24 April, 2017

Thrift Shop thoughts

Last week was as busy, as predicted. As one friend put it, you put your life on hold for four days when you work on the Thrift Shop committee. 

So, I walked away from my usual work, I organised a string of left-over meals for home, and paid less attention to my kids. Of course it was all waiting for me after Thrift Shop finished on Saturday. The dust bunnies are accumulating because I skipped my once a week vacuum on Wednesday. I'll get them this week! The emails and editing accumulated too, but I'm gradually tackling them today. In the weeks prior to Thrift Shop I said many "no"s, in an attempt to preserve space after Thrift Shop to catch-up.

It's tiring and stressful
What makes Thrift Shop extra tiring and stressful is that we're overseeing a huge amount of work in a very short time with a volunteer workforce of varying understanding of what they're supposed to do.

(Mostly) high school boys who helped us with the heavy lifting of
set-up. Most of the Thrift Shop infrastructure is stored under the cafeteria
in a poky basement accessed by steep stairs. Think: tables,
coat racks, coat hangers, shelving etc. We need these guys!
Thousands of second hand items come into our care in the first two days and then we sell the majority of it over just 10 hours over the next one and a half days and finally, after the shop is closed, we give away the remainder to a charity and second hand store then clean up and restore the gym to it's former state. It's a huge job that runs remarkably smoothly because we do it the same way every time, twice a year.

My view from behind the "register" before
the customers turned up.
I get people overload. One day I came home and hid in my bedroom for a while till I'd calmed down. On Friday in the middle of the day I "hid" in the workers room for a bit too. It induces visual overload and decision overload. 

Dust overload too! Many workers wear masks because they struggle with the dustiness. I'm okay, but my eyes were gritty by the end of the day and nose a bit itchy. I cleaned my glasses on Thursday at lunchtime and just a few hours later they were covered in dust again.

On Saturday I worked on the registers for four hours, about two hours in I was struggling with a furry head (possible headache plus fatigue) and then a stomach ache. It truly is exhausting. This morning I really struggled to wake up.

But it's worth it
However, despite all this, I continue to do this. There are a couple of reasons:
I laughed with a Japanese lady from church over these tags off things
she was buying. Most things are tagged with just a price and a PTA
number, but this artistic seller created art on hers. What was even more
special was that I got to have a conversation with someone I don't normally
connect with.
  • It is a great way that I can support the school within the job that I do. My schedule is more flexible than many people's so I can make the time to do this. But it also is a job that only happens twice a year, so the commitment isn't so big that it stops me taking on other things. For most of fifty weeks in a year I can forget that I do this job.
  • It is one of the key ways I've gotten to know people at school. I look at a number of friends that I have and realise that Thrift Shop was where I either first met them, or took big steps towards knowing them better. Working alongside people is a much less awkward way to get to know people, especially when there are cultural barriers. When I walked in on the first day to start work last week I was greeted like a long-lost friend by the key people who I do this with each time. Friendship is so important in sustaining us, and volunteering at Thrift Shop is a key way to invest in other people.
Another reason that I don't mind being on the Thrift Shop committee is that it gives me a defined job to do. I find that easier to manage, especially at the big set-up and take-down times.

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