Friday, 24 June 2016

Charity Shop Gold is no more.

It'll probably come as no surprise that I'm going to stop posting on this blog and its associated Twitter and Instagram feeds. My posts for the last few months have been sporadic (at best) and to be completely honest, blogging has become a chore.

In April, I had the worst period of bad mental health that I'd had in years and absolutely everything else became secondary to getting better. After coming out the other side of that, I tried to piece together what had gone wrong so I could avoid it happening again. I searched through magazine articles and forums and found a small movement of people who were advocating a smartphone detox which included having one day per week, people seemed to favour a Sunday, where they switched their phones, tablets, computers etc off and basically returned to life before all these things got the better of us.
At first, I was concerned. What if there was an emergency? Well, emergencies predate mobile phones. I also have a work phone which I can't work other than to text and call so I gave those close to me that number and said they should use that if they desperately need to get in contact. Otherwise, I'd be disappearing from Saturday night to Monday morning and please don't expect a reply during that time.
That first Sunday when I woke up, I felt a wave of calm wash over me - no irritating noises, no mindless scrolling, no pointless chat. I took myself out to Heaton Park, had a long walk, fed some animals and read my book under a tree. I've been doing this for a good six weeks now and I'm thinking about making it more days in every week. Actually, I'm thinking about getting to the end of my contract and getting a Nokia 3310.

I've come to realise that in the main, I hate the Internet. I deactivated my Facebook more than 3 years ago now and never looked back. I got rid of my personal Twitter and Instagram this time last year and never looked back. Maybe I'm in a minority here but unless you're a close friend or a family member, I just don't care how many kids you have, where you go on holiday, what your relationship status is or what you watched on TV last night. I genuinely couldn't care less. The amount of people I see in cafes with their partners and they're sitting on their phones not speaking to each other or people walking out in front of cars because they're too engrossed in what someone they've never met is eating for lunch. What is wrong with people? Why is that interesting? Look around, you'll miss what's going on in your life while you're becoming an expert in the life of someone else!

I don't know about everyone else but to me, the Internet seems to be becoming an increasingly vile place. When did we all stop living by the old adage: if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all? It was probably around the time where you could be as nasty as you liked from behind your keyboard and not see the result of your actions.

I know this isn't news and I've been thinking this decision through for a while now but Twitter today has tipped me over the edge. For anyone with their head buried in the sand, the UK has voted to come out of the EU this morning. Regardless of where you stand on this issue, more people voted to leave the EU than to remain. It wasn't fixed, nobody was forced to cross that box - that's what the majority of people felt was right for them.
Some of the tweets I've read today are an absolute disgrace. Whether you agree or not, a democratic vote decided the outcome. Maybe in the days to come, it will transpire that some statements were misleading but to call people expletives on social media isn't helping the situation.
I have no doubt that for some people, leave was a reactive vote because we've come to a place where as soon as anyone comes out with a statement that is anything other than left-leaning, they're publicly lambasted. It's all a bit Animal Farm - everyone's opinion is equal but some are more equal than others. And this is by no means just true in the case of the EU decision - it's in everything.

It's good to have opinions but part of getting on in life is accepting that people are different and what's right for you might not be right for someone else. If you haven't come to realise that by adulthood, something has gone incredibly wrong.
It isn't right that people in the UK in 2016 should be able to behave this way and I believe the Internet is the root of the problem and I don't want to be part of that anymore.

I want to say thanks to everyone who has followed the blog over the past few years - I've met some lovely people along the way. I'll still be contactable by email - just not on a Sunday :) x

Monday, 14 March 2016

Trying to clear out.

So my New Year's Resolution to blog more hasn't been going so well of late... I've taken up ice skating and adult advanced swimming lessons which have left me with far less time to myself in my quest for the Winter Olympics 2022!

Last month, I visited the wonderful Sue Ryder in Didsbury to discuss their super vintage section - look out for that blog post coming this week! In addition to that, I've discovered some excellent bargains over the past four weeks or so which I'm hoping to share with you soon.

