One of the things I miss the most about Chicago are it's insanely cheap and predictably awesome thirft stores. While New York has it's thrift stores (Housing Works is pretty cool), they are for the most part either way too expensive or way too gross. It's a real bummer. I used to walk to the thrift in my old neighborhood at least once a week. It was just the right distance from our house to make it count as exercise, and I could always count on there being one or two jewels waiting to be had. Best of all, most everything in the clothing aisles was always organized by color. So satisfying to look at! Looking for a red? Boom- over there! