Blog Archives

Upcycled Home Decor! (Confessions of a Clutter Bug!) #UsedParty Twitter Party April 23rd at 9pmET

What do you get when you cross a thrift store junkie with a DIY home decor nut? Me! And all of my frugally funtastic friends who also cruise the aisles of Value Village, vintage consignment, and thrift stores in search of new-to-us treasures to repurpose and incorporate into our home decor. We’re out “saling” on weekend mornings and surfing the buy/sell websites into the wee hours of the night poised to pounce when someone posts that exact “thing” that we need to complete a coolio project that we pinned to our DIY ideas boards on Pinterest.

(tip: most people post their online ads late at night so if you want to beat the early bird to the worm, try hanging out with the night owls!)

my DIY hobby has contributed to some serious clutter in our home in the past.

I speak for myself, though, when I say that my DIY hobby has contributed to some serious clutter in our home in the past. Not because of completed projects lining the walls and shelves of our living room, but because of the “ideas waiting to be developed” in the basement, garage, and shed. Before the advent of online buy/sell websites and local freecycle facebook groups, I was notorious for scooping up anything and everything that I thought would be a fun item to upcycle or repurpose. Afterall, the garage sale season is short, and there were fewer second hand stores to choose from which left me with a sense of urgency leading to a “I’ll just tuck this away and find a use for it later” mindset.  It drove my husband nuts!

I’ve purged most of my “undeveloped ideas” over the years by selling my clutter & collections at garage sales, consignment stores, buy/sell websites, freecycle groups, donations, etc., and although I’m still a clutter bug, I only buy items for DIY projects that I’m ready to do immediately!

Except for these.  Majong Upcycle Project by Christa Clips

My 3 or 4ish (?) Majong sets.

I scavenged these from a garbage bin almost 15 years ago (it was dry, and clean, don’t worry!). Some tiles are plastic while others are bamboo and bone? Ivory? I haven’t even taken the time to figure out what I have! When I found these beauts discarded and destined for the dump, I immediately imagined turning them into a tiled coffee table. But, as was the way with so many of my fantastic DIY home decor ideas, I never followed through with the project and they’ve sat in a cardboard box ever since.

I have a bit of a thing for vintage Asian thrift (if that’s a thing?!)

I’ve lugged the (ridiculously heavy) box during 4 house moves and just can’t part them – their DIY potential is limitless!  I think it’s the mass quantity that appeals to me as well as the fact that I lived in Japan for 2 years after University and have a bit of a thing for vintage Asian thrift (if that’s a thing?!).

I’ve envisioned these majong tiles being upcycled into:

majong jewelry

photo minxandmaven on

  • a tiled coffee table or dining room table
  • a bathroom floor
  • a kitchen back splash
  • 100s of necklace pendants or bracelets (they’re way too heavy to use as earrings despite the fun pics on Pinterest!)

But as the years have passed, the project has become increasingly complicated in my mind as I place more and more value on the final project being culturally and linguistically authentic. What do the tiles mean?  Which way should they be oriented? Which pieces belong with which set? Are they too valuable to consider using in a mosaic or drilling holes in them for jewelry? And so they sit, hidden in the basement so that hubs can’t find them. (He doesn’t read my blog either, don’t worry!)

A box with limitless DIY project potential sits in the basement of Christa Clips!

A box with limitless DIY project potential sits in the basement of Christa Clips!

What do you think I should do with my Majong tiles?

In addition to reading your comments below (hint hint!), I’m going to ask a bunch of frugally minded DIY divas at an upcoming Twitter Party!

Christa Clips is a panelist for this month's #UsedParty on Upcycled Home Decor!

Christa Clips is a panelist for this month’s #UsedParty on Upcycled Home Decor!

This month’s #UsedParty on twitter hosted by @UsedEverywhere is all about re-used and re-vamped second hand items that we can turn into DIY home decor! Finding non-retail options for home decor is my idea of eco-friendly and frugal fun and I’m thrilled to be on board as one of the panelists!

Join us for an hour of ideas and inspiration!

All of the questions for the party have been posted to allow folks to snap some photos and prepare some links to share with the other twitter party attendees. It’ll be my turn to ask a question during the 2nd half of the party and I’ll be asking folks about DIY home decor projects that have been too intimidating to start.