Last week, I had some friends come to stay for the night so took the opportunity to have a proper tidy up and rearrange my flat a bit. In doing so, I went through my whole wardrobe and put everything into piles of keep, eBay and charity shop. The reason I have so much surplus clothing is mainly down to being lazy when shopping and never trying anything on. I always think 'oh it's only a couple of quid, I'll just chance it' and when the item doesn't fit, it ends up sitting in my utility cupboard for months on end! Today I faced the problem head-on and took three bags, practically over-spilling, to Mustard Tree. I'd tried to make a promise with myself that I would just take the items in, hand them over and come out. As soon as I got inside, I started speaking to one of the shop's regular volunteers which was to be my downfall. Twenty minutes later I've been through the entire Fill a Bag for £2.50 section and I'm walking out of the door with these delights...
Dark green cropped boxy jumper from Hearts & Bows. I love dark green in the winter to give an all-black outfit a bit of a highlight and as it's still so cold, I'm hoping to get some wear out of this.

Black floral long sleeved top, originally from Next. The hem and the sleeves have a lovely scalloped cut.

 Distressed black jumper from ASOS.

Light blue, flat, lace-up boots from Next. These are definitely something my grandma would wear but look how super comfortable they are! I think with the right jeans, I'll still pass for 26 and not 76!

 Blue denim pinafore style dungaree dress.

White open sleeve lace trim blouse from River Island.

Minus three and plus one means I'm still two down - that's good progress, right?
Have you found any bargains recently?

Char x

Sunday, 7 February 2016

The thrifty weekender.

The thrifty weekender, slightly less raucous than its Magaluf counterpart but no less enjoyable...

As I'm writing this, I'm three out of four days into a long weekend. I'm trying to apply a more strategic approach to my annual leave allowance this year as in the past, I've taken odd hours or half days here and there which means I was never able to fully relax and get away from work. By October, I was completely run down and the final couple of months of the year were pretty hard-going! This year, I'm carefully planning a long weekend every month and then having a week in summer some time around my birthday.

On Saturday I met up with Donna, Rachelle and Jenni for a long overdue catch up and of course some charity shopping. Following a successful excursion to Ormskirk last year, we decided on Preston this time around. As you may know, Preston's my home town so it meant I could also spend some time with my parents and I had some idea of where we might find the best bargains, though we have Rachelle to thank for the itinerary!

For those of you who are familiar with Preston, our first stop was Lane Ends. Barnardo's and a huge Sue Ryder unit are next to each other with three more charity shops as you walk down Blackpool Road towards Ashton. I was the only one to have no luck in Barnardo's but Sue Ryder yielded this super cute door mat for £1, super glittery brand new Autograph make up bag for £1.25 and super sparkly necklace also £1.25.
I was really sad to discover one of the cheaper shops had closed down completely and two of the remaining ones weren't open. This struck us all as a bit strange as Saturday is usually the best day for trading, is it not? Rachelle suggested it might be more difficult to find people to volunteer on a Saturday as it's a day people normally spend with their family and friends - I'd never really thought of it like that (probably because Saturday is my Friday!) but I suppose that might be true. I was so disappointed that the Samaritans shop wasn't open as I always walk away from there with a purchase, having given money to a charity I feel really passionately about.

After an argument with a disgruntled taxi driver, half a cider and a quick look at the disappointing City score we were back on the road to Plungington (terrible name, amazing place). Unfortunately, my favourite shop there was also closed but I managed to pick up this lovely Hearts and Bows jumper for £3 and two pairs of jeans from H&M and Miss Selfridge for £2.50 each.
Jeans haven't been a staple in my wardrobe since I was about seventeen and seven and a half stone. I just couldn't get them to fit! However, since taking up ice skating at the beginning of the year, I've had to vary my skirts and dresses diet for fear of flashing everyone when falling over and they've come back into life.

With a fair few items each, we decided to go and get some food at The Ferret. I ordered a spicy beetroot and five bean burger which was an absolute challenge to eat, especially as pieces kept trying to escape onto Jenni's plate. I've also got to commend The Ferret on having Midori behind the bar and on their amazing vintage wallpapered toilets!
I'm wearing a fluffy black jacket from British Red Cross in Eccles, necklace from the RSPCA shop in Shaw and the mustard jumper is also a charity shop find but I can't for the life of me remember which shop!
Bag is a charity shop one but ages old and the pom pom is from one of my favourite places on earth, Cedar Farm. The toilets were also home to some excellent graffiti...
Cats! Who doesn't love cats?
 (Who are these people who take black marker pens on nights out with them?!)

