Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Freebies and Thrift Store Finds...

Rarely in any community in America is there one like base housing on a military base. The military community is a very transient one, with families moving every few months to every few years. You quickly learn what are valuable items you must move with you, and which ones aren't. Easily discarded are clothes that don't fit, things packers won't pack (like spices, candles, craft paints, teas, batteries, etc.) and items you don't like enough to count against you in the amount of weight you are allotted in each military move. Based on your rank, and whether you have dependents (spouse and kids, typically), each military member is allotted so many thousand pounds of goods to be moved for free on the government's dime. Anything over that and the military member has to pay for it out of pocket. This is avoided like I imagine a plague would be.

So now is peak PCS (moving) season in Iwakuni (and at most bases around the world). People are packing up, packing out and arriving. I'd say about a quarter of the base inhabitants move in any given year. If you're leaving, it's time to decide what outgrown clothes and unnecessary furniture you plan to leave behind to save on weight... and having to spend the energy and time to unpack it at the other end of the move. If you are arriving in Iwakuni, you are realizing what you should have packed, what you need for your new home because the dimensions are different from your old one, and other such household decisions. For instance, I realized that I did not pack a toaster in my express shipment and my kids wanted Eggos for breakfast. I got a toaster at the thrift store for $3 that was nicer than the toaster in my shipment making its way across the Pacific.

So this transition period known to those of us military families as PCS season is where the freebies and thrift stores come in to play.

If you live in a midrise, or tower, like I do, there are 43 other families living in the building with you... on any given day of the year, there are always abandoned items in the lobbies for other residents to scavenge. These piles just get bigger during PCS season:

Some of the free stuff I have managed to collect over the past year:

The shelf/drawers

Plus a huge teddy bear, a table, a couple of chairs, and unopened, unexpired food the packers won't move. Obviously, what is one person's trash due to a move is another person's treasure... until their own move.

Some of the renovated midrises now have signs saying not to leave items in the lobbies, to take the stuff to the thrift store instead. But I am not sure if people are actually following those signs or not. I have never seen spices for sale at the thrift store... or for free (there is a small free section by the front door of free items... like Mary Kay samples and bibles).

Now, some of the people moving are kind enough to transport their unwanted items to the Marine Thrift Store on base for donation. (Here is the link to their Facebook business page, where the employees post large items that have just come in to the store. Active duty can shop anytime when there is a store employee there, even when the store is officially closed. Everyone else has to wait until the store is open. So, if you really want something, send the active duty military member of your family over there ASAP).

Out front are most furniture pieces, bicycles, riding toys, car seats and strollers.
Yes, things do get stolen sometimes. There is a special circle of hell for people who steal from the thrift store.

That white block says 10 a.m.
The non-profit thrift store, located near the base chapel, has employees and volunteers that then sort through the donations (and those of you nasty people who drop off Diaper Genies full of dirty diapers also have a special circle in hell) and take the items that can be resold, displaying them in the store at INCREDIBLY reasonable prices. The thrift store then donates the majority of the proceeds back in to the community. The rest go toward paying employees, utilities, etc.

Here is a look at the thrift store:

Toys, linens, DVDs and electronics

DVDs and electronics


All military clothes and gear are free to active duty personnel. Be prepared to show your military ID to the clerk.

Maternity (there are only about two to three racks of maternity clothes at the exchange, just FYI)

Sports, large televisions, pets

Children's men's and women's clothes

Toddler and infant clothes
I am a frequent shopper at the thrift store. You never know what you might find... name brand jeans with tags still on, oak cabinets, shoes, purses... well, here; here are some of the items I was able to get pictures of as I walked through my house, and checked my iPhone photo library today:


Sweater and scarf

Side note: Most of my kids' clothes now come from the thrift store. These are name brand clothes and shoes. In fact, my 9-year-old has four pairs of gently worn Air Jordans... and we didn't pay more than $10 for any of them. With less than a week's notice, we found out the 13-year-old needed to be dressed in a shirt and tie for an awards ceremony... we went to thrift store to get his shirt and slacks:

Not only was it $2 for both items, but they were also in the school colors. Bonus! Clothes are usually $6 for a Walmart bag's worth. Same with loose items around the store without prices. If you bring your own cloth recycle shopping bag, you will get $1 off the bag of merchandise. Books are $1 per bag.

How other items are usually priced:

purses are usually $3-$10

heels, usually between $3 and $6 a pair, but shoes are often half off

Butcher block cabinet, $30

oak cabinet (just bought this so I remember the price: $25)

two bookshelves, can't remember the price

chair for the boys room (has a rip - $10)

suitcase - $6

cup and saucer (made in Japan, part of a bag)

cool pillow, part of a bag

frames that spell Family, $3

frame - $3

elf, new in box - $10

The coat rack on the left, the Christmas tree on the right and the jeans the aprons are made from.
So, if you are looking for an affordable way to clothe your children and deck out your home, check the thrift store.... or maybe the lobby of a building. You never know what treasures you might find.

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