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Thrift store trails – Salvation Army

Back in India, I would be curled up on our huge bean bag watching these network shows about – ‘Thrift Stores’, ‘Lost Baggage’ and ‘Antiques’. I loved watching these shows, re-runs included. There is always a certain charm to acquire, what was once someone else’s. It is almost like finding treasure . I know many would disagree, and argue that they would rather buy everything new. This post is not for you . Please move on.

After Kavin came into our lives – lazily watching T.V shows are history, much like our T.V ( which for the sake of convenience, remains disconnected) . As a child, I remember frequent trips to Salvation Army when we lived in California. Amma shopped for the family there, I vaguely remember, the American sizes being far too big on her petite frame. I have looked for Salvation Army thrift stores in Chennai,India – but unlike their global counterparts – the Chennai Salvation Army only accepts monetary donations, other donations and seeks volunteers.

Thanks to Kavin, I got a chance to relive my childhood memories. It all started one day, when he tried to squeeze his growing toddler foot, into one of his favorite shoes . “It’s too small Kavin, I think we have to donate it”, I quipped. ” Donate na enna ma? ( What does donate mean)”,  he bounced back . He wasn’t too happy about my explanation. The fact  that someone else would get to wear his shoes now annoyed him, but with a few days of cajoling, he got used to the idea , and anger turned to pride . He couldn’t help, but brag to his grandparents over Facetime – ‘Mr. Benevolent’.  It also made me realize, we had quite a few clothes piling up for donation, and unlike India – where we could always find a deserving soul – I had no clue where to turn . Childhood memories of Salvation Army popped up, along with the fascination for  thrift stores . Two words – Treasure Hunt.  I faintly remembered passing by a Salvation Army on the bus to Bukit Panjang.  Salvation Army ( SA) has many collection centers all around the island :

Salvation Army donation points

Thrift stores are located only at few of the collection centers. A friend of mine also mentioned that  they sometimes organized donation drives, and huge bins would be placed at residential areas.

We chose to explore the biggest thrift store

Praisehaven Mega Family Store

500 Upper Bukit Timah Road Singapore 678106 . Tel: 6349 5312

 Operating Hours:    Monday – Thursday, 10am – 6pm Friday – Saturday, 10am – 9pm

because I knew that it was right at the doorstep of the HillView MRT  ( I did not want to walk with those heavy bags and a toddler in tow), and we absolutely love the DOWNTOWN MRT LINE ( BLUE LINE) .IMG_20170419_151827

We left home after lunch and reached the place by 2:30 . Kavin was scampering around my legs , and my first thought was to get rid of the bags . The security officer was quite friendly, and he directed me to the collection point. It is very straighforward. Huge bins line each corner of a small garage, each bin carries a label, of what you’re supposed to drop in . They read :

  • shoes
  • men’s clothing
  • women’s clothing
  • kid’s clothing
  • shoes
  • books
  • electrical goods
  • sports equipment
  • miscellaneous

For furniture – there is a board that points to a huge warehouse . I’m not too sure about the details for furniture donation, but I do know they have a ‘pickup fee’ , they have guidelines of what you can donate, and they do issue a tax benefit receipt. More details on their website ( mentioned above) .

Anyway , the warehouse is where the fun began . The entrance way is a canopy of sorts, with Chinese CDs stacked ceiling to floor on both sides. Unfortunately, I cannot read Chinese, so we skipped this section entirely . Kavin was immediately attracted to the next section . A medly of scooters, bicycles, car seats, cribs, bicycle child seats, baby walkers, baby jungle gyms, bicycle helmets, kiddy toy cars and strollers of every make  called out to him . While Kavin spent time riding about on whatever he coold lay his hands on, I went about inspecting . All of the baby stuff, was in pretty good shape, the prices started from $20 and went up to $120. I wouldn’t say it was a steal, if you compared Carousel or other online forums that sell second hand goods. But this is a one stop shop, and you get a touch and feel of the actual condition of the goods.

I had a hard time dragging Kavin away from the toy cars,  but he was in for a treat at the next stop. The ‘sports goods’  section- there were skis ( Skis in Singapore – absurd right ? ) , golf clubs, basketballs, soccer balls, foot balls , dumb bells , pogo sticks, roller blades and gym equipment . Kavin was particularly fascinated by the pogo sticks, and reminded me of the penguin with a pogo stick ( painted at the ice skating rink at JCube mall ). You have got to admire the memory of the toddler mind . 🙂 Anyway, it gave me an opportunity to speak to him about skiing, avalanches, snow mountains. I also managed to explain a little about each game ( I know nothing of sports- I’m dreading the day, he finds out ) .