I'd like to thank Jenni, Rachelle and Donna for a lovely day and hopefully there will be more to come!

Saturday really gave me charity shop fever so after my ice skating lesson in Altrincham this morning, I decided to pay Manchester charity shop favourites Didsbury and Chorlton a visit.
I wore bright blue charity shop skinny jeans, a Fat Face coat I picked up in Scope in Sale for £8, another mustard top (loving mustard at the moment) and my beloved leopard Adidas ZX flux trainers. Unfortunately I wasn't lucky enough to find them in a charity shop but they are on sale at the moment here. They're my favourite thing in the world at the moment!
First purchase was this black skirt from Mind in Didsbury for £2.50, closely followed by this cream skirt from Shelter at £3.
Next stop was Sue Ryder in Chorlton where I spotted these super cute little gold charms in the cabinet. I've been after a wishbone necklace for ages as me and my dad always used to split the wishbone when we had a roast chicken Sunday dinner when I was a child and in my meat-eating days. It's a memory that's always stuck with me. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find one I like as the wishbone is always too big or too small but this is just perfect so I'm going to take a trip to The Bead Shop in Afflecks tomorrow and pick up a chain to make my own!
There were so many similar little charms in the case so I also got this little pearl with the hope of making a bracelet. I bought a little gold peace dove too but it's got lost in transit which I'm devastated about. I can only hope it's been picked up and taken to a loving home.
I also got this book for £1.70 - I was mainly just interested in its ridiculous title and really odd cover.
From Oxfam Books in Chorlton I got 'All the Bright Places' by Jennifer Niven. Now, we all know my feelings on overpriced charity shop books and this certainly fell into that bracket at £2.99 BUT I was about to buy it on Amazon new last night so I'm taking that as a bargain still...
I think I've left the best until last. These AMAZING Topshop boots were just £4.99 from Oxfam. They're just everything I could want in a boot - black, pointy, heel but just a little, buckle - ah, I just love them! Thanks Oxfam for pricing them reasonably so I didn't have to live without them!
Total spend - a not so thrifty £29.68 but I love what I got for that and it did come out of some share dividend money I was lucky enough to receive on Monday (thanks Grandma).

How's your charity shop 2016 going? I think I'm off to a flyer!

Char x

Friday, 5 February 2016

Find of the week two.

What was life like before statement necklaces? These eye-catching pieces are an absolute staple in my wardrobe and figure in the majority of my outfits from a day in the office to a night out. They're such a perfect way to jazz up any outfit with minimal effort.

So my find of the week is this necklace which I picked up in the RSPCA shop in Shaw. I went to Shaw on Monday after discussing the charity shops there with someone from a dating site (of all places!). I actually didn't really rate it and came away with just this and a blouse but it was nice to go somewhere different!

This necklace set me back £2.99 and is originally from M&S. What do you think?

Char x

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Find of the week.

My find of the week is this black and white geometric skirt, purchased from Sue Ryder in Sale.
Sale is such a dangerous place for me to work as the high street there is basically just becoming charity shops only and I have to walk past every single one of them on my way from the tram station to the office!

The Sue Ryder shop there only opened quite recently and it is a bit of a shop/jumble sale as the majority of the clothes are just piled together in size order in wooden compartments. There's a few dresses and coats on hangers but the majority of clothing is just in piles you need to rummage through.
All the clothing, shoes and accessories in the shop are a set price of £1. In a way, it's a typical discount shop (much like those that Barnardo's run) in that some stock is in such a condition that most charity shops would rag it but look around and you can find some real gems, like this skirt which was unworn and still with the original tags from I've gotten quite good at just standing back and looking at fabrics and colours rather than trying to separate every single garment which would take forever!

I probably go into this Sue Ryder three times a week as the stock turnover is super quick. I think what's happening is the shop is selling all the stock which has been through pass-on in the local area and not sold. Many of the items have tags from other Sue Ryder shops with standard charity shop pricing just crossed through in marker pen. I rarely get back through the door without a purchase.

