If You Shop Anywhere Else You’re a Big Stupid Idiot Who Wears Floods

If you’re read anything on this blog you’ve ascertained that I’m frugal.  Mostly out of necessity.  I make my money in batches, so when I have some in the bank I like to keep it there as long as possible in case I don’t work again for another 6 months.  Plus, I just come by being cheap naturally.

However, in a tragic twist of fate, I also like really expensive things.  Whenever I look through a magazine (be it fashion, decorating or even a Sears catalogue) my eyes always laser in on the most expensive thing.  I once looked through a Cat Fancy magazine and decided I wanted something called a Bengal cat.  Turns out they’re a rare exotic, partly wild breed made mostly of plutonium judging by their price.

So to satisfy both my cheapness and my secret desire to be a Vanderbilt, I mix and I match.  I buy a variety of expensive things and throw in some cheaper stuff to balance it out.   For instance, instead of buying a Bengal cat I painted leopard spots on my Siamese and  taught her to growl.  Buy whatever expensive thing you love and know you’ll never find anywhere else and find the rest at these stores:


My home is finally filled with things I love.  And things that I didn’t find at the side of the road covered in dirt.  I have to admit; the things I love most are the things I got for cheap.  Homesense is filled with a bunch of really great and really ugly stuff.  Just buy the really great stuff and you’ll be fine.

As mentioned in another blog, a year ago I painted my whole house white and sold everything in it.  I kept a couple of antiques and my cats and that’s about it.  Oh and the big lug.   It’s entirely possible it was the result of a minor breakdown, but regardless … the house looks great now.  Over the next year I filled my home up again with a couple of custom made pieces, a few expensive items, and a whole lotta stuff from Homesense.

Fake Panton Chairs from Homesense

I got a white Jonathan Adler sofa table clearance priced for $120 with a compare at price of $700.  White Panton S chairs (replica) for $90 each.  A beautiful round stainless steel centre hall table for $260 with a compare at price of $600. An end table, made with sticks that’s a reproduction of an insanely expensive French designer table, $99.

If you’re thinking … Wow, that Karen is smart … she remembers the prices of everything she buys … think again.  One of my idiosyncrasies is the fact that I stick the price tag of everything I buy on the underside of it.  I have no idea why.  But it sure came in handy for this blog.   I also have a bunch of accessories and tchotchkes from Homesense that were so cheap I can bury them in the basement when I get sick of them.  I do that with the big lug sometimes too.


I LOVE Dollarama.  For one thing every single thing in there is a dollar.  Or at least it used to be.  And they often only take cash, which makes overspending difficult.  Unless you have the keen foresight to go to the bank

you could buy everything in this whole aisle for the price of a lame (but cute) donkey.

machine PRIOR to going to the Dollar Store and withdraw at least $50.  Maybe $100 if it’s the holiday season.    I’m getting a bit off track.

The discussion of grossly underpriced toilet brushes and stackable boxes does that to me.   Swear to you.  Go to Dollarama with an open mind.  My bathroom bins for hiding toilet paper etc. came from Dollarama as did my most beautiful, white, rectangular kitchen dinner plates.  And most of the bowls in my house.  Dollarama is GREAT for housewares.  I am familiar with most Dollaramas in Southern Ontario and in fact lined up early in the morning to go to the grand opening of one.  I got a gift of a Dollarama coffee mug.  It is not something I would have purchased, but for free … I wasn’t about to give it back or anything. Although a LOT of people in line did just that.

Old Navy

Yeah it’s cheap, yeah it’ll probably only last one season but it’s where you want to spend your money on T-shirts and comfortable pants.  For the best results, mix your Old Navy stuff with your not Old Navy stuff.


Right up there with Homesense.  And kind of like clothing from Old Navy, you have to mix the Ikea stuff with non-Ikea stuff.  There’s only one place a room filled entirely with Ikea stuff looks good and that’s in the Ikea catalogue.

OH MY GOD!  AND YOU HAVE TO GET A HOTDOG BEFORE YOU LEAVE!!!!  Because I’m a bit obsessive compulsive (self-diagnosed) I have to figure everything out.  So, if you TOO love the Ikea hotdog I can tell you exactly how to make one.  I looked in their garbage cans and behind the counters for the answers to this question.  Check out my post on the Ikea Hot Dog right now!

Home Depot/Rona

If you’re gonna be a fix it yourself kinda person you have to get familiar with these hardware stores.  Your local hardware stores are great too.  This is where you’re going to get your dimmer switches, power tools, and bizarro doo dads for fixing broke stuff.  Like drywall, ceramic tiles and drippy taps.   When you’re there remember you don’t have to use things for what they’re meant for.  I needed to raise up my dining room chairs by an inch and noticed some white plastic pipe for plumbing there.  Using my handy hacksaw I cut the pipe into 1” lengths and glued them onto the bottom of my chairs to raise them up to the right height.  If you were to get really creative you could create lamps or end tables or just about anything out of them.  So to reiterate, look at everything as something other than what it is.  That’s where the best things come from.  If Andy Warhol make a masterpiece by peeing on a painting, you can find another use for a piece of copper electrical wire.


