How Second-Hand Items Help Me Be More Gracious

Several months back, I found this frame at Goodwill for $2.50. I LOVE it when I find frames with mats, because mats take a picture from good to fabulous.

It came with a little tag that said “meow” on it, and since the odds of me EVER owning a furry pet that walks around my house are nil, I took that out and made my own tag.

I l o v e typewriter fonts. Happy sigh.

Did you notice something weird about this picture frame?

Did you? It might be sort of hard to tell from the picture, but this frame has no glass.

When I bought it from Goodwill, it did have a perfect piece of glass inside, but a month or two after I set it on the sofa-side table, someone (it might have been the person in the frame, actually!) knocked the picture frame right off of the table. It hit the floor and the glass shattered into what seemed like a million pieces.

Now, if I’d bought that frame new and had forked over $25 for it, this event would have been kind of upsetting to me. But when a used $2.50 frame loses its glass, it’s not really a big deal to me, and I’m much more able to be gracious towards my (bull-in-a-china-closet) children. ;)

I find this to be true with items other than picture frames too. Remember the white Freecycle dresser I painted for Zoe? Well, two years after that project, my children have delivered a number of dents and dings to that piece of furniture, and it really doesn’t bother me. If we were talking about a $750 white dresser from Pottery Barn Kids, though, I’m pretty sure the dents and dings would be a tish bit more upsetting to me!

Also, as I’ve mentioned before, the vast majority of my kids’ clothes are hand-me-downs, and I think that this helps me to be a calmer, kinder mother when the inevitable spaghetti, chocolate, and banana spills and drips happen. Because the clothes are free, it’s just not going to be the end of the world if I can’t get a stain out.

I don’t want you to think I just go willy-nilly through life without trying to take good care of my things…I do pre-treat stains, I do try to keep heavy, dent-causing objects away from my furniture, and I did think that picture frame would be safe on a table near a carpeted floor.

But, when you live with four children, no matter how careful you are, things are going to break, they’re going to get dented, and they’re going to get stained. It’s just how life is.

So, that picture frame? At first after it broke, I felt a little bummed out because I didn’t think it’d be at all easy to find a new pieces of glass to fit that frame.

Then the light bulb went off in my head.

Who says picture frames HAVE to have glass anyways? The print inside was a freebie I got from Walgreens, so it’s not like I need to keep it super safe and protected, and besides, doesn’t glass almost always have a glare problem in frames?

So, now my sofa-side table proudly sports a glass-less picture frame, and I’m even less worried about the frame than I was before! Because when your frame has no glass, you never have to worry that the glass will break. ;)


  1. says

    I literally couldn’t agree more! One of the blessings is disguise of having to purchase most of your items from the thrift store or yard sales (like I do, too) is the ability to put things in their proper perspective as just that: *things*. So when something inevitably breaks or smashes, I can take a deep breath and move on because it only cost 50 cents – not a month’s paycheck. Well written! (I am a new follower from MSM yesterday and I love what you write!)

  2. says

    I love this post. It makes me happy because this is how I want to be when I have kids and so many people seem so much more stressed out about it. You are encouraging. Kids will be kids and I won’t be able to stop things from breaking no matter how much I worry about it.

    Oh, and I totally agree about matting. It brings a photo to a whole to new level of awesome. And I like the frame without the glass. It looks nice.

  3. Josie says

    You are such an inspiration! :) Your frame is beautiful! What a wonderful idea of taking off the Meow. I would of never thought of that if I had seen the frame.

  4. says

    Thank you for this post! I admit, I love pottery barn and restoration hardware and all of those lovely high-priced stores, but have recently been considering how those things are of higher value in my heart than they should be. I’ve been considering reasons I need to change these shopping habits, and, among many others, this is a great reason. I think you’re right that extending grace to my little one (or even my husband, who has been known to break a few things around here!) is much easier when the things are inexpensive, and that is SO much more important than mere things. Love your blog! Beth W.