You can well imagine what my answer to that question is going to be!  Majong, anyone?!

My SuperBowl Pick

Even though I’m not a football fan, I’ve marked SuperBowl Sunday this year with a new (to me) purchase! Value Village $1.99. Luv this retro glass.

Sifting Thru Thrift: The Skinny on 2nd Hand Jeans

Part of our family’s savings strategy to allow me to stay home with the kids as a Save-At-Home-Mom is to buy second hand clothing – mostly for the kids, but more and more for myself as well.  Consignment stores in particular do an excellent job of weeding out stained, torn, smelly, or simply outdated items and I often find top brand stuff in excellent condition – sometimes new with tags on!   The sorting staff have to be paid though, and the price of consignment store clothing reflects this.  In fact, now that I’m shopping for size 6 girl and size 5 boy clothing, I’m finding that because there’s less stock (turns out bigger kids are harder on their clothes!) consignment prices are not always lower than retail if there’s a good sale price which I can combine with a coupon or perk.

Shopping for clothing at Value Village and garage sales is almost always a better deal, but takes a little more time in terms of inspecting for tears, stains, broken zippers, and missing buttons.  Thrift stores are a different shopping experience entirely, and many people are turned off by the broader range in the quality of the items that make it to the rack.  I always seem to have luck in finding high quality brand name items at my favourite haunts (props to the families who have donated them to charity), but it takes a lot more time and patience, namely because of the way these stores are often organized.

even I don’t like to take the time to touch every hanger in search of pieces that will fit

Thrift stores operate on a very different budget than consignment stores and Value Village, and their sorting and shelving is often done by volunteers.  Unfortunately the most time efficient method of sorting and shelving/hanging isn’t necesarily the most effective method from a shoppers perspective.  Thrift stores look like a rainbow when you go in … there’s a red section, and an orange section (odd that North American culture has deemed these two colours to clash despite their natural proximity in the rainbow!), and a yellow … and while adult sections are categorized into tops and bottoms and separated by gender, this is not always the case with children’s clothes.   That’s a huge age spectrum (think infant to teen), so even I, who profess to have all the time in the world to devote to saving for our family, don’t like to take the time to touch every hanger in search of pieces that will fit, not to mention suit the needs and tastes of my kids.

There’s one item that is über easy to sift through at thrift stores though: kids jeans!  They’re all blue or black, and are so easy to gauge the size by simply looking at the bottom of the hems instead of peeking inside the waistband for tags.  I found 10 pairs for the kids yesterday in a matter of minutes and they’re all in excellent condition with the all-important invisible belt button elastic thingy inside the waist band.  They include brands like The Children’s Place, Old Navy, Romeo & Juliette, Mini Ungava and Nevada, and along with a few other items that I spotted (including a brand new Gymboree dress), I paid just $28.93.

The Gymboree dress is currently for sale onE-bay for $13-$26 CDN – and comparable dresses are $36.95 on the Gymboree website.  I paid $2 for mine and I think it has never been warn.  Even if the Thrift Store hadn’t had all children’s clothing on for 50% off yesterday (a nice surprise when I went in!) I think I likely would have still bought it at $3.99.  It’s adorable!  And yes, those Children’s Place jeans, in mint condition, were only $1.50 after the discount.

Here are my quick tips for thrift store shopping:

  • have tunnel vision – be able to look past the furniture and vases and stick to what you’re looking for (unless, of course, that’s what’s on your list that day!)
  • look at the window and store displays – often the most recent styles are on display and are, of course, for sale
  • check the signs or ask the staff about which, if any, categories are on sale – there’s usually at least one or two

I realize that we won’t always be able to find good quality and brand name clothing second hand for the kids as they grow older, but for the time being, shopping at consignment, Value Village and thrift stores is savings us a tonne of money and I firmly believe that they’re better dressed because of it!  There’s no way we’d be able to afford full retail price for some of the brands that I’ve found second hand, and I actually like the fact that some of the clothes have been previously warn and laundered: no surprises about the way a ruffle will look, or how many sparkles will be missing after the first wash!