There are exactly 2 ways to prove you are a grown up.  If you get all tingly inside when you make a completely invisible seal with Saran Wrap, you are a grown up.  If you own a Costco card, you are a grown up.  Simple as that. You can get stuff cheap here, but you also get a lot of it so try and control yourself.  You are a grown up after all.

Years ago I brought my friend Robby as a guest to Costco.  The minute we walked in the door he broke into a sweat and started grinning like a psychopath.  In an absolute Costco induced frenzy he bought a restaurant sized jar of olives.  I’m fairly certain this resulted in him becoming a raging alcoholic.  Only 7,238 martinis to go Robby … you can do it!  Cirrhosis be damned.

And not EVERYTHING is cheaper at Costco so know your prices.  Pop usually isn’t cheaper unless it’s on sale.  Magazines and books are ALWAYS cheaper, but not always cheaper than you can get them at Chapters.com or Amazon.ca.

The main reason you want to become a member of Costco is because it’s a great place to pick up a variety store owner.  And to buy meat.  If you read anything about meat grading they’ll tell you the quality of meat at Costco is excellent. And it is.  I buy all my chicken, ground beef, and roasts at Costco and then Foodsaver them.  For ribs, you’re probably better off at a butcher shop.  And Costco’s pork chops are large enough to be suspicious.  But my mom likes ’em.  My mom also likes the Mandarin restaurant.

Auctions, Garage Sales and yes … the side of the road

You know that feeling my friend Robby got when I brought him into Costco for the first time?  That’s the feeling I get every time I drive past a big pile of garbage at the side of the road.   If it’s a big pile of chairs I get especially lightheaded on the off chance that one of those chairs in there is an Eames.  It could happen.  It hasn’t … but it could.  Let me know if it’s happened to you!  I’d hate to believe that it really isn’t possible and I’m basically believing in the Eames fairy.

Eames chair aside, I have found a lot of great stuff at the side of the road.  A huge wood sideboard from the mid 1800’s, antique cups and saucers, fantastic plastic retro chairs, mid-century chairs, antique wood chairs and countless other things.  I get disproportionately agitated when there’s only garbage in the garbage.

Like I’ve said, for the first 10 years my house was furnished with stuff I got from auctions, garage sales and the garbage.  It served me well until one morning when I woke up and hated everything.  I’ve kept a few things but now I try to adhere to the 80/20 rule of decorating.  80% new stuff, 20% antiques.  No exceptions.  Unless I happen across a particularly good pile of junk.  Or a well stocked crackhead.  (see post on the top 10 kitchen tools)


  1. carlito sway says:

    my mate and i once found a knock off eames lounge out for trash. how did we know it was knock off? it was upholstered in orange corduroy. immediately my mate goes “yeah, but its a knock off.” (his prized life possession is an aluminum group eames.) and im like, “uh, yeah – a knock off of one of the classiest designs ever?” at which point we was convinced to reclaim it, and i think he still has it.

    there is a fairy, be they sometimes unable to distinguish betwixt knock off and real, there is a fairy.

  2. Ha Do says:

    I loveeeeee you. Please enslave me.

  3. Dana Lu says:

    Wanna be my new bff? I figured you’ve already had many marriage proposals so I’m asking for bff status. I came across your site from a post on Apartment Therapy about your DYI fire pit for $25. And to quote the email I just sent my decorating friend after reading that DYI “holy shoot this is one of the most amazing and totally realistically doable things i’ve ever seen!!!” and it really is. To keep this love note short, I have an important meeting tomorrow at 10am, but it’s 1230am and I’m still exploring your site. You make me literally LOL and I will be back. Often.

    ps. I also have a weakness for free furniture on lawns and anything glass at the Salvation Army.

  4. Kit says:

    Sign me up

  5. Maven Koesler says:

    My husband and I are dedicated trash pickers! I have enough crock pots and cast iron cookware to cater a banquet. You never know what you’ll find. Recently he came home with a 2ft tiki!

  6. Allison says:

    Wassily and Eames chairs by the ROAD??? Lucky ducks! Home Sense and even Winners are great sources of cheap stuff….and Value Village is a gold mine…just have to keep an open mind! Home Depot is my home away from home…as is Target in the states. (pronounced: Tar-Jay) Love reading your blog – I have to limit myself though because I want to look at everything!

  7. Lindsey @ Hot Polka Dot says:

    A woman after my own heart. I too frequently stalk the aisles of Dollarama in search of things I may or may not have a use for. You know what my favourite part is? When someone compliments a vase or a candle holder of mine and I can slap them in the face with the fact it was a dollar. They never see it coming.

