Independent Bliss

For some, there comes a point in your life when you are blissfully happy with who you are and where you are at in this journey. This bliss is independent of people, significant others, children, work or environment: as in, none of the mentioned affect your happiness and relationship with the self.

You might not be where you thought you’d be, but you realize you are enamored with this leg of your journey. Every move seems beautiful, even if it isn’t the right one. Not everyone gets to experience this, and sometimes you have to work towards this bliss. And sometimes it comes after extreme heartache, struggles or a downfall. I believe you might even have to hit rock bottom to know it.

But when you do…when you can sit in a room and stare at the ceiling and be content with the life you live, you’ve reached it. You’re there. You know you have arrived and you are capable of reaching your goals and experiencing life fully. You are whole.

That’s my two cents.

Thrift Like Me

This blog, with its plethora of topics, has turned into a sort of “look what I got” brag-bag.  It is what it is.

Granted, I feel like I have every right to brag about some of my amazing finds that have come from the dusty and disorganized racks at thrift stores.  And I only do it in hopes of inspiring others to go on a treasure hunt, save a lot of money, and more importantly, express their creativity while becoming greener citizens.  Yes, thrifting is so eco-friendly!

Anyways, I thought I’d share some more wisdom on what I do and how I do it.  Friends and family are always asking me, “How do you find these amazing things at thrift stores?”  Well readers…here you go!

The scanning method.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the quantity and underwhelmed by the quality of items in a second-hand store.  After becoming a serious thrifter, I’ve developed a technique for going through the racks quickly.

a) Quickly look at tag

b) Look at the garment to see if you like it

c) Check size

d) Check for any damage/flaws

I am also going to suggest that you smell the item.  I know that sounds funky.  But do it.  Thrift-stores usually “sanitize” clothing.  Which basically means they spray the same stuff on clothes/fabrics that the bowling alleys spray into rented bowling shoes.  But this doesn’t mean that some smells from the previous owner don’t linger.  The most common is cigarette smoke (yuck!), which is hard to get out in the wash.


Find a cheap $2-any-item dry cleaner.  You will be using it for all the things you buy that can’t be washed.

For everything else, I suggest hot water and bleach for whites or buy the bleach for colors.  For people grossed out by second-hand clothes, just think, the clothes you buy at the department store are not really that different.  I worked at a clothing retail store once, and every night we would throw a lot of stuff on the unclean floor before we refolded it. People also try things on in the dressing room, leaving oils and whatever else on the clothes.  You’re going to wash it either way.

 Don’t always rely on the tag sizes.

These are my reasons why:

a) Sometimes, due to previous washing or other random factors, a large might actually look good on a person who usually wears a small.

b) A lot of today’s fashions are loose blouses and oversized sweaters.  Embrace the boho, thriftique-chic!

c) If you find a designer dress that retails for $300 for $5 and it’s just a little bit too big, a simple trip to the tailor and a $15 alteration later will still make that dress an incredible bargain.  It might even fit better after alterations than if it was in your size!

 Use other people as a resource.

Check the dressing rooms, “go back” rack, and the beginnings of racks/racks near the dressing room.


You’re not the only one who knows a good deal.  Goodwill/second-hand stores aren’t just for the low-income anymore.  People like the “thrill of the chase”, and you will see all sorts of bargain hunters, thrifters, and fashionistas in second-hand stores nowadays.  For many, like myself, it’s a hobby or a passion we just can’t get enough of.  So, while we all would like to say we found that awesome designer shirt hidden between a grungy t-shirt and grandma’s blouse, it’s likely that someone else has gone through the racks thoroughly and pulled some amazing finds.  Maybe they pulled a fantastic shirt that didn’t fit so they either put it on the “go back” rack, or, if they were lazy, left it in the dressing room.

Consider location.

In some instances, I’ve found that the quality of merchandise at thrift stores directly correlates to the location.  For example, the Goodwill in Williamsburg, Virginia, has the best selection of designer clothes, and clothes that appeal to a younger crowd.  Perhaps this is because the College of William & Mary is a few blocks away.  Maybe this store is filled by student donations.

 Deals & Discounts.

