Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How I Get Toys -OR- The Art Of Thrift Store Shopping

I get a lot of questions as to where I get my toys. Most of the time I don't remember exactly where, but I can tell you it was from either a thrift store, baby resale shop, yard sale, a hand-me-down from clients or friends or there's a few leftovers from when our children were babies (very few). I can count on one hand the number of brand new purchases we've made over the years. There really is no need to pay full price for just about any toy.

I didn't get my lot of toys in a few days or weeks. I've been caring for children for over eleven years and collecting toys for about as long. I have toys come in and go out all the time. Several toys have been completely worn out. Some toys are used all the time, others are barely looked at, some are brought out for special times, most are rotated in one way or another.

There is a trick to buying toys and equipment used. Mostly it consists of lots of being able to wait, consistency, diligence, and a little 'know how'.

My favorite stores I go to for toys and baby equipment are thrift stores and baby resale shops.

The 'know how' part is to get to know these stores (the hours, the lay out, even the people who work there). I know where to go in each store for toys and baby items. I get to know the workers at the stores and can ask them for what I'm looking for. Many times, they will call me when one comes in or can tell me where they last saw one.

The trick to all this is to go often! I try to go at least two or three times a month. I go every chance I get, even if it's just to do a quick pass through my favorite departments (toys). I'm almost always surprised to find some unique item almost every time I go. Sometimes I find only one little thing and sometimes I come home with a trunk-full. I usually go every-other Saturday (more or less) and stroll through each store and chat with the people.

Sometimes you have to see through the dirt. If you're willing to clean items up, you can usually get great stuff for a low price. After a thrift-store run, I come home and have a cleaning party. It's amazing the items that you can toss in the washer or dishwasher and they come out sparkling clean. Vinegar is an excellent cleaner for food, grease, and dirt AND it sterilizes items as you clean. Don't be afraid to buy dirty stuff.

On my way to the thrift stores on Saturday, I will look for yard sales along the way. The signs are generally placed on the main streets with other signs pointing you to the sale. Usually you can drive by with a quick look to see if there's anything you might want, BUT I've also found several times when I thought there was nothing I wanted that I could see from the street, it turned out there were gems hiding in there some where--it almost always pays to take a peek.

My thrift store shopping is not only for toys and baby items, but it's where I get a lot of furniture, clothes, pet items, and kitchen gadgets. I'm always looking for a new crock pot and scrubs :).

Something else is to be open to new things and look around. You never know when you will come across a cool object of some sort.


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