The Healing Power of Junk

Finding Solace (and Sparkly Shades) Among the Racks

Treasures. Thousands of them. Rows, shelves, hooks, nooks, closets, rooms, and corners full of treasures. I always knew I had an addictive personality. My veins bleed 12 steps and amends, but not for this dependence. I got off easy. I’m obsessed with one man’s junk.

This month marks my eighth year living in Los Angeles. I’ve always been a nomad–a collector not just of things but cities. I moved from Pennsylvania to Missouri to Michigan, back to Pennsylvania and then to Florida before coming to a city full of angels. You’d think I would have had enough of packing up junk and moving it from place to place. Quite the contrary. It’s the law of gravitas. What comes down must eventually be replaced.

In the Goodwill on Barrington and Santa Monica, just west of the 405 freeway that devours everything in its path, I find peace. Every aisle offers the solace of something I need replaced, or something my parents never allowed me to have but is now 95 percent off–and therefore screams, “Finders, Keepers!”

Sometimes I stray, and I flirt with other stores. But I’m pretty committed to this particular donation crowd. There’s just something about them.

I’ve trained my eye to catch subtly posh fabrics hanging amidst the racks of discarded GAP fashions and once-trendy H&M pieces. And I relish the chance to mock the donors of my designer finds. I wonder if they ever have regrets. Then I toss the clothing in my bag with a Mona Lisa grin. Their loss. As Marla Singer said of her bridesmaid thrift store find in Fight Club, “Someone loved it intensely for one day, then tossed it … like a Christmas tree. So special, than bam–it’s on the side of the road, tinsel still clinging to it.”

Sometimes it takes nothing more than the flash of a rogue rhinestone for me to dart from one color-coordinated aisle to the next. For my inner child (who lives on the outside most of the time, who am I kidding?), the experience is just shy of a tour of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. A world of pure imagination.

The other day, I sat and stared at a slick pair of sparkly shades for a solid seven minutes trying to figure out where and how in my life they would be useful. Will everyone stare? Do they make too big of a statement? Do I like them ironically?

“You don’t have to worry about that here,” I told myself. “This is such stuff as dreams are made of.” It costs only $1.99 for me to walk out of the Goodwill feeling like a million bucks. I wonder what they’ll have in store for me next week.

Catherine Mangan currently heads up the internship program and social media efforts at Dun & Bradstreet Credibility Corp. in Malibu.

*Photo courtesy of Catherine Mangan.


Send A Letter To the Editors

    Please tell us your thoughts. Include your name and daytime phone number, and a link to the article you’re responding to. We may edit your letter for length and clarity and publish it on our site.

    (Optional) Attach an image to your letter. Jpeg, PNG or GIF accepted, 1MB maximum.