  8. Shlee says:

    i. love. ikea. hot. dogs. omg THATS AWESOME!!!

  9. sharon says:

    painting your kitty and teaching her to growl just made me LOL. truly. thank you!

    • CKZ says:

      I stumbled across your blog, linking from Design Sponge. While I may never do a single thing that you are blogging about (I don’t think our dog would like to be painted with spots and taught to growl, seeing as we don’t have a cat) I am absolutely going to subscribe, because your posts are so funny! Seriously. I love it! Oh, and, well, I might make the Ikea birdbath. Or better still make my husband make the Ikea birdbath while I totter around with a clinking cocktail in my hand.

  10. GiniGL says:

    I just bought TWO original George Nelson bubble lamps for $50. No, not each, for BOTH. From craigslist. I know. I’m still fainting every time I think about it.

    Wish we had Homesense or Homegoods – neither here in Seattle, alas.

    • Karen says:

      GASP!!! I’ve been looking for a George Nelson bubble lamp (the smallest one) for AGES now. I was even going to pay full price for a NEW one but can’t even find one of those! I hate you and am happy for you all at the same time! – Karen

  11. Kimberellie says:

    LOL at this line:

    I’m fairly certain this resulted in him becoming a raging alcoholic. Only 7,238 martinis to go Robby … you can do it! Cirrhosis be damned.

    Also, I think we are deal finding soulmates. Love it. You should check out my fashion blog if you want to see me in some CHEEEEEEEEP clothes.

    Yes. Cheap is good. And you are hilarious.


  12. Phyllis says:

    While I’ve never found an Eames chair by curb-shopping, I did find a lounge chair at a garage sale for US$50. It was the one with bent wood back, leather top, and ottoman. Every one wanted to sit in that chair, but stupidly (still beating head against the wall) we sold it. Why I don’t know and I still kick myself. Something inside the seat was broken causing it to lean to one side. It always felt like you were going to fall over. We were afraid someone would and get hurt or something. Anyway, the estimates to fix it were insane. Apparently these are very tricky chairs to reupholster or even fix as in our case. I guess it’s a small (teeny) consulation to think I made someone else’s day by selling it. pfft! I’m hoping for a second chance some day.

  13. Gabriela says:

    I found your blog through Design Sponge; your patio has left me speechless -without precedents, I must say- and I’ve spent the rest of the morning reading you. I also had a clutter fighting attack last March and selled, stripped, sanded and painted almost everything I possesed, and now I live in a off-white/grey house and I love it!
    Never found and Eames chair on the roadside (I live in Spain and it’s not that frecuent to leave furniture out there) but last year I got for free a couple of beautiful and real Butterfly chairs.

    I laughed out laud with the cost co experience, because I had a similar one the first time I entered an Ikea store. Suddenly I had ADD and I couldn’t foccuse on just one thing… I “had” to have everything that was on reach…

    • Karen says:

      HI Gabriela! Thanks for visiting the blog. Isn’t cleaning up GREAT?! I’m in need of another one soon. Closets, potting shed, & basement! Congrats on your chairs! Hope to hear from you again! Love getting comments from places like Spain!

  14. Ann says:

    A few years ago my brother was visiting me and we went to our favorite store Value Village or VV Boutique as we like to call it. We found an Eames round coffee table with stainless steel legs, it was spray painted with green speckle paint, yuk, but we brought it home and cleaned it up. It’s a beaut and we paid $9.00 bucks for it.
    Found your blog through Design Sponge. I love DIY attitudes and your blog.

    • Karen says:

      Yes. I am now convinced I am the only one who will never find cheap Eames. My dream, actually is to get visited by the Knoll fairy. I need a womb chair and I need one RIGHT NOW. I’m guessing I could live at Value Village and not come across one. Send me a pic of your table if you have one! I’d love to see it.

  15. Susan says:

    Your site is hilarious! I especially love the roadside pickups….I come from a family of 11 and whenever we get together, it becomes almost a competition of what we trash-picked recently. If we see something we can’t use, we call a sibling to come get it. My dad was a walking mailman and always saw what people were throwing away…he’d come home for lunch and tell my mom so she could go get it. I live in NC and on my next trip I will deliver an oxen yoke I found to my brother in DE who lives in a house built in the 1700’s. I’m thinking it will look great on his stone patio with votive candles in the holes…or maybe as a mantel?

  16. richelle says:

    i found a rare upholstered eames swivel chair out on the curb for trash day. i passed it thinking it may be some kind of ikea mid century knock-off…but i turned the car around, pulled over, and put it in my trunk. when i got home to clean it up, i noticed the eames / herman miller branding on the bottom. score!