  5. says

    You are doing your kids a service by having a house that is comfortable and not set up like display case. It will continue as they get older.
    I’ve never understood parents that buy their kids brand new cars for their first car. For first time drivers its not ‘if’ they will get into an accident but ‘when’. My philosophy (no matter your income) is the car shouldn’t cost more than $1000. An if safety is an issue, but an old Volvo! I had a neighbor who bought her daughter a slightly used BMW and after having her drivers license for a week she totaled it (the accident wasn’t her fault). The daughter was devastated!
    I also advocate getting you them a gas guzzler so they can’t go far!

  6. Laurie says

    Couldn’t agree more. When my children were small, I wanted brand new everthing – furniture, clothes, play things, everthing. I even turned my nose up at hand me downs. I used to buy Gymboree items for special occasions (pictures, holidays) and when the moment was over I whisked the clothes off quickly to a safe place. I still have many of them safely protected in my closet. I will never part with these because they cost me too much. Looking back it seems silly. Live and learn. The money I could have saved. The frustration too. It’s totally different now. I look to save every penny. The cheaper the better, and I even find I care for those items more.

    My dad and I joke about his $2.50 curtains he found on clearance at the dollar store. Must wash and take care of them carefully, cause you never know when you’ll find that kind of deal again.

  7. Laura K says

    wow! I love that frame and yes, the typewriter font is neat. I like it. High Five on your goodwill purchase. You are so creative :)

  8. Kathleen says

    Now if I could just look at my carpet the same way, it seems like every time I turn around there’s another stain I have to try and get out. I come from a family of four children and I know intimately just how hard we were on the carpet.

  9. CC says

    No children here but we have 3 dogs. They come in and go out all the time and dogs can be messy. But I get so much for having them live with us. I never worry about broken things, its usually me who breaks stuff anyway. There is always some other decorative item to take its place, its just stuff. And with having one child he will be the lucky one to inherit all these treasures.LOL I got to the point where it doesn’t matter if I bought it new, it still isn’t a big deal if it gets broke or used up. Spills happen. I do enjoy looking at those beautiful decorated houses though. I can enjoy them knowing I will never have that perfection. But I do have funny, silly things that mean something only to me around my home.

  10. says

    I really enjoyed this post. It reminds me a lot of the advice my mother gave me when my husband and I were starting out and setting up our household. She encouraged us to look for good quality because she said we would appreciate it more (and our children would learn to appreciate it) and it would hold up over time. At the same time though, it made no sense to spend a lot just to have the “best” because things were going to break, or get scratched or whatever and you didn’t want anything to be or become so precious that you would regret letting anyone (children) near it, let alone have something happen to it.

    I love the frame section of our nearest Goodwill store–they always have a terrific selection. I can’t see myself ever paying retail for a frame again.

  11. marisa says

    love it! your picture looks great without glass , but in case you ever find yourself with a glass-less frame that you do want to get glass for, it’s really easy and cheap to get glass for picture frames – places like ace and hobby lobby will be able to cut a piece to custom fit your frame, and for a frame that small it should only be a few dollars.

  12. says

    I TOTALLY agree with this. Whenever we buy something new and expensive, it’s very upsetting when that item is
    A) Torn or broken
    B) Lost
    C) Set on fire.

    Okay, maybe not “C.” But a perfect example of this is two different boys’ black fleece Columbia Sportswear jackets. One, which my husband bought for $20, another, which was pulled from a “free” pile. Both have since disappeared. Guess which one my husband freaked out over?

    Katy Wolk-Stanley
    “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without”

  13. says

    Great post! I totally agree, we have some nice things in our house but nothing TOO expensive. It’s not just worth it with little ones around and not to mention, I am an extremely clumsy person (which is ironic because I have been a dancer for years – it’s the only time I am not awkard).

    Love the typewriter font – cute idea. I wish I was creative like that. I love posts like these because they get me thinking about what I could do with some different things.

  14. Shana says

    Once again, never get a dog. ROFL. Our Rosie – when left to her own devices, chews up pictures frames.

