Help! I think I bought a fake:

Tips on Buying Authentic Handbags at the Thrift Store

I’d been looking for years and there it was. In a sea of others. Its back to me, facing the wall. I could tell it was special. The textured navy body, the British tan leather piping, the top handle, the contrasting stitching. Could it be? I raced to it, apologized to the small child I had nearly trampled, held my breath, and flipped it over, looking for the tell-tale stamp: the words “Dooney & Bourke All Weather Leather” and the infamous duck logo.

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

It was even prettier than I thought it would be. And in excellent condition. Nary a scuff, scratch, or pen mark. I almost couldn’t bear to look at the price tag. I had come across others in thrift stores before, in worse condition, but the price was always at least $75. Now for the second moment of truth (the first, of course, being the duck-or-no-duck revelation). Could I afford to take this baby home with me?  Tell me your damage, Dooney!

$14.99. Yes, yes I could afford to take it home.

Next to vintage Coach bags, I would say Dooney & Bourke purses rank second for most sought-after vintage bag on etsy (based on absolutely no real evidence so do with that what you will), and to find one so cheap had made me gleeful. So gleeful that I did absolutely nothing to check the authenticity of the bag. I tossed it in my red, plastic basket-cart-thing (dear Value Village, what is this thing and why do none of the wheels work and how come I keep banging myself in the shins with it?) and strutted my stuff to the check-out line, where I enthusiastically put chip-card to card reader faster than you can say, “Check for a serial number first.”

And then I got home.

Did some internet research herehere, and here.

And discovered it’s a fake.

But look how cute it looks with this vintage plaid cape:

If we ever get a real fall in Alberta, I totally plan to wear this.

Here are some telltale signs of a fake handbag and things you can be on the lookout for when you’re standing under the florescent thrift store lights, trying to make a decision about whether that too-good-to-be-true designer bag is actually too-good-too-be-true:

  • Check the logo.
    Make sure the lettering on the label is in the right font. I was duped by the duck, but once I got home, I really examined the font of the writing surrounding the duck and compared it to the authentic labels I found online. On an authentic Dooney & Bourke label, the lettering is in a serif font; on mine the lettering is sans-serif.
    Shopping tip: pull up the logo on your phone, enlarge it, and compare it to the logo on the bag. Look for the slightest discrepancies or irregularities. Word to the wise: companies don’t just up and choose Comic Sans for no good reason.

    My fake label.

    Authentic label via Vintage Dooney.
  • Check the stitching.
    The stitching should be straight and evenly spaced. Crooked or unevenly spaced stitches (or loose stitches) are signs of an imposter. The stitching on my bag compared to the authentic looks a bit amateurish and the stitches don’t form the most perfect circle.
    Shopping tip: check for stitches gone awry.
  • Look for labels.
    A lot of designer bags (especially if they’re vintage) will be made in the USA and will have a label saying so. They likely will also have serial numbers. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I actually forgot to check (I blame the euphoria that comes along with the hunt!) until I got home.
    Mine doesn’t have a label anywhere inside the bag (and it doesn’t appear that one has been cut out in any way), and according to my research, authentic Dooney & Bourke bags will have a white label with blue lettering, the words “Dooney & Bourke Inc. Made in USA” in a red box, and a serial number on the reverse of the tag.
    Vintage Coach bags, on the other hand, will have an interior leather label with a registration number, country of origin, and the Coach creed.
    Shopping tip: don’t forget to look inside the bag; use your phone to google what the interior label is supposed to look like and make sure your thrift-store find has one too.
  • Feel it.
    My authentic vintage Coach bags are made of the softest leather: they actually feel expensive to the touch. This fake D & B bag is stiff and hard; I really doubt it’s leather at all. The shoulder strap feels very thin and plastic-y; in comparison, the shoulder strap of my vintage Coach is about double the thickness and feels like butter.
    Another thing to look for is peeling: real don’t peel.
    Shopping tip: Make sure the bag feels soft and pliable. Does it feel like it’s from Nordstrom or Target? Your fingers can tell.

