Second-hand stores are not just for the poor. They can serve as a great source of inspiration for unleashing your inner-creativity!
I’m currently living in Denmark and second-hand stores are very common here. They are not a hand-out to the poor. On the contrary. The clientele is made up of all classes of society (not that there is much of a class system since Scandinavia is known for being egalitarian). It is Ebay in a store, quite simply.
In January I moved into an apartment and I stocked up on many of the household goods I needed at the second-hand store. Items such as silverware, dishes, and cups were extremely cheap and they don’t lose functionality over time. I also got some pots and pans, some things for the bathroom, a lamp, etc.
Of course, saving money is great. But it’s more than just the money. It feels nice to breathe new life into older items. Everything in this world has a story to tell, and you can invent your own story for the items you purchase. I even found a book about Ohio at a store here in Denmark. The inside cover inscription, written in Danish, revealed that it was a Christmas gift to someone in 1993. I like to think it was a gift from a Dane living in Ohio to a Dane here in Denmark. Either way, for this Ohio native, what a find!
Thinking about the background stories gets your creative energy flowing, but the real inspiration is when you are inside the store. You will come across many old items. You will come across many random, odd items as well. When you see these odd items, think creatively on how you might use them to solve random problems at home! For example, I needed to find something to put my toothbrush and razor in for the bathroom. I couldn’t find something wide enough to accommodate them, yet heavy enough that it wouldn’t easily fall over. I found some kind of clay object that is halfway between a cup and an ashtray. I really don’t know what it’s for. Maybe it’s for an artist to store his or her paintbrushes? Maybe it’s a birdbath for very small birds? I have no idea. But as soon as I saw it, I knew instantly that it would work for me!
It’s a great feeling to find order in chaos, and to find use for other peoples’ garbage. One more example is on an even larger scale. When I was at home in the US in July 2010, I went for my morning walk. It was garbage day, and someone down the street was throwing away a large high definition TV. I walked back home, got my brother out of bed, and we brought the TV home. I didn’t know if it worked. If it didn’t, at least I could recycle it so the harmful chemicals don’t end up in a landfil and the working parts could be salvaged. I plugged it in and the picture was in black and white. I did a little research online and discovered that this TV type had something called a color wheel and if that broke then the picture would be in black and white. The manufacturer recommended you have a professional install a new color wheel. As a stubborn engineer, I decided to do it myself! I ordered the part and tried to translate what I was reading into reality. It wasn’t working.
I then found a series of youtube videos of a guy installing the color wheel on a similar model TV. It wasn’t the model I had found, but it was close enough. I installed the color wheel, turned it on, and voilà. It worked fine! What a satisfying feeling! The TV was a few years old, but it was bigger and newer than the one my parents had. My mom’s initial embarrassment and scolding turned into praise and smiles. What a nice feeling!
As I would not benefit from the TV, I was just happy to prevent it from ending up in a landfill. Buying at second-hand stores is also environmentally responsible as it promotes re-use and curbs consumption. Many second-hand stores are non-profit as well, so you are supporting a cause with each purchase. The second-hand stores here in Denmark are all either associated with a church or a foreign aid mission.
Part of the Happiness Plunge is keeping an open mind and letting your creativity run wild. A second-hand store is a great place to practice creative thinking!
What do you think? Has your inner-genius come up with an innovative use for an ordinary used item? Share your story with us below!