I always think to myself whether this model is the future of charity shops. No doubt it's a good way to make more money than the clothing would in rag but it's also a really low maintenance and cost set up. There's no getting away from the fact that it can look messy and it's difficult to know how long any piece of clothing has been out on the shop floor for but I think it really appeals to those of us who like a good rummage and feel charity shops have lost that.

Have you ever been to a shop like this? What did you think of it?

Char x

Thursday, 14 January 2016

What I wore today (Jan 14th).

Another of my New Year's resolutions, along with blogging at least once a week, is planning my outfits the night before. I'm terrible for trying to scrape something together ten minutes before I have to leave for work and then feeling rubbish about it all day because the item I really wanted to wear was inevitably in the wash! 

Due to being out late last night at ice skating (another of my resolutions!), I failed on planning Thursday's outfit on Wednesday but stumbled on some inspiration this morning and created what's below from some of my most recent charity shop finds.

The dress is originally from Topshop but I picked it up in the British Heart Foundation shop in Bury on Sunday for £5.50. It's actually from the tall range, something I am certainly not, but I like that it's come up quite long on me. I've never rated Bury for charity shops and was having another horrendous experience there until I went into BHF! I also picked up two denim dresses from Topshop and New Look.
The green necklace is the one featured on my last blog which I got from the British Red Cross Encore range in the Eccles shop - it was £2.


I put this floral black and cream jacket over the top of the dress as my office is ABSOLUTELY FREEZING at the moment! Originally from the G21 range at George, I got it from Scope in Sale for £2.99 last week on my lunch hour.

And here I am modelling the whole thing.

What do you think of the prices of these items?

Char x

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Like H&M? Love Encore!


The Encore range at British Red Cross shops is something that's been on my radar for a while now. As I understand it, these are brand new clothes donated by high street stores. The items are either imperfect or end of line stock which can't be re-sold. There's hardly any information online about the range which really surprises me as I'd've thought the charity would use it as a selling point. I'd be interested to find out how many charity shop lovers know about it?

From my experience, the range is mainly H&M clothing, usually from recent seasons. There seems to be Encore items in most British Red Cross shops - my personal favourites are Droylsden and Hyde in Manchester and the Renshaw Street shop in Liverpool city centre, where a member of staff told me deliveries come every couple of weeks. Recent finds include a Cos ring and four H&M necklaces for £4!

So I was delighted yesterday to stumble across a British Red Cross shop that I'd never been in before (charity shops I've not been in in the Greater Manchester area are few and far between now)! The shop is in Eccles, a small town just west of Salford and just down the tram line from Media City. I feel as if Eccles is one of those places which has really suffered as a result of improved transport links into Manchester and its cause can't be helped as it's in walking distance of the Trafford Centre. Many of the shops have closed or been boarded up and it hardly seems like a hive of activity at first glance.

Despite that, I can honestly say that this shop is hands down one of the best charity shops I have ever been in! All the stock is beautifully presented in colour blocks, the staff and volunteers are lovely, the customers all seemed to be regulars and they sell books for 50p - hallelujah! What more could you ask for?

£30 worth of Encore clothing, if you're me...

£30 in a charity shop in one transaction takes some's what I bought...

Interesting olive green statement necklace, £2.

Black and white patterned jumper, £3.50. This has a lovely zip-back detail which extends from the neckline to the waist.

 The photos of this high-necked, ribbed mini dress don't really do it justice. I can remember seeing this in store, loving it and not purchasing because it was pretty pricey so to get it, unworn, for £4.50 was nice!

 This photo doesn't do this gorgeous navy blue mixed textured jumper any favours either but it's super soft and feels such good quality for the £3 I paid.

 Black skirt with gold zip detailing, £3.

 Super pretty cream lace blouse, £4.

 Casual cream slouchy tshirt, £2.50.

Bizarre fluffy black jacket, £4.

Black skinny trousers with faux-leather detailing, £3.50.

Considering those prices are on a par with normal donated good prices, I'd say the Encore range provides excellent value for money and is an inspired path for the British Red Cross to have gone down.

Have you ever bought anything from the range? How do you feel about British Red Cross shops in general? I, for one, certainly wish there were more!

Char x