    Do what I didn’t do in the store and notice the peeling on the right side of the bag.
  • Examine the details.
    Expensive, designer bags will use expensive hardware. Check the clasps and buckles. On Coach and Dooney & Bourke bags, these are made of solid brass so they shouldn’t have any silver showing (otherwise they might be nickel), and they should feel weighty, not light (otherwise, they might be painted plastic). According to my research, on a D & B bag, the brass rings should actually say “solid brass” on them. Mine, sadly, have nothing to say for themselves. Check the zippers as well. Coach uses ykk zippers; D & B uses zippers that actually say Dooney & Bourke on them. My zippers: also silent.
    Shopping tip: it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that bling.
At least I have you guys!

There you have it. Some simple things you can do in right there in the thrift store so you don’t end up broken-hearted later.


A Trip to the Mid Mod Market


This past weekend was a good one: it was unseasonably warm here in Alberta (like “have a drink on a patio” warm, and I was like “fine, weather, if you absolutely insist”) and on Sunday we changed the clocks back and slept an extra hour (except not really because our dog refuses to observe Daylight Savings Time — rude). Plus, I spent the weekend in Calgary (see my last post about going back and forth from Red Deer) so I could attend the Mid Mod Market, “an event for anyone with an interest in retro, midcentury, industrial vintage and handmade goods, records, art and interior objects” (according to their facebook page, which promises to keep you posted about the next Mid Mod Market). On that note, the next event is yet to be scheduled but will probably take place about six months from now (vaguely mark your calendars!), since their website says the market is currently held twice yearly.

The event took place over two days (Friday, November 4th from 5pm-9pm, and November 5th from 10am-4pm) at the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Centre.

Time-Out: if you live in Calgary and haven’t been to the Bridgeland neighbourhood yet, or if you are planning a trip to Calgary, or if there is any chance you might find yourself in the city one day, this is my enthusiastic recommendation to spend some time in Bridgeland. It’s a neighbourhood that has seen a lot of growth and development in the last couple years, and it’s now quite the hip spot. Have breakfast at Blue Star Diner, shop at Lukes Drug Mart (the coolest pharmacy/grocery store/gift shop/coffee shop/record store/stationery store I have ever been to — I mean, also the only one, but still), stroll the Bridgeland Market (I have a real love of small, local, well-designed and well-stocked grocery stores), and have a cocktail and a cubano (and maybe get a haircut) at Cannibale.


[Photo by Erin Brooke Burns. Source]

Time-In: back to the Mid Mod Market. I loved this event for a few reasons:

1. It was free.

2. While similar to Market Collective in some ways (young, hip, local folks selling their wares to other young, hip, local folks — there were even a few overlapping vendors), it was also smaller (re: less claustrophobic and overwhelming) and a bit more curated, focusing more on the vintage and less on the handmade.

3. It was in Bridgeland and so a good excuse to spend some time in the neighbourhood (see above).

4. There were some amazing vendors selling some amazing things (more on this below).

5. It was free.

Mid Mod Market was founded by three vintage/handmade sellers: Becca Black of Bex Vintage, Janice Rusnak of fewandbetween, and Megan Borg of Secret Wool Society.

I’ve been following Bex Vintage for awhile now, since she was selling vintage by appointment only from her garage (I once bought a midcentury office chair from her from this garage), and it was through her instagram that I found out about the event.


[Photo of the chair from Bex Vintage in my office]

Now Bex Vintage has a website — and a bus!


[Photo of the Bex Vintage bus. Source]

Besides the three founders, there were ten other vendors selling at Mid Mod Market.


[List of vendors and my thumb.]