Get in the know about how you can save even more money!

  1. Goodwill donation punch card (Central Virginia and Tidewater Goodwill stores) – you get a punch for every donation.  When you reach 4 donations, you get %20 off your purchase.
  2. Student ID discount – The Goodwill in Williamsburg, Virginia has a %20 off the entire purchase if you show a student ID.
  3. Goodwill tag “color” discount (Central Virginia and Tidewater Goodwill stores) – Every week, a certain tag color (usually that of older items) is 50% off
  4. Discounts on certain days (Northern Virginia Goodwill stores) – Customer Appreciation day is Tuesday.  All clothing is %25 off.
  5. Discounts for items that have been in the store too long 
  6. Frequent shopper discounts
  7. Coupons on store website
  8. Discounts for seniors 

 Wear clothes that you can try clothes on over.

Some thrift stores have dressing rooms.  Some don’t.  That’s just how it goes.  Most Goodwill and Salvation Army stores have them, but I’ve found the Value Village stores do not.  If you’re shopping for skirts or dresses, wear leggings or tights.  If you’re in the market for a new shirt, wear a tank top.  Don’t be bashful to try things on over your clothes in the middle of the store.

 Make friends with the employees.

Ask what days they get shipments in so you’re first in line to see all the new merchandise.

And the most important…Prepare to spend the time (I suggest 1-2 hours).

I was in a Goodwill one day when a group of twenty-something girls walked in.  They were shopping next to me, and I overheard one girl say: “I don’t understand how anyone finds anything at Goodwill.  This stuff is all ugly.”  True.  A lot of it is ugly.  I probably wouldn’t wear about 97% of the clothes in Goodwill.  But she said this as soon as she walked into the store and started looking at a rack of clothes.  If you expect to walk into a second-hand store and have that designer dress in your size sitting in front of you then you’re in the wrong business.  People ask me all the time, “How do you find all these awesome clothes?”  A large part of what I do involves patience and dedication.  On this blog, you get to see all the awesome things I find second-hand shopping.  But what you don’t see are the hours I spend in a store going through each and every item of clothing or whatever else I’m looking for that day.  I might spend 3 hours in a store only to find one shirt I like. And, it’s dirty work.  I’ve had allergy attacks in dusty thrift stores.  I’ve sweated my butt of in non-airconditioned ones.

I hope my suggestions help in your thrifting adventures.  And as always, please feel free to ask any questions or leave comments!  I’d love to hear your thoughts🙂

 Happy Thrifting! 

I gained weight.

One thing I’m struggling with right now is the fact that I am gaining weight.

About 8 pounds.  I know…you’re thinking 8 pounds…hmmm.  That’s not a lot.  But for someone who started this fitness journey at 100 pounds, this weight gain is really freaking me out.  I guess it’s because most people measure their fitness achievements in weight loss.  Maybe I didn’t have anything to lose?

I know that I have been eating really healthy, have cut out alcohol-ish (except on special occasions), and have kept my daily caloric intake between 1300-1700 calories.  I also workout about five times a week, and this isn’t the typical “get on the elliptical and sweat a little” workout; if I’m not doing Les Mills BodyPump, BodyAttack or CXWorks, then I’m running at least a 5k or lifting on my own.

I’m not 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure that this weight gain can can only be attributed to muscle growth.  And maybe because I’m working outside for a few hours everyday in the heat – I’m drinking more water and I feel like my body is swelling…can a person’s body swell from warm/hot temperatures?

Anyways, aside from trying to eat healthier and in a way that will fuel my activity level, my workouts have intensified in the past year.  I know I’m gaining muscle; the way my body is cut is very different than it was last summer.  I actually have abdominal muscles now, which protrude a bit on my tiny stomach.  This is new.  When you go from being skinny and having no stomach to having muscles grow where they have never been, it’s a little weird and I’m not exactly sure how to feel about it.

My body has changed (and is changing) into what I can only describe as an “athletic build”.  I was never “cut” before, and now I can really make out the definition in certain areas without flexing.  During BodyPump, I look at myself in the mirror and ask, “Is this the girl who used to despise fitness?”  She is now obsessed.  She now has definition.  What happened to this girl who was afraid to sweat?

