Yesterday I had a super full and tiring day – as I wrote that, I thought to myself that lately, I could start most of my posts like that! – I went to do some thrift store type clothing shopping.
Firstly, dd10 needs uniform skirts for school. The school has uniforms available for purchase, but only had very little girls’ sizes remaining. I went to someone locally who sells uniform skirts as well as some used items, but she was also out of that size. (I did get ds9 and ds2 nice vests for Rosh Hashana, though.) Then I went to someone hosting a private sale in her home, and her prices were high, way more than I wanted to spend on a school skirt. I also needed to buy a uniform shirt for ds9.
I took stock of my choices. Karmiel is a predominantly secular city, so there aren’t stores that sell modest clothing. So buying something brand new locally wasn’t an option (though someone did tell me she saw one skirt in one store that might be suitable). I was told that in Tzfat (Safed) I’d be able to buy skirts that would be comfortable and modest for about 40 shekels each, and so I decided to go there.
However, before buying something at brand new prices, I always try to start with less expensive options. I learned about a used clothing exchange in Tzfat, and planned to go on Weds. If I didn’t find what I wanted at the used clothing exchange, I’d buy something new while in Tzfat. Then on Tuesday evening I spoke to a friend who made aliyah just two weeks after me. She had a less pleasant and much more frazzled departure than I did, and ended up taking her winter clothes but not summer clothes to Israel with her. So she got here and found she didn’t have much to wear!
The family she was staying with for Shabbos in Ramat Beit Shemesh (RBS) told her there was a used clothing exchange where clothing could be very inexpensively purchased in the building next to them, and she was able to get a number of nice things for a small amount of money. She told me the prices were 3 shekels for women’s clothing, 2 shekels for children’s clothing, and since this was less than the clothing exchange prices in Tzfat (I think I was told 5 – 10 shekels per item), I determined that it would be worth my while to make a trip to Jerusalem the next day.
There are only three buses a day to Jerusalem from Karmiel, and I was on the first one, at 6 am. It’s a three hour bus ride, and I knew I’d have to work to maximize my time to get everything done in time for one of the two buses back to Karmiel later in the day. Firstly, I met ds18 at his yeshiva in Jerusalem and exchanged the stuff I brought him for an empty suitcase with wheels (the lovely one I got as a goodbye present from my dear homeschooling friends before I left), which I thought would be helpful for me to transport the clothing I anticipated buying, home. He is really, really happy with his yeshiva, and it was not only nice to see him, but to see where he’s learning and living.
From there I got the bus back to the central bus station, then got a bus to RBS. That was a drive of almost an hour, and I’ll spare you the difficulties of getting off at the wrong stop and trying to figure out where I was (since there was no one out and about at that time of day to ask). I finally found where I needed to go, and was pleasantly surprised to see the huge amount of clothes at the clothing exchange. (A nice side surprise was when two minutes after I walked in, the woman who used to be my backup doula walked in – I had last seen her several years ago in the States, and she is now living in RBS!)
I wished that dd15 could have come with me, since it’s nice not only for the company, but to have another opinion when choosing clothing for the girls. I was able to find dd10 two very nice uniform shirts, and several navy skirts for school. Additionally, I found a skirt, shirt, and top for Rosh Hashana for her, and a few other non uniform skirts (a total of ten skirts just for dd10 alone!). I found some shirts and vests for the littles for Rosh Hashana, five pairs of shoes and three backpacks, several long sleeve solid color shirts for dd15 and dd16 to wear under their uniform shirts (has to be black, white, or beige), and some other miscellaneous items – the whopping sum for all of these things was 77 shekels.
When I had initially entered this building, I noticed a sign for a two day sale of new and used clothing, which I made a note of. So I got directions to that house, which became my next stop. It was a hot day and by now the suitcase was full and pretty heavy. As I passed a couple of women speaking on the sidewalk, I glanced back to make sure I didn’t bump them with the suitcase, and surprise! – one of the women was the director of the Baltimore camp dd15 and dd16 had gone to when they were younger; she lives in RBS during the year and goes to the States to run the camp in the summer. So I chatted with her a bit before continuing on my way.
