The Dollar Store, and Lifting Up Out of Squalor

I was on my way home from Installment #1 of "Lift Ourselves Out of Squalor" (LOOS), in which I will be helping a friend, who in turn will be helping me, in the project of gaining some semblance of order and lack of squalor in our houses and grounds.  (Doesn't "grounds" sound fancy?)  I'm the sort of person who works around things that normal people would fix.  Like, if a lightbulb goes out, I stop using that area and move toward a different light like a moth.  If a sink starts dripping, I turn it off at the base, and stop using that sink.  And so on.  (The only thing I have going for me is that I'm not very aquisitive; I'm not a hoarder.  Oh, and I don't have a million cats.  That's two things, if we're counting.)  I like to call this being flexible, but it's leading toward squalor, and I'm super excited to have a buddy in lifting ourselves up out of this condition.  But that's not the point.

The point is that I went into a Dollar Store yesterday, which is the weirdest idea for a store ever; I was slow to grasp it.  Nothing is labeled with a price, of course, because you don't need that.  So I kept carrying things up to the cashier, asking "How much is this?"  And the answer was the same every time.  "A dollar."  What was kind of sad, now that I think about it, is that she didn't stop to explain:  every single thing is a dollar, you can stop asking, fer crissakes.  She just kept answering until I figured it out on my own.

It is the oddest organizing principle for a store.  It doesn't have a normal theme, like food, building materials, or clothing, but around a price.  Are people sitting at home, thinking, sheesh, I'm all out of things that are a dollar.  Where could I go? Oh, I know!

I was so amazed by the whole thing that I wandered around with a basket and threw stuff in it.  (After verifying the price with the clerk.)  It was almost like that coma I fell into in Target one day 10 years ago.  You know the one I mean.

What I bought:

  • A small square plastic box with 100 toothpicks in it.  I think this is a good deal, if you need toothpicks.  Which I don't, but still.  If I had mini-marshmallows, I could build a model of the periodic table.  
  • Six foil cake pans.  They came in groups of two, for guess how much?  Yes.  I think this is a terrible deal, but I need them to make special stuff for my bees, so money is no object.  I spent $3 on these 6 pans.
  • Two rolls of parchment paper.  I love parchment paper for all the obvious reasons, and would have bought it even if it were $3, because that's how I roll.
I've been thinking about the dollar store ever since I left, and realized I need to go back, because I was so distracted by the price that I didn't really notice who else was shopping there or what they were buying. 


  1. Thanks for the tour. I've never been in one of those places. It is a strange concept to go someplace and see what you can get, whether you need it or not, for a buck.

  2. Price check on aisle nine!
    Nope. Not at the Dollar Store.
    I love the Dollar Store. Some things are a little sketchy- would you eat steak from the Dollar Store? Probably not. But sometimes they have awesome hot sauce. And candles and picture frames and twinkly lights and wrapping paper and decorations and Jergen's hand soap and one time, at a strange period in my life, I was buying Madonna (the Virgin one, not the singing one) night lights by the bushel there and spending half my waking hours decorating them with fingernail polish and sequins and glitter and tiny silk roses. I am not even kidding you.
    Take some time- go on a treasure hunt. No price checks necessary.
    Oh- and I'm the same type of person as you when it comes to house repair and so forth. It makes me feel completely inadequate.

    1. I like to imagine you glitzing up Madonna. This is the trajectory, though, that has you eventually dressing up your chickens and pushing them around in a cart. Just sayin... :-)

  3. They had lots of unicorns there once. A whole package of unicorns for a dollar! I bought a bunch! I was going to flock them! And make fuzzy toys! And...they were still unicorning around in my possession ten years later, still in their bags. Gave them away to lucky kids who now can save their dollars for...I dunno, zombies maybe?

    1. Wow! Now I know where to go if I need unicorns. (And I love that as a verb too. "Unicorning"! Let's go unicorning!)

  4. I LURVE the dollar store. Stores, plural, in our town. Different stuff in each one. It's so freaking awesome. The stuff I buy? Plastic gloves for handling raw meat or anything else I don't want to have to scrub my hands raw after touching. Fake Swiffer sheets because they do almost as good a job as the real ones and are insanely cheaper (and I DO have cats and their fur is constantly, always, forever falling out and forming large cat hair tumbleweeds in my house, so - Swiffering is necessary). Craft supplies like beads and ribbons and I don't know what all else. Facecloths and wash basins and drinking glasses and socks and cards and envelopes and table napkins and stickers for kids and stickers (labels) for me and hangers and garment bags and hooks and yarn and cat toys ..... and on and on.

    Of course, our dollar store now also charges $1.25 and $1.50 and even as high as $3.00 for some stuff, but it's for the bigger stuff, and if there's no price sticker, it's a buck.

    I'm so excited for you, Betsy! (and I am imagining you slowly backing away from me as you read this)

    1. That made me laugh out loud, Jennio. I don't even know what a REAL swiffer sheet should look like! I might have a little fear of the dollar store. Things could get really bad here if I start collecting. Madonnas and unicorns and fake swiffer sheets all over...

    2. No no no - do not collect, just get useful stuff! Be discerning, Betsy! And I am so glad you laughed while you backed away :)

  5. LOOS! Yahoo!

    I am also a little afraid of the dollar store. I've never been in one. Maybe I should scootch a little outside my comfort zone and try it, but I'm afraid I would just be tempted to buy a bunch of stuff, like bags of little unicorns, that will just add to the clutter/squalor problem.

  6. I had a friend who dollar stored everywhere she went because she was ON THE HUNT for ceramic cats with their eyes painted crooked so they looked cross eyed or insane. I never questioned this quest because it seemed perfectly normal at the time to collect cross eyed insane looking ceramic cats. The dollar store fills a very important and unique niche in our otherwise perfect lives. I do think dollar stores are run my aliens who have an interesting idea about human life, but that's another story.


    Beth the younger

  7. by aliens, not my aliens sheesh.

    Do I have personal aliens? I better go look.

  8. Inspired by you, Betsy, I made my virgin trip to the dollar store yesterday! I spent $16.05, and I didn't get ANY tiny unicorns or wonky-eyed ceramic cats.

  9. Oh Betsy! Good luck with the LOOS program!

    Your life will never be the same if you look up dollar store crafts on pinterest.
    Don't believe all the hype tho, those nifty tiered trays made with candle sticks? Nobody tells you super glue both clouds the glass and fails to hold for long, and maybe we just needed better glue, but you get what you get at the dollar store!

    I'll tell you what I'm always on the lookout for, nothing as funny as Beth's friend, but almost as rare. Boxes of aluminum foil that come out in sheets like kleenex, perfect size for small jobs. Also small boxes of plastic wrap for leftovers, again perfect size. I like things that are downsized I guess.

    But seriously. Go with a friend. Walk the aisles. Don't buy dog or cat treats, or flimsy made in China ticky tacky stuff, but look for the real bargains like a scavenger hunt. Enjoy. :)

    1. Uh oh. I have a bad feeling about this, Mel, but I'll trust your judgement....


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