I entered via the upper level where Blackwood was selling beautifully-refinished midcentury modern furniture. Blackwood had the entire (albeit small) top floor, and it was like walking into the coolest 1960s living room. There was vinyl playing on the record player, interesting-looking people were milling about, and I half-expected someone to hand me a cocktail. Sadly, I wasn’t allowed to live there — I asked.

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 9.27.41 AM.png


After seriously considering buying the green couch above, checking my bank account, and then having to overcome a moment of existential despair, I made my way downstairs and immediately came upon the goods of fewandbetween, who was selling industrial/schoolhouse vintage: an amazing metal desk, two sets of lockers, vintage maps, globes, and (drumroll please) a mint green Hermes typewriter.

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 9.32.36 AM.png


The typewriter had no visible price and I couldn’t find anyone who seemed to be working for fewandbetween, so I decided to do a lap and come back.


[Photo I took and then sent to my fiance to ask if I could please bring home another typewriter — he didn’t respond so I was left to my own devices]

It was then on to Bex Vintage and Spanky’s Corner. The former had the most wonderful teak bookshelf on display (adorned, rightly so, with a SOLD sticker) and the latter had an excellent collection of Pyrex and vintage toys. I came *thisclose* to buying a very old but still working record player from Spanky’s (a bright orange portable RCA) but couldn’t imagine a single free spot for it in my house, and it would have been such a shame not to keep it on display. If you can’t wait for the next vintage market event, you can check out Spanky’s Corner at the Inside Avenue Antique mall (booth #10).

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 10.11.40 AM.png

[Photo by Becca Black. Source]

Next, I browsed the adorable wares of Foxy Revival and settled on two wooden pineapple dishes. I’ve been meaning to have some sort of house-warming party (we moved into our place about two months ago), and now I’m thinking the party will have to be vintage-60s-tiki-themed (and I’m very okay with that).

IMG_5148 (1).jpg

[The pineapples that came home with me.]

Billie Boone Vintage also had a bunch of wooden pineapple-shaped bowls and I considered getting more so I could have a larger set (think of all the snacks!), but I had also arrived on bike and really doubted my ability to carry more than two wooden bowls and steer a bicycle.


[The pineapples that got away. Photo by me.]

As I continued through the community centre, I was lured by the terrariums at Plant and the weavings at Secret Wool Society, but I was also still thinking about the typewriter. Does it work? How much is it? Could I somehow juggle a typewriter, a brake, and two handlebars?

Screen Shot 2016-11-11 at 10.15.44 AM.png


So back to fewandbetween I went. This time the owner immediately came over to ask if I had any questions (a sign from the universe, perhaps?).

“How much is this typewriter?”


“Are you flexible on that price at all?”


“Alright. Sold!”

As you can see, I am an excellent negotiator.

As I was discussing with the seller where and when I could pick up the typewriter if I wasn’t able to get it home on my bike, I spotted my good friend, Jaci, and her boyfriend, Alex, who had just arrived. Did they drive here? They did. Could I put my typewriter in their car? I could. Did they want to go have a drink on Cannibale’s patio? They very much did.

Thanks, Universe (and you too, Jaci and Alex).


[Photo of my credenza, a shrine to my most favourite things.]

P.S. I am 99.999% sure I saw Janine Vangool there.

Fake it ’til You Make It (or find it at a vintage store?)

This morning I made a discovery: Michaels Arts and Crafts stores are selling new typewriters. New typewriters.


[Image via Ally Dosdall: check out her blog for her review]

I was shocked at first, but I really shouldn’t be. Companies have been recreating faux-vintage items for awhile now. Just have a gander at Urban Outfitter’s “music + tech” section.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this recreated-retro trend. At first I wanted to say, “No, stop, get your hands off my typewriters!” But then I’d have to give back my un-vintage record player and my recently-made retro radio and the instax camera I bought this decade. And I’m not prepared to do that.

So, what do you guys think? Would you buy a typewriter made in the year 2016? Or do you feel loyal to the original? Is buying something that only looks vintage somehow cheating? Or is the new typewriter so cute it doesn’t matter?