    Oh yes – I know – I just gave you another reason to never get a dog :)

  15. says

    so true! our dogs have chewed the hell out of our furniture but i don’t really care because it’s all secondhand stuff we found on the street or cheap ikea furniture. i would feel differently if i had spent a lot of money on something that was consequently destroyed (well ok we do have a few of those casualties too).

  16. says

    It’s great that you aren’t pre-occupied with those things because if you were, with 4 kids that would be literally almost all you COULD be concerned with and they would be worse off for it. It’s nice to see a parent allow kids to be kids without making them act like mini-adults who aren’t supposed to make a mess or any noise. Great perspective and gorgeous picture! It just looks like art, and art never has glass over it does it?

  17. says

    Couldn’t agree more. This is why I shop at thrift stores. I don’t freak out when my peanut-butter-covered toddler hugs me when I’m wearing a $4 shirt from Value Village! It just doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money on clothing that is going to have play-doh, paint and grass stains all over it soon enough. I refuse to wear sweats and sloppy stuff, but I can find decently cute things at thrift stores–and I try to take care of it as best I can, but I’d rather not refuse a hug from peanut butter girl! :)

    I think your kids will appreciate that you and your home were not “off limits” or “too precious” for them also.

  18. says

    I love secondhand items for that reason…well, moreso that I usually dump pasta all over myself so I can’t bring myself to buy something expensive to wear ^_^

  19. says

    Yay! So good to hear all these wonderful things. I live in a house where everything (almost) had a life somewhere else before it came to stay with us. Our biggie is plates, bowls and glasses. We break everything! We solved the glasses problem by using plastic. Not nearly so pretty, but so very practical for us. I buy all of my plates and bowls at thrift stores now, and when the inevitable crash happens, I don’t have to yell at anyone, because it’s not part of a set and I know I can easily (and cheaply) replace it.
    An added benefit is that I’ve received compliments on my mix-and-match style!

  20. Mrs. R. says

    You are soooooo right—and thank you sooooo much for this great post!!! I couldn’t agreee more. Plus, if you don’t mind, I’m going to look on Freecycle for a dresser to copy what you did….. :-)

  21. says

    Excellent point. One of my favorite things to say to people when they break, nick or damage something in my home is: “That’s ok, we like you more than the (sofa, flower pot, picture frame, glass . . .).

    I think it really helps soothe over the moment. It’s embarrassing to break something that belongs to someone else, but it helps to keep life in perspective. Used items are so much cheaper to replace. . .and they feel more temporary.

  22. says

    very striking looking frame and you definitely have the right attitude about the glass! I love second hand, everything i own practically is second hand and it does make for a more laid back approach to stuff

  23. Jens says

    thats what I hate about the internet today, people post about their second hand photo frame and receive countless comments about it.
    I guess I should start a blog about my morning ****.

  24. says

    I love this. I like when I have a project to do, I don’t immediately have to change because I paid too much for my pants to get dirty. If I wreck my pants, I get to go to the thriftstore and pick out a new pair. Yay. Same thing for my son. It does take the worry out of life.

  25. Kim Heller says

    Loved your post about not getting upset when kids break your things. When my son was young a girlfriend came to my house and asked where my son was allowed to play because my house looked like a showroom out of a magazine. I said “see those perfect wood floors? You would be amazed how fast he can rollerblade across them.” I love a great looking home but never, never at the expense of my family! I can’t tell you how many sofa throw pillows his dog has destroyed over the years but so what, he loves his dog and so do I. My kitchen floor has a perm. stain of mustard from where my son’s friend dripped his hot dog from the kitchen through the dining room and out the door. My son is 21 years old now and the mustard stain is still there and I view it as a very fond memory of his childhood times and I love telling the people that ask about the stain the story and young boy behind it.


  26. says

    When the frames in our house “lose” their glass, I replace them with the clear plastic from packaging, or clear plastic food containers! Protects the photo, recycles, and best of all, it’s free!

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