I’m also so much stronger and faster.  I never thought I would be capable of doing some of the things I do in the gym or on runs.  And to be quite honest, I didn’t even know this level of fitness existed.  Now, I’m really getting intense in my workouts and pushing myself to the max.  And I love the way it makes me feel.  I love being fast.  I love lifting challenging weight in BodyPump or not taking a break and going all out during Attack.  The pool of sweat on the floor is proof that I’m working hard.  It’s like I’m proving that I can do what once wasn’t possible.

But I’m still adjusting to the changes I see in my body.

If I showed you a before and after photo, you might even think, “Hey she looks BIGGER after“.  So I have this dilemma because I don’t feel like I’m being a good fitness example.  Sure, I’m strong and my endurance is great, but I feel like there’s nothing to show in terms of weight loss.  I’m also not eating like a rabbit, because I am a foodie, and I workout to be able to enjoy good food (yes, like pork belly and fried things).  This means that I’m not all muscle because my dietary habits aren’t all carrots and celery.  You get what I’m saying?

So that’s my dilemma.

Question: Are there any tiny people out there who have put on weight and muscle since working out?  Did it bother you?  Was it visible?  Did you change your routine at all?

On a more positive note, at least I could probably reach the required weight to give blood now – 110 pounds!

My Idea of a Goodwill Time

A question to my fellow thrifty bloggers out there: “Do you ever go into a thrift store with the intention to spend about 20 minutes, but end up spending two hours?”

Well I do.

And I usually don’t leave until a) I’ve looked through all the racks, b) I have to be somewhere, or c) I have to pee.  Usually it’s C.

I recently spent about two hours at the Goodwill located at 701 East Broad Street in Richmond, Virginia.  I was in a really good mood; just had an awesome workout and a great pho lunch at Pho 79 (see picture) and my proximity to the Goodwill meant I just had to stop by since I hadn’t visited this one in over a year.


Pho with all the yummy bits like tripe and tendon. No filter. Who wouldn’t want to go shopping after this goodness?

This particular Goodwill does an awesome job at sorting everything by type and color.  And the sales associate could not be friendlier.  Seriously.  She made positive comments on everything I bought.  It made my day.  I actually felt like…validated that I am good at this little hobby of mine.

Anyways, those two hours were very productive, clothing-wise!  And I probably would have spent more than two hours, had I not had to use the restroom.  Ah that’s life, I guess!

This summer, I’ve been on the hunt for long, flowing skirts.  I get on “item of clothing” kicks, and it’s recently been skirts.  I also love the bohemian look that you can really pull off with long skirts, plus they are so comfortable.  Like honestly, would you rather wear crotch digging shorts and have your legs stick to everything you sit on in this humid Virginia heat, or would you want a nice long skirt that is made of light fabric and is super airy and cool.  Is that even a question?

My first outfit du jour is made up of a turquoise printed peasant skirt I got for $4.99 from this Goodwill trip.  Yes, $4.99 is a little steep for second-hand prices, but I loved the print and colors, and it looked like it had barely been worn.


Turquoise Peasant Skirt $4.99, White J.Crew Lace Top $1.98

The fabric was so light and airy, and I’m really going for that right now.  The skirt was one of those Target brands, so I probably paid close to what it sold for on sale at Target, but I really liked it, so it was a bit of a splurge.  Oh just fyi, all the skirts at this particular Goodwill were $4.99.  The white lace 3/4 sleeve top I’ve paired with it is originally from J.Crew, which I scored for $1.98 at another Goodwill located in Northern Virginia.

I also got this lovely French Connection floral printed, A-line skirt.  %100 cotton.

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FC Floral Skirt – $2.50 and Lafayette 148 Silk Cream Top – $1.99

It was rocking the 50 percent off tag, so I scored it for $2.50.  $2.50 for French Connection.  Yep, awesome.  It’s a size 4 (I’m usually a 1), however, it has loops for a belt, so I can actually put a waist belt in and it fits really well as a high-wasted skirt without too much bunching around the waist, or it can be worn on the hips.  I may get it altered at a later point…haven’t decided yet.