The warehouse basement spreads out to house – beds, bedding, chairs, sofas, wardrobes . These furniture pieces are very tasteful, with a lot of character . I found some really nice sofa sets, for as low as $120. There were also some miscellaneous pieces of art, fish tanks, hangers, mirrors and crockery units . I whizzed through this place, as Kavin was starting to look bored .

The first floor is where all the ‘non-furniture’ stuff is . The entrance is decorated with fancy stone statues – and a really cute Merlion – which Kavin loved . The billing area for the entire complex is at the entrance. There is a huge TV, just across the billing center that plays a montage of Salvation Army activities.

The cashier was the storekeeper et all. This was just perfect . I hate when store attendants keep breathing down your neck like hungry hyenas. Kavin had the freedom to run around everywhere, and I could browse in peace .

There is a large women’s clothing collection – vibrant, classy and varied . As expected, my filled out figure would have split the seams of all these dresses which are designed for the svelte Singaporean silhouette. But hey- if you’re what we would call a ‘figure’ back home – this is your place . The bridal gown collection is stunning . The dresses were priced from $300, but they are in almost pristine condition .  But the best part was the footwear collection – Stilettos; Platforms;  Sneakers; Slip Ons; Formals; Jewel studded party wear , – you name it, they had it . I silently cursed by flat feet which are doomed to medicated footwear and moved on .

Ah – the toys section ! Kavin went ga ga . To say that the toys looked well maintained, is an under statement . Most of them, looked like they were never played with, and some were actually brand new – packaging et all. Apparently Changi Airport / Mc Donalds etc donates their leftover plush toys . You know, those toys where – ‘If you spend 100$ at Changi – you get a plush toy free. Disclaimer- Until stocks last‘. The latest Star Wars toys were hanging here,  3 ChewBacca plushes for $5 only . What variety of soft toys – dinosaurs , bugs, Hello Kitty, most animals. Almost all the soft toys were between $2 – $10 and I had to clamp my hands firmly to resist the temptation to buy them. Kavin actually sat down for some imaginary play , while I went to check out the kids wear section .

Well you can’t get too greedy, the kids section was fairly empty – except for a few Halloween costumes ( in great condition ) and a few pairs of footwear . I got some really nice Minion Sneakers for Kavin at $5. Steal deal.  The men’s section was even more pathetic, with an exception of some classy vests, boots and some nice hats . Even the men’s shoe section did not have much to offer . Well I guess men and children really don’t turn over clothes before they are worn out . 🙂

We wandered further into the shop, passing some art pieces and showcase stuff , Kavin stopped at giant Amethyst rough cut rock,staring curiously, which led to a series of interesting questions – but that is a story for another day . Near the back of the store is the bookworm’s delight, where a few rows of books stand like cavalry. I took a deep breath of old books – that musty faded paper smell. Kavin happily plopped down with books all around him .  Seduced by the kitchen ware, I left him to ransack the children’s book section.

Trust me, there is some really nice stuff here . Ceramic , Plastic, Stainless Steel, Paper . It’s a rather odd collection, and the arrangement reminds me of all these ‘hoarder movies’ I’ve seen in the past . But among this well sorted assortment, there are quite a few unique pieces . The cutlery extends to ovens, coffee makers, sewing machines, hot pots, steam boats, electric grills, microwaves and all other electronic kitchen appliances you can think of , but I’m rather wary about outdated electrical goods, and only a few were at throw away prices .

A corner was allocated to what I’d like to call – the Daiso section . It was mostly new stuff, all priced at $2, – worthy return gift material. This and the soft toy section, and your birthday party gift shopping is complete. This corner also had quite a few puzzles, plastic assembly kids, and mechatronic toy kits. And while I was happily flirting with the culinary goods –  not a squeak from Kavin. He was engrossed in a Dinosaur book , which after a lot of hesitation, I decided to buy . At $3.50 , I shouldn’t be complaining.

Just as I  thought, Kavin had enough stimulation for the day, we spotted the musical instrument corner . Now, I am no musician – so I cannot comment about the quality, but it served for an extra half hour of engaging Kavin’s curiosity . We went through electric guitars, trombones, violins, drums, cymbals, and a few woodwind instruments. He begged me for the drum, which required a great deal of diversion to forget .

The billing is simple and straightforward.   Cash, NETS and Credit Card is accepted . Members get a further 10% discount(except on books) . They even  give you a fancy bag to take home.

We took a few minutes to take a few pictures outside, and marched on – book in hand , and our thoughts brimming with  dinosaurs, instruments and gemstones.