    • Karen says:

      Wow! That’s fantastic. Um … just wondering … am I the ONLY one who hasn’t been visited by the Eames Fairy? Do I have to stick plywood and fibreglass under my pillow or something?

  17. Christina Marie says:

    Great site!!

    I have an abandoned Eames chair and side table from an old medical building liquidation… both of those and a beautiful early 1900’s wooden file (type) cabinet for $25!

    Have faith and stick to the medical buildings!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Christina! I’m gonna have to look into old medical building liquidation! Or just break into an old medical building. It’ll probably depend on my mood.

  18. Ellen says:

    What a wonderful blog! I am a longtime blog reader of all things home decor, but I’ve never posted. Never once. But when I read your blog I wanted to say, thanks for the tips and the humor. Love it.

  19. Karen says:

    Love your articles, I have to stop myself from reading them all right now! I just too recently purged my belongings and am starting over, unfortunately I think I over did it at Ikea the first time out. I have never found an item in the dump but I did find an Edward Wormley magazine tree table for $10, unfortunately I sold it when I moved cross country, I still regret that.. It was probably the nicest piece of furniture I found in my many years of “sale-ing”.

    I look forward to future readings, Cheers-Karen

  20. Hi Karen!

    I just discovered your site and am having so much fun reading your articles! I just had to chime in on this one regarding the Eames fantasy: I currently have 4 different Eames chairs and ALL of them are dumpster/side of the road finds (each one from a different city, so don’t assume any one place is better than another when it comes to good trash scores)!!! I think alot of people have Eames chairs and don’t know they are worth anything– all of mine were dirty when found, and had obviously been languishing in a shed or garage for years before someone got around to doing the big clean-out. Finding a discarded Eames chair is an addictive thrill– you will know that thrill soon, I feel it!

    All the Best,


    (PS… any abandoned hospitals in your area? Old hospitals are often jam packed with Eames fiberglass shell chairs)

    • Karen says:

      Paul! Thanks for the comment. Which I almostremoved because I didn’t want anyone else to see the great tip you gave at the end of it. I am now officially back on the hunt! Thanks for the motivation!

  21. Kana says:

    I just came across your blog and read this posting. I just wanted to say, I have never come across an abandoned Eames chair on the side of the road, but about 10 years ago, my sister scored 2 genuine leather Wassily chairs for $30 at a local yard sale in Portland, OR. Yes. that’s $15 each..! So I don’t know about Eames fairies, but I do know there are designer chair fairies out there!!! Good luck :)

    • Karen says:

      Hee! Thanks Kana. The hunt continues. As long as I know there’s some sort of designer chair fairy I can’t give up the fight.

    • Kat says:

      in one week, I found two Bertoia diamond chairs at an abandoned trailer home, (had to flirt with the real estate agent to get him to sell them to me for $20 for the pair) and a Wasilly chair (repoduction but still…) sitting in front of a rather run down house, the owners didn’t understand English but he understood my hand gesture towards the chair and a $20 dollar bill! 3 designer chairs for $40 bucks? yes please! btw, just discovered your blog today, you are so funny!

      • Karen says:

        Kat! I don’t even want to hear it. My ears are covered! LALALALALALALALALALALA. HMMMHMMHMMHMM. Not LISTENING! I needs to be visiting some abandoned trailer homes. Good for you! One day … I will have as good a story. Fingers crossed.

  22. Marisa says:

    meatballs! you don’t leave ikea until you eat the meatballs!

    • Karen says:

      Marisa – O.K. I’m going to admit something I’ve never admitted before. I’ve never tried the Ikea meatball. Or the ice cream. Or anything other than the hotdog really. I CANNOT leave w/out a hotdog so I suppose next time I’m going to have to scarf down a hotdog AND some meatballs.

      • Marisa says:

        at the brooklyn ikea they are having a 10 meatballs for $1 special. needless to say we have taken advantage of this three times since i found out a month ago. when you eat them you HAVE to do the gravy/ligonberry combo. i am not a big food mixer– my mom had stock in those plastic plates with the divider thingies– but there’s something about those meatballs mixed with the gravy AND the ligonberries that sends me. i want a full report after the scarfdown…..

  23. Becca says:

    My parents found an old Eames chair when they dropped off stuff at a tiny, rural dump. Yes, Karen, there really is an Eames fairy!

  24. Gaynell says:

    I founnd your website via Design Sponge.
    Your VERY FUNNY. I just read your Costco/ Robby story and laughed until I cried. I literally had to hold my hand over my mounth because I did want my co-workers to know what I was up to. I am looking forwarded to reading more.

  25. Tickled Red says:

    I am a frugal, thrift shop, side of the road girl as well :) I love your list but some are not in my area. Home Sense is similar to my Home Goods though. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    • Karen says:

      Hi! Yes, I think that Home Sense is probably exactly the same as Home Goods! Great place to shop. As is the side of the road. :)

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