At the next sale I found a couple of new skirts with tags for dd15 for ten shekels each, a skirt for me for 5 shekels, a pair of shoes for ds12, and then nine other items for 3 shekels. (She had a few boxes of less desirable items that were three for a shekel, things that had some kind of flaw or she felt wouldn’t sell as quickly for some other reason.) I was able to find a couple of things that I could easily put a stitch into to make as good as new, and for the price it was worth my effort! (Most of what I got wasn’t damaged, though.) Another 33 shekels.
Then I went to one more clothing exchange, and this one was really a challenge since it was down a lot of steps and I had this heavy suitcase to deal with. If I had known how many stairs there were when I first started going down, I don’t think I would have done it. Because what goes up must come down and getting back up all those flights of stairs was a very intimidating thought.
Anyway, this place was very well organized (not to imply the others weren’t – they were) and had nice quality items, but with higher but still reasonable prices: 5 – 10 shekels for children’s items, 10 – 20 for ladies clothing. Though I always try to start at the least expensive places and work my way up, I had never been to any of these places, and was glad it worked out in my favor this time!
At this place I found a uniform shirt for ds9 and a regular shirt for him (which I needed since I ruined his favorite shirt soon after arriving by attempting to clean it using something I didn’t realize was bleach until I saw the results!). I also found a skirt for me, but as I was paying, asked the time and learned it was much later than I thought. I had to leave right that minute if I hoped to make the bus, and didn’t there wasn’t time to wait for change for the skirt, I paid for the two shirts for ds9 since I had exact change for that and left the skirt behind.
I then attempted to race up the stairs with my hugely heavy suitcase – my legs were buckling when I finally got to the top and a couple of times on the way up I had to grab the handrail to keep from falling- and I raced to the bus stop. And learned the bus to Jerusalem has just passed two minutes before. I needed to get the last bus back to Karmiel, which left the Jerusalem central bus station at 4:15. It would take an hour to get to Jerusalem from RBS, and another bus wasn’t scheduled for another twenty minutes, which wouldn’t get me there in time.
I was really feeling anxious when I thought to myself, “I’m where I’m supposed to be right now, and if I’m meant to get on the bus to Karmiel, I will. If I don’t, I’ll travel to a different city in the north and get a connecting bus from one of those places. But somehow, I’ll get home tonight.”
Amazingly, a bus pulled up 11 minutes later, and continuing to think the above thoughts kept me from tapping my foot in impatience every time people got on the bus. I got to the central bus station with just enough time to very quickly buy something to eat – it was already after 4 pm and I hadn’t eaten anything since the night before – and got on my bus four minutes before it pulled out. It was so nice to sit, take a deep breath, and for the first time that day, eat and relax.
Why did I feel it was worthwhile to spend so much time going to Jerusalem to buy these things? It cost me approximately 110 shekels for my travel expenses. I spent approximately 120 shekels on clothing, which included about 16 skirts, three uniform shirts, several ladies tops, a number of children’s vests and dress shirts, and six pairs of shoes. Total: 250 shekels.
If I had to purchase just two uniform skirts for dd10, I would have had to pay at least 80 shekels plus the cost of a bus ticket to Tzfat (approximately 110 shekels). I knew that if I found just two skirts for her at the clothing exchange, the cost of my travel to Jerusalem would be comparable, and if I bought anything else, I’d be coming out ahead. Even assuming I could have found comparable items to what I bought that day in the Tzfat used clothing exchange (I don’t know how likely a scenario that would be), I would have paid at least double for just about every single item I bought, bringing the clothing cost itself to at least 240 shekels, possibly up to 360.
Although my trip was fruitful, I don’t anticipate making this a regular event. I went yesterday because dh is home and able to pick up the littles from kindergarten if I’m not available. In the future, that wouldn’t be the case and this trip wouldn’t be realistic. And it was a very long and fatiguing day. However, because there were things I really needed for the kids for school, I wanted to go where the likelihood was highest of getting most of those things in one day, which is how it worked out.
A trip to the used clothing exchange in Tzfat can be squeezed in between the time the littles leave to school and need to be picked up, and because in a family our size, there’s always someone who needs something, that’s a trip I hope to make next week!