I found the white/cream colored top I’ve paired it with at Goodwill for $1.99.  Can I mention this is a Lafayette 148 silk top?  I looked up similar tops by this designer and they go for $200 at retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue.  Oh my word.  At the time, I only thought they retailed for like $60; so I decided to not get another Lafayette 148 top on the rack because it was a size 2 and way too big, but I should have bought it for my mom or a friend, or somebody…thrifter fail.

This awesome, elegant, couture purple skirt was bought for $2.50.

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Purple Long Skirt – $2.50…I feel so elegant!

It was probably handmade as there were no tags, however, handmade = couture.  Yes, don’t argue with me, it is.  It fits my waist perfecto-ly!

And there is so much love for this $4.99 white pencil skirt when paired with the black lace Banana Republic top also worn above that I got on final sale at BR for $12.  And a borrowed gold belt from the mother.  This love is just too, too much.

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White Pencil Skirt – $4.99. Oh look at me trying to primp…

It was a great trip that my mom gave me a little grief for after learning I spent two hours there.  Her nagging – “Paula, are you a hoarder?!” was on repeat when I got home.  This was until I presented her with a very like-new Banana Republic salmon colored silk dress that I bought her for $6.99.

No complaints after that.

 Happy Thrifting!

Thrifty Fashionista

Being a conservative thrifter is one of my goals right now.  That’s basically my pretty sounding language for trying to not be a hoarder.  Thrifting = good! Hoarding = not good.  I watch those hoarding shows and those people just do the thrift store thing all wrong.  Don’t be like them.

So it’s not that I absolutely need more clothes, but when you can get a cute skirt for $2…not a hoarder. Not a hoarder.

I’d like to think of myself as a thrifty fashionista.  That is, I look at current trends and try to replicate them with what I can find in a thrift store.  It’s kind of insane how styles come back to life after a few years.  After we’ve given “clothing item X” away, the fashion magazines come out with celebrities wearing “clothing item X” that costs lots.  I know I’ll soon be on the hunt for some high-wasted jeans I can make into shorts, since those are popping up everywhere!

Anyways, I know, and the fashion gods seem to agree, that long, flowing skirts – the maxi skirt – are perfect for this summer!  Whether they are solid or printed, you can dress them up with a nice top and fancy jewelry for a special evening, or throw on a tank top and some flats for a casual day.

I’ve seen maxi skirts selling for a lot of dollars (as in like $80 – that’s just way to much money for this post-grad) at stores like Zara.  Click on the link to see a picture of said skirt that I can find a (and you can too!) practically identical version of at a thrift store.  I’d show you a picture, but I don’t know how all that copyright stuff goes/it’s easier to link it/I’m a little lazy today.

Or long floral skirts at American Apparel for $45.  Is it just me, or have I seen this skirt in many thrift stores before?  And maybe this is my personal opinion, but this skirt ain’t that cute/I’d maybe pay $2 for it.  Definitely not $45.  That is positivo.

What do you think of the long maxi skirt summer trend?  I love it because a) it’s comfy and cool and b) you don’t have to worry about shaving your legs every single freaking day during the summer.  Double score.

Recently, I got this awesome borderline vintage beige with black floral accents maxi skirt from the Salvation Army Thrift store in Richmond, Virginia for around $3.75.  It was originally $7.49, but the tag color noted it was 50 percent off that day!  Score.


Beige Skirt with Black Floral Accents $3.75, Banana Republic Shirt $1.98, Purple Gem Necklace – borrowed from Mom’s costume jewelry

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Floral on the skirt, floral on the walls…

I also found a super cute red printed high wasted skirt.  It’s got a bunch of horizontal line patterns of a variety of colors.  Kind of tribal looking, which I know is in style right now. And %100 cotton.  Love me some natural fabrics.  The waste-line was really tiny, which is hard to find at second-hand stores.  The best part, it was $2.49, also 50 percent off!  So I got this skirt for $1.25.


