup on a winter's day. (cept it was F'ing HOT). Finally
at around two thirty as I looked around at the other frustrated vendors packing up I decided to join the club and move my dehydrated butt as best I could to get everything back into my sweet little car. That poor baby takes such abuse!

In two weeks I'll turn around and do it all over again at the Long Beach flea.  Why bother?  Dunno.
Selling crap is lots of fun when it does sell, and I love the interaction with the shoppers. That is one thing I really miss about working at home. When I had a shop I would giggle and share stories with the ladies, flirt and make wisecracks with the men, and make new friends along the way. While working at home has lots of perks and gives me many freedoms, there are definitely trade-offs. I converse with the cats, go in the house and grab snacks and watch reruns of NCIS, and find lots of
distracting ways to amuse myself.  Getting out is definitely necessary for a weirdo extrovert like me.

I chatted and traded stories with several of my neighboring vendors at Irvine on Sunday, and somehow we figured out that we all suffer from the same "why in the hell do we do this" disease!
It kills you physically, but it's a great ride emotionally. :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Finding Buried Treasure

This Saturday I was on my way home from running errands and took the backroads to avoid a
congested PCH. I personally think my cluttermoney orchestrated the whole thing!

I found myself in front of Goodwill's "Last Chance" store with an open parking space right
at the door!!! Have any of you been to the last chance store? You'd better be armed with stamina and a bottle of hand sanitizer....this is not for the faint of heart! (but oh, so worth it!!!) As you enter the warehouse type building in an industrial area, you are greeted with huge cardboard boxes overflowing with STUFF and surrounded by yellow caution tape. These boxes are for auction only and not to be messed with. Auctions occur twice daily and minimum bid is $30 for the anything-goes monstrous grab bags. I myself have never bid on one of these, but there is always a gaggle of vulture -type people hovering around them.

I made my way to the far left corner of the warehouse, where there are several long tables heaped with every thing you can possibly imagine. Most of the tables contain fabric and clothing, but there is also a section where you can find anything from purses, stuffed animals and office supplies to small appliances and CDs. (I have found things such as a Coach purse and vintage collectibles in this pile).

Once I was able to squeeze my way through the huddle of women chattering in Spanish huddled on the floor picking through mini-piles they had grabbed, I made my way to the textile tables...I once found a brand new $250 Ralph Lauren comforter here....the only thing wrong with it was a 2" section of the seam that need re-stitching. Repaired and washed.....Gorgeous!!! Picking through this mess is quite an adventure...lots of denim, children's clothing, dirty underwear and curtain panels, but if you are tenacious there are wonderful buried treasures to be found.

I was in there for about an hour and here is a list of what I found...are you ready??

A charming fabric purse with a scene from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,
A shabby chic tin wall pocket with hand painted pink roses, 8 sheets of stickers with cute animals on them, A perfect condition leather belt from the 1928 Jewelry Co. with an ornate Victorian repro silver buckle, A tiny white birdcage votive holder, A child's silver beaded purse, A white eyelet skirt from Anthropologie, a silk cord crocheted shoulder bag, begging for embellishments, a 1980's pretty print blouse with a lace collar, My amazing scores.......a 1960's mint condition chartreuse high-style jacket with a custom New York label that Audrey Hepburn would have been proud to wear and a burnt-orange silk print 60's dress that a manufacturer had started and never finished hemming (probably from the same closet as the jacket). I also found a "Lux" (an in-house Anthropologie brand) crushed velvet green jacket , two nice fashion belts, one of them made from fuschia sequins, some vintage linens and an embroidered lace curtain panel. In two different locations was what turned out to be a brand new intricately embroidered hot pink dress and pant cotton outfit from India. (a few knick-knacks not worth mentioning) and I was done!! Quite a haul and an unusually bountiful day.

Everything is taken to the check out counter and dumped in a rubber bin that sits on a scale. You pay $1.99 per lb!! if you shop wisely and aim for things that don't weigh much (the Audrey Hepburn jacket was heavy, but a must, you can make out like a bandit!
My whole Santa-sized bag cost me $20.00. (and I sold the jacket for $40 at the flea market on Sunday). I immediately went home, took a hot bubble bath and headed for the laundrymat to wash all the fabric treasures that I found.

This is recommended only for hard-core thrifters, the rest of you will go running for the hills after a few minutes of digging through some unsavory things to get to the good stuff, but if you have the heart for it, more power to you!! It is a field trip well worth taking.

Friday, August 20, 2010

archeological digs

Archeological Digs

The flea market business has really changed. People are not shopping the way they used to.
Granny carts and backpacks and dollies were the tools of choice back in the day. Not so much today. The desktop, laptop and mobile phone are now the favorite shopping accessories in our fast paced world and belt-tightened economy.

At last Sunday's flea market I talked with several other vendors.....the story was all the same.
One vendor who specializes in high-end la-di-da decorator items said that this had been the all time worst she had ever done. Three years ago she could take home two to three thousand dollars after a "decent" show. Sunday she had only sold about two hundred. People are not paying antique store prices at a parking lot flea market!

So....what are people buying? Cheap little crap!!! She went on to tell the tale of her flea market neighbor who normally brought great stuff and this time brought boxes of cheap little crap!!!
Everything this neighbor sold was between one dollar and five dollars. Are you ready??? He sold $1500 of cheap little crap!!!

So tomorrow I am doing an archeological dig, (this is a sociological experiment) and finding insignificant little stuff that I have not deemed flea-market worthy in the past, slapping a price tag on it, filling up boxes, unloading the great stuff from my car and reloading it with.....CHEAP LITTLE CRAP!!

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cheap little crap...I buy it all the time. Then why is it that I never take it to the sale? PRIDE!! yep, you got it....everything has to be special and pretty and displayed as though it were a store. This weekend I am going to change my tactics. Yes, I will have a display of some of my "altered art", but will use it more as a tool to give people ideas about what to do with the _________!! Let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Attention All Pack Rats!

Hi!  My name is Margaret and I am a Cluttermonkey.  I am a florist by trade, but artist, gypsy, and free spirit are pretty good descriptions of my soul and what drives my colorful and often erratic choices in life.  

I must have been a crow in a past life, because I am inexplicably attracted to bright, shiny objects, gathering and stashing my little treasures everywhere I go.  I see creative possibilities in things that were once beautiful, but now have been worn, used, tattered and discarded.  I see what they could be in a new incarnation  Someone else's discards are my canvas for altered art.  

I am especially drawn to thrift shops and the unexpected joy of discovering no longer loved but once beautiful fabric and chotchkes.  An arm missing on the sad but beautiful old dresden figurine?  No problem... tucked in a wreath, coyly peeking out from a jungle of vintage millinery flowers snippets of decades old lingerie lace, her injury is obscured.  

Who would guess this porcelain princess's handicap!  Beautiful old hand painted dinner plates once proudly placed on elegant table settings, but oops!  carelessly chipped and now abandoned, are a heart fluttering joy to find.  The possibilities are inspiring.  In the past, "alley shopping" was a great and rewarding pastime, but as I have reached saturation point with my clutter-monkiness, I no longer indulge in this pleasure.  

I will stop to point out that past and imaginary clutter monkeys invade my world daily.  They are the mischievous, grinning little creatures on my shoulder that convince me to keep accumulating or sharply turn my steering wheel to that estate sale or thrift shop even though I need to use my money to pay bills and have no room for one more thing.  

Stay tuned as I embark on my journey to organize and rid myself of the negative aspects of hoarding and maximize the artistic and potentially profitable possibilities for dealing with the chaos which I have created.