While you’re thinking that over, here’s a round-up of newly-made, vintage-looking items for your consideration:

Crosley Record Players:




[Images via Urban Outfitters]

Crosley makes a wide variety of retro-looking (and more modern-looking) record players. I keep hearing their quality is not the best, and that might be true, but I have owned one for about 5 years now, and it still works great and hasn’t damaged my records. Plus, it looks adorable sitting on the credenza.

Wild & Wolf Telephone:


[Image via Yellow Octopus]

You can also purchase this phone at Mod Cloth, and while you’re there you can check out this other style. These phones make me want to call up my service provider and ask for a home phone line (or just plug it into the phone jack and talk on my cell phone while looking at it wistfully).

Marshall Speaker:


[Image via Urban Outfitters]

Oh Marshall, you so cute.

Fuji Instax:


[Image via Pinterest]

I own the Fuji instax in the larger size (I wanted actual polaroid-sized photos rather than the credit-card-sized photos these little babies spit out). But sadly, the Fuji instax wide only comes in black. Works great, looks blah.

Crosley Songbird Radio:


[Image via Amazon]

I own this little guy too, and even if its antenna did break off and even if it does require 8 batteries of 2 different sizes, it sure does look cute.


[Images via my instagram]

The Smeg Fridge:



[Images via Pinterest: 1 and 2]

Smeg also makes adorably retro blenders, toasters, mixers, and other appliances. Whenever I get around to making a wedding registry, I’m sure it will just say “one of every Smeg appliance in turquoise please,” except then no one will get me anything because even the toaster is $240.

And finally, the We R Memory Keepers Typecast Typewriter:


[Image via We R Memory Keepers]

It has mixed reviews on the Michaels website, but I think I’m coming around. If all my other typewriters are for display only, this might be one I’d actually use (she says as her “craft box” gathers dust ).

I wonder what Janine Vangool would have to say about this…

Buying All the Things in Nanton, Alberta


Nanton, Alberta: where antique stores outnumber liquor stores at a ratio of at least 2:1, where there is not one but two midcentury modern furniture shops (aptly named Nanton Midcentury 1 and Nanton Midcentury 2), where you can spend a crisp, fall day pretending you’re antiquing on the Eastern Seaboard (until you look across the highway and spot the wheat fields and grain elevators, that is).

Nanton is a convenient 40 minutes from the edge of Calgary, or about an hour from downtown. Just hop on AB 2 and head south–the highway runs right through town. I didn’t have to look up directions or consult a map once, which is my kind of road trip.

You won’t need a map when you get to town either: all the shops and restaurants are concentrated around the same block and easily walkable (we just sort of ping-ponged around ’til we felt confident we had been in every open store).

But if you don’t want to just ping-pong, then, fine, here have a map.

Start: we (we= my antique-loving, taxidermy-obsessed, also-a-Nanton-virgin friend and I) started at Because I Said So, a book and coffee shop (and, yes, there were used books; it is Nanton, home of all things used and old*, after all). Why did we start here? Two reasons: coffee and it was the first place we saw driving into town.

*not the official town slogan.

Next: Coffees in hand (and two used hardcover Twilight novels in a tote bag–they are for a friend, I swear!), we walked to Sentimental Journey at the end of the block.

You guys. This place is cray. Cray cray even. 9000 square feet of antiques, 3 floors of vintage goodness. Did you follow the link to their website? That’s okay, I never follow links either, but this time you should. It’s a beautiful website. Click the “galleries” tab and have a browse. I’ll wait.

See what I mean?

I came to Nanton with one item on my wish list and I found it at Sentimental Journey. What is it? Keep reading (or just scroll if I’m boring you)–I have photos of my purchases at the end.

Sentimental Journey: main floor, showcase of gas station ephemera

Surprisingly, I did not find one typewriter at Sentimental Journey. Is it possible I missed it? Yes. 9000 square feet. 3 floors. It’s very possible.

