Despite the massive construction site not 50 yards from their Fry’s Spring front porch, Rob and Adrienne Dent maintain a joyfully serene home. Just inside the front door, the family’s shoes are neatly tucked into old wooden post office mailboxes. Their children, Laurel (7) and Alden (6), drag out a painted vintage suitcase and happily select dress-up clothes, ready to perform. Like the ad hoc assortment of fabulous thrift store costumes, the whole home is decorated with vintage and antique treasures.
The décor is at once effortlessly unique and yet comfortably familiar—an aesthetic that Adrienne Dent, a busy CASA volunteer and substitute teacher, achieves through her love of shopping secondhand. “I grew up internalizing the thrill of finding a good deal from my mom,” she says, smiling.
Deal-hunting can be habit forming and, as she explains, it is important to show some restraint. “Our society is so commercially driven [and] I’ve bought into it so much that I get the desire to go out and buy things,” says Dent. “But, [I go] to the Salvation Army and I often return with nothing.”
Self-discipline helps to explain why the Dent home is tidy, organized, and free from clutter. One of the many benefits of thrift-store finds is the psychological freedom to cycle things through: Many of the Dent family trips to the Salvation Army are to drop off donations.
“At Christmastime, before we unload after coming back from the relatives, we [tell the kids], ‘O.K., let’s go through and make room for your things.’ They are stewards of their own space and their own things, so they decide what they’re ready to get rid of. And then to see that back at the Salvation Army again, it makes you feel so good!”
She laughs and continues, “Yay! I have had no footprint and yet I’ve nourished my kids and my family and myself!”
The kids’ rooms reflect personal, developing tastes in conjunction with secondhand finds. “It is always evolving,” says Dent. “Their needs and the way they interact with their environment changes so dramatically compared to ours.” The décor is comprised of piecing together what she finds while acknowledging her son and daughter’s current stage of development.
On second thought…
“I always have my eye out for more storage bins,” says Adrienne Dent, secondhand shopper extraordinaire. Check out these local thrift stores for a bounty of baskets, bins and boxes: SPCA Rummage (Preston Avenue), Salvation Army Thrift Store (Cherry Avenue), Goodwill (29N and Pantops), FOCUS Flea (West Main Street), Twice is Nice (Preston Plaza). Happy hunting!—C.B.
The light-filled playroom is a good example of a space where changes have been made frequently over the years. To summarize, Dent explains, “More books, more shelves, more bins to throw things in. Less stuff on the floor.” The two shelving units (from London’s Bathecary when it was having a closing sale), the storage bins (Salvation Army and other thrift stores) and even the butcher-block craft island (decades ago from Ikea), all fit together to create an original and unified space.
Being consumers of secondhand goods has allowed the Dents a certain freedom to not only acquire items inexpensively, but to let go of the stuff in their life a little more readily, contributing to a more healthful cycle of consumption.
As Rob Dent, a gifted resource teacher at a local middle school, points out, “To me there is so much stuff out there that I’d rather buy something that’s already there than have a new one made. That’s what it comes down to for me."