If you love thrift stores, or you simply need an interesting air conditioned place to head out with your toddler, do visit Salvation Army’s family stores.

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Worn Out Clothes

At one point, okay well not one point, at many points in my life, I’ve thought my mom (Amma) must have OCD. Turns out she just has attachment issues. When my mother receives a new garment( she almost never buys for herself, somehow her parents and siblings still spoil her silly ) ….. . Well in short that garment is doomed for life.

And here I begin, the life-cycle of my mom’s clothing.

First the garment is put away for a special occasion. This event may occur in the first three years of the garments life. Do understand, in rare cases where the garment( henceforth referred to as “G”) is purchased by my mother herself, it may escape her clutches when a more worthy ‘someone’ visits our house, and Amma scrambles to find them a gift.  I swear to God, if you listen very carefully, you can hear G showering praises to the lord, and profusely thanking the new owner.

Other unfortunate G’s gifted by near and dear ones, that hold particular sentimental value, unfortunately have to serve their sentence along with the fellow moaning Gs, yearning and discussing their fortune..”Who is next to the island” ( What up ISLAND reference ? and #superwoman #lilysingh ) . I reckon these Gs would have been happier on clothing store shelves, enjoying the view .

In that tiny Godrej Almirah, the Gs would probably discuss salvation as the arrival of Ms.S – the SISTER. Some Gs in the almirah were actually her hand me downs, they would narrate stories of colorful outings, coordinated jewelry, starch stories, and special ‘dry cleaning’ visits . My mom’s sister you must understand is a fashionista in her own right. She spends time to shop, usually releases her purchases within a month, and takes great care to maintain them. This is in sharp contrast with Amma, except for the maintenance part . Well you have got to wear them to wear them out right 🙂 .

So the arrival of the sister is like Diwali . A screaming match would follow soon, the door to the almirah opened. Sighing Ms. S would pull out the new Gs, and beg… more like threaten to see them worn . There would also be a tug of war between Amma and Ms.S , for throwing out the old clothes. The lucky ones would reach the gates of heaven, but the others would be sent to the CUPBOARD .

The almirah, well the almirah housed the special Gs, the Pattu Gs, the expensive Gs. One could equate them to princess Jasmine from Aladdin. Privileged surrounded by riches, and mostly the best treatment, but never let out to the real world.

But the CUPBOARD , what can I say?  ‘thrown in the garbage’ is a much better option than the clutches of the cupboard. You see the cupboard was like the plantation, and its occupants the slave workers. Underpaid, abused and torn . There is not one family member, who has not not mentioned, directly or in passing, that Amma was wearing something torn . For all I know, our housekeepers dress better than her.

These cupboard G’s served as her daily wear, they  would encounter kitchen gunk, that seeped through her apron . (Oh ! the blessed Apron, it deserves a separate life story – but that’s for another day.) , the bathroom trails, the sweaty yoga and well-  life pretty much . If the dhupatta met its kurti pair, it would be like the reunion of Tom Hanks and Kelly Hunt in CASATAWAY. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie picture Maryan – Dhanush and Parvathy Menon reuniting.

I tell you this because the dainty dhupatta would hardly recognize the starved, beaten down, tanned ( well in the case – ripped of color) , gnarly counterpart . These kurtis now incapable of joining their partner, would be sadly seperated, and the kurtis would move on the harder life .. the life of a rag . Every kurti of the CUPBOARD silently prays for a 10 inch gnash, for anything lesser than that would be considered usable by Amma.

Only later, does the now, sliced up kurti realize that life before the ISLAND ( rag) , was far better. Some rags were lucky , if other members of the house picked them up for rubbing of grease and oil, they would be binned immediately.Others of synthetic lineage had better fate, yes the quota systems rocks everyone’s life.

Others went through the horrible cycle of wash, scrub, reuse , and wash again till nothing remained but shreds, and even bacteria would refuse to inhabitant.

The good thing, here in Singapore, the Gs don’t have to go through such a painful life . The main reason why my mother has “attachment issues” , is because she cannot bear to waste anything. She has to extract, everything it has to offer . Thank God to H&M, here at Singapore . All of Singapore’s outlets accept clothes, and they recycle them .

H&M claims that almost 95% of garments that lie in landfills all over the world have the potential to be recycled. This means that, for clothes you cannot donate, – you know those faded worn out ones that fit, you love, but simply cannot wear- well now you can rest them in peace . And what is better is H&M provides you a  15% off discount voucher to buy anything from their store . You recycle, and you even get an incentive.

Don’t be my mom. Recycle !