Break: lunchtime! The owner of Sentimental Journey recommended a few restaurants: Wild Thyme Cafe and Fieldstones. On a whim we chose Fieldstones (maybe we weren’t feeling particularly wild, I don’t know).

Fieldstones’ entrance in the alley.

Picture what you think a cafe in a small prairie town would look like. Rustic? Wood everything? Outdated?

Now picture the exact opposite of that and you have Fieldstones. It’s modern, sleek, and European. If you asked IKEA to design your whole restaurant, this is what they might come up with (that’s a compliment–I love IKEA). Plus, there’s a rooftop terrace.

The other half of the aforementioned “we” in Fieldstones.

Go here if you want a sandwich, soup, or baked good (but try Wild Thyme Cafe if you’re super hungry and want something a bit heartier).

Next: Full? Good, we have more antiquing to do! Make sure to pop into Nostalgia Antiques (a knickknack lover’s dream), Lost Ark Antiques (very reasonably priced), Antiques N’ Things, and both of the midcentury modern furniture shops (teak heaven!).

Old building, I like you.

You should also pay a visit to the thrift store, The Dressing Up Store, which appears to be the only place in town for vintage clothing. Sadly, it was closed when we were in Nanton (on a Sunday), so I cannot personally recommend it, but small town thrift stores are usually a good bet (especially if you’re suffering from antique store sticker shock).

Not tired yet? You could visit the Museum of Miniatures or take a tour of the Grain Elevators. I can’t tell you if these are any good–I was only there to find antiques.

You might also swing by The Prickly Pear Casa for cute and quirky gifts, home goods, and handmade items.

End: at the candy store, duh. Its name? The Candy Store in Nanton. Very unambiguous naming abounds in Nanton. The best part of the candy store is it sells antiques in the back (not antique candy, don’t worry), under the name Not So Fine Antiques, and they happened to be having a 50% off sale on the day we were there (lucky us!). From personal experience, I enthusiastically recommend buying a square of fudge and trying not to eat it all on your drive back.

Now onto the fun part: what I bought (besides the third and fourth books in the Twilight series for 5o cents apiece, a cappuccino, lunch at Fieldstones, and a block of fudge).

One turquoise plant stand from Sentimental Journey. This was the item on my wish list. A vintage plant stand in a fun colour with a 1960s feel. Check, check, and check. I am so happy with the one I found–and even happier with the price ($25!). Upon getting back to Calgary, I immediately drove to Plant and bought two plants and two pots. Behold:

I could have fluffed that pillow for you, but I didn’t. We’re all friends here, right?

From Lost Ark Antiques, I purchased a vintage, non-working camera, a little Tower Snappy. I’ve always wanted a turquoise one of these, but when I found a grey one for $12, I figured it was good enough (I just found a red one on etsy for $160, so I’d say I got a deal).

So snappy!

I also bought a set of vintage salt and pepper shakers ($5) for my collection from Lost Ark. My fiance says they’re creepy. I say they’re charming and kitschy. You be the judge:

Adorable or nightmare-inducing?

And finally, this poodle plant holder ($20) from Nostalgia Antiques (succulent from Plant).

unnamed (4).jpg
What a dapper little guy!

Nanton by the numbers:

Kilometres driven (Calgary to Nanton and return): 188

Time spent in Nanton: 3.5 hours

Antique stores visited: at least 6 (we lost count)

Other stores visited: maybe 4 (again with the no counting)

Vintage items purchased: 4

Money spent on vintage items: $62

Cappuccinos consumed: 1

Shameful books purchased: 2

Typewriters found: 1 actually, at Not So Fine Antiques, but it was a very ugly shade of brown and made by Sears–no thanks!

Typewriters purchased: 0

*All photos my own.