Red Vintage Print High-wasted Skirt $1.25, Banana Republic Shirt $1.98, Gold Waist Belt – borrowed, but also thrifted, Vintage Purple Gem Necklace – borrowed


I should also mention that I found the top, which is a fitted, stretchy top with gold glittery specs (it’s hard to see in the picture) at a Goodwill store in Arlington, Virginia.  It was Banana Republic and this particular store had all their short sleeve non-print shirts at $1.98.

I also got this cute blue top, which is Gap, I believe, for $2.25 at Diversity Thrift in Richmond.  The orange sweater, that I wear a lot, wasn’t from a thrift store, but it was from a J.Crew warehouse sale, so that’s kind of being thrifty!

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Blue Tie Top $2.25, Orange J.Crew Sweater – gift, but purchased at J.Crew warehouse sale

What neat summer fashion trends have you discovered thrifting?  Is there anything I should be on the lookout for that’s coming back in style?  I would love to know🙂

Happy Thrifting!

Hindsight is Always 20/20

Blog fail.

I have to apologize for my two weeks of absence.  Lots of changes have happened in my life, and it’s been difficult to put fingers to keyboard and write with one clear frame of mind when my energy is focused on trying to get my life in order.  I normally don’t write about the little details of my life here.  And I try to be super positive and inspirational, but even inspirational people go through hard times.  We’re human, but sometimes the blog world forces us to put on a happy face and write about all the good things.  When in reality, the true human experience isn’t always good, it’s not always sunshine and unicorns and puppy dogs, even though I love me some puppy dogs.

So I’ve got some things to say, and…

the first big announcement: I left my job in the DC area.

Probably not on the best terms either.  Oh well.  It’s okay.  I wasn’t happy and I’ve figured out that Paula + desk + computer isn’t the best combination.  You learn things in moments like these; I guess I learned that maybe I’m just not cut out for the conventional 9 to 5 workplace.  That I really need to be doing something I’m passionate about when it comes to my career.

And then maybe another thing I learned is the company I worked for sucked majorly.  I wish I could rant and rave here, perhaps insert some expletives on my blog about, as I will, in all professionalism call them “Company X”, but I’d like to have a real-life job again one day and future employers (hi there!) might be reading this.  And well, “Company X” doesn’t really deserve the letters that I would type about it anyways.  It’s water under the bridge.

Second announcement: I’m moving back home to live with the parents for a while and figure things out (read: save money).

Eight months ago, I thought that moving to the DC area was going to give me some big epiphany.  I had visions that awesome, intellectual people would surround me every single night.  Maybe I’d even find a boyfriend, stop being so lonely, but all the single guys in DC suck  that definitely didn’t happen.  I also thought that I was missing out on something.  What is this something?  Does it even exist?  And in reality, I wasn’t.

I did the DC area thing for eight months.  Eight months of traffic, crappy public transportation and expensive rent.  Eight months of gas that was 30 cents more a gallon than in my hometown, a major city just two hours south.   Eight months of hour-long commutes five days a week.

I learned that unless you’re actually living in “DC proper”, you really won’t be doing a lot of “DC things”, nope; in fact, you’ll be doing a lot of suburbia things.

So I learned.  Would I live in the DC area again one day?  Yes, if I was living in the confines of the District.  But never again, Northern Virginia suburbia.  Never.  Ever.

And I know this post has been very pessimistic about my DC area experience.  I know, I know, who wants to read Debbie Downer’s blog? I certainly don’t.  And there were a lot of really awesome things I had the opportunity to experience during my time there, which I definitely touched on in some of my prior blog posts.  But this is what I’m feeling right now.  This is why I’ve decided to come home.

So what am I doing with my life now, you might wonder?

Well, I’m going to be working a less than my education level job as a pool manager, but that’s okay because it means no more Paula + desk + computer.  Yay!  I like being outside, I like people, and I like not staring at a computer and scanning receipts for eight hours a day.  And I used to lifeguard about five years ago so I kind of know the territory.  At the end of the day, I’ll also learn some valuable skills like, how to save people’s lives.  That’s kind of valuable, I think.  Maybe.

And it’s temporary.  Right now, I really need to, for my sanity, save money before I embark on a big life adventure I have tentative plans for this fall.

More on that later.