Sunday Afternoon Inspiration: Decorating with Vintage




It’s a soggy day today in Calgary. A good day to grab a cup of coffee and peruse the internet for images of lovely things, in this case images of people decorating their homes with vintage items.


mint kitchen.jpg


vintage rotary phone.png















vintage clutter.jpeg



vintage tins.jpeg



corner shelves.jpg



imperial typewriter.jpg









vintage books.jpg



vintage radios 2.jpg





Tips for Collecting, Volume 1: Typewriters

A treasury of typewriters made by moi.

I love typewriters. Why? I’m not really sure, but I love everything about them (except actually using them–using a typewriter is the absolute worst–more on this later).

I suppose I love all things typewriter because I’d like to fancy myself a writer and because I’m excessively nostalgic. How I’d love to write: a bottle of whiskey for sipping, a pack of cigarettes for chain-smoking, a typewriter for typing. Maybe I’d live in an atelier in Paris. Maybe I’d actually know what the word “atelier” means (is it the same as an attic? a studio? I haven’t a clue, but it sounds classy as hell). How I actually write: facebook open for checking, a glass of water for forgetting about, a bag of potato chips for maintaining my excellent diet, a Macbook Pro to make greasy with my potato chip fingers.

Also, look at the colours!

I own three typewriters: an Underwood no 3 from the early 1900s, an Underwood 378 from the 1970s, and a Brother Webster XL-727 also from the 70s. They make excellent decorations. Do I use them? I do not. Have you ever tried typing on a typewriter? It’s a special kind of hell. Also, I can’t type a sentence without a typo. Before I edited the last sentence, this is what it looked like: Alos, I cant’ typo a senksjNGBIUofkbg kb. (I’m really bad).

Here they are all snuggly in their home (aka: my home).

I also used to own a 40s-era Royal typewriter, but it was sadly too heavy to make the move from Ontario to Alberta with me six years ago.

In total, my typewriter collection cost me $45 (even including the Royal).

The Underwood No. 3 I found in a junk store in Calgary for $25. It was covered in sawdust. Apparently someone had been keeping it in a barn and not even the owner of the junk store had wanted to clean it. A quick check on ebay tells me that an Underwood No. 3 is selling for anywhere from $227 to $1292.50. Some warm water and paper towel later, and that’s a (some high percentage–I don’t math) profit. Thank you very much, Junk Store That I Forget the Name of That Doesn’t Exist Anymore Probably Because They Sold Antique Typewriters For Only $25.

The Brother Webster Typewriter I found in a junk store in Windsor, Ontario for $20 (this junk store to be exact–if you ever find yourself in Windsor, go here; it’s the best). It’s light so packing it in my suitcase wasn’t a problem.

The 70s-era Underwood was my grandmother’s, which she gave to me a few years ago in perfect condition because she’s the best and keeps everything she’s ever purchased and everything she owns still looks like it was just taken out of the box yesterday. I’ve asked her to teach me her ways, but when she found out I don’t like dusting, she gave up on me.

My dream typewriter collection:

  1. A super old Underwood (check!)

  2. A midcentury Royal, preferably bubblegum pink

  3. An Olivetti, teal would be nice



  4. A Portable Remington (Purple? Sure why not?)

  5. A Smith-Corona (let’s go with turquoise)

  6. And a German Olympia (Pink again? Okay!)il_570xN.693176955_20xl.jpg


If I had an unlimited budget, I could purchase these right now from ebay and/or etsy. But I don’t. (Just imagine the shipping price for a typewriter that weighs more than a toddler). So I have to be patient and scour garage sales, kijiji (or Craigslist for my American friends), and junk/thrift/vintage stores.

On numerous occasions I’ve been asked by friends for help in the typewriter purchasing department. So I’m here to present to you some tips for acquiring that perfect typewriter.

  1. Don’t buy online. Sure, ebay and etsy have the typewriters of your dreams for sale and you can buy them with one click while wearing your pyjamas. DON’T. I mean, unless you’re prepared to pay $50-$100 in shipping. On top of an already steep purchase price. Instead buy in person. Put the typewriter in the trunk of your car/ make your significant other carry it all the way to your apartment.
  2. Thrift/junk/salvage stores are going to be cheaper than antique/vintage stores. This is true for all vintage things. Stores that specialize in selling antiques know their product, know the market value, and know they have a steady stream of consumers looking to purchase that product. Stores like Value Village, The Salvation Army, Good Will, or your other neighbourhood thrift store are generally not in the market of hawking antique typewriters. If you can find a typewriter here, it likely won’t be more than $50.
  3. Try kijiji or Craigslist. Sometimes people find typewriters in their basements that they didn’t even know they had and they don’t want them and want to get rid of them fast. Example: there is a beautiful, teal Smith-Corona typewriter on the Calgary kjiji site right now for $75 or best offer. Which means the best offer might be $50. Also, a lovely white Olivetti for $40 or best offer. (So basically $30, who are we kidding?)
  4. Have patience and check often. Most of the time–sadly–thrift stores don’t have typewriters for sale. Garage sales are usually typewriter-free. Kijiji might not have any cheap ones on a given day. Wait. Check next week. Check again the week after that. And the next. If Value Village does get in a super rad typewriter you better bet it will be gone within hours (because I go there often and I will buy it).
  5. Decide what you’re looking for. Will any typewriter do? Do you want one that works? Do you want manual or electric? Old or new? Black and antique or colourful and modern? Desktop (heavy) or portable (less heavy)? Do you have a brand in mind? Do some research, see what you like. For me, I don’t care about working condition. My grandmother’s hand-me-down works perfectly (because, as I said, she is a sorceress who can keep things from aging). This makes the process simpler and buying cheaper. Obviously, the older the typewriter, the more expensive. Older typewriters with the glass keys are worth much more than the newer ones with the plastic keys, for instance. And the better condition, the more expensive again. But a lot of sellers won’t actually know if it works or not, because they don’t have a ribbon and don’t want to buy one, so if you don’t actually care about working condition, you can get these on the cheap. And if you do care, make sure to ask whether it works. (Rarely can you get a working typewriter for under $100). Buying a new ribbon is no problem, but finding someone who can do repairs is another story.
  6. You can paint a typewriter. If you find a great one for a great price, but it’s a horrid colour, you can paint it the pastel shade it was meant to be. Here’s a tutorial.

Oh No, That’s Just for Show: A Personal Essay in Defence of All My Useless Crap

I like things.

I’ve often thought I should become less materialistic. Part with some of my possessions. Lighten the load. Choose experiences over objects. Save rather than spend. Less is more, blah blah blah.

Minimalism seems to be all the rage these days. I blame this book. Also the Swedes. So fresh and so clean, clean.

My house is the opposite. So old and so dusty, dusty. That’s my motto. There are things everywhere. There are things on top of things on top of other things like a giant unwinnable game of retro knick-knack Jenga. I like to think of my house as a giant cabinet of curiosities, an island of misfit midcentury office supplies. When friends come over for the first time, they usually spend ten minutes or so wandering around, perusing my collections, turning tchotchkes over in their hands, asking where this came from or what’s the story behind that. One of the best compliments I’ve ever received: “Your house makes me feel like I’m at a rummage sale,” to which I of course replied, “NOTHING IS FOR SALE, PLEASE LEAVE NOW.”

Half the stuff on display doesn’t work and I bought it that way: cameras that came with “as is” warnings; a century-old sewing machine missing all its important parts (is a foot pedal essential? I don’t know); ribbon-less, key-jammed typewriters; a Soviet-era rotary phone that hasn’t had a dial tone since the 1980s. What do they all have in common? Form over function. I love my mint green 1950s milkshake mixer even though I’m lactose intolerant, and I love my 1970s peacock wicker chair I scored for $20 at a thrift store even though it gives me butt splinters. I’ve been known to yell at my fiancé for using the oven mitt that’s “just for show” or matches from the pretty matchbook I’ve been saving for four years and plan to save for another eighty. I can’t acquire two of something without thinking, “I should start a collection.” An empty side table is a wasted opportunity, a blank wall is unfinished, a single teacup is a lonely thing.

IMG_8576 (1).jpg

This way of living runs completely counter to my mother’s philosophy. If something no longer serves a purpose, out it goes. Finished reading that book? Donate it to charity. Haven’t worn that shirt in a year? Goodbye! We couldn’t get new toys until we parted with our old toys. You want a new Barbie? Which Barbie are you willing to give away? She wouldn’t let me have more than a few stuffed animals at any given time, and they had to fit at the head of the bed like tasteful throw pillows. Things whose only purpose was to sit on a shelf and look pretty she called dust collectors. Everything had to have their place, and I doubt she would consider “on top of some books” or “I’ll figure it out after I buy it” to be a legitimate place.


Most of the time I like my way better. If a cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind, I must enjoy my mind cluttered. Being surrounded by a bunch of pretty things makes me happy. Each object reminds me of something, somewhere, or someone special. The old Singer sewing machine? I got it during my first week of living on my own in a new city. Thousands of kilometres from my hometown, alone and lonely, I spent the week exploring my new neighbourhood and happened upon a killer garage sale. The matryoshka dolls? I could tell you where I got each one (British Columbia, Michigan, Prague, the same killer garage sale) and from whom (my grandmother, an ex-boyfriend, a friend I no longer speak to). And because most of my things lived a different life before coming to live in my apartment, to me they’re mysterious treasures, a haberdashery of things I’ve saved from being pitched into non-existence. I imagine myself an old lady still in possession of the dress I bought when I was twenty, the bicycle that is now a vintage classic. You’ll have to pry this turquoise egg beater I’ve never used from my cold, dead hands. Someday the head curator of the Smithsonian will call and it will be my time to shine.


They don’t make things like they used to. I’m aware it’s a tired cliche and that I sound hokey and nostalgic, but I’m not even trying to suggest that new things are of poorer quality. I’m only saying: look at the colours and the shapes and the attention to detail. It’s just hard to find a good bubblegum pink atomic alarm clock radio these days, so I’ll take the old one that doesn’t work and just play music from my iPhone, thanks.

I’m currently trying to part with an old bicycle. I got a new one (well, an old one from a pawn shop, but it’s new to me), which brings my current total of bicycles to three, and that seems excessive even to me. I’m very aware that it would make sense to sell one of my bikes—our apartment is not huge, we don’t have access to a garage or shed, and my fiancé has two bikes himself, which, if you’re keeping track, means there are five bikes inside our apartment. But every time I think of selling my old bike, I remember buying it: I had just graduated with my BA and was about to start grad school. I think about how my years of grad school were my favourite years. I think about how great it felt to be back on a bike after more than ten years of not biking. I remember loading the bike onto the back of my car, pulling out of my parents’ driveway, and embarking on a cross-country road trip to my new home where I knew not one person. Will I still have these memories if I part with the thing? Yes. But. . . . Will the bicycle mean this much to someone else? Will they promise to ride it regularly so it doesn’t feel neglected? Maybe I should keep it just to make sure it still feels loved. It probably doesn’t help that the bicycle is mint green.

The only time I don’t love my things is when it’s time to move. So mostly I avoid moving. I’m still in the apartment I started renting six years ago that I thought would be a temporary stopover on the way to bigger and better things. But in a couple months I’ll have no choice. I’ll have to move. And if you think I’m going to do a pre-moving purge or have a garage sale or some such nonsense, my heavier-than-God record player must have fallen on your head. It’s all coming to the new place even if I need to rent five moving trucks to get it there. I apologize now, dear friends who are close enough to me that I’ll feel no shame asking for your help. Because: if I don’t bring my things, how will I know when I’m home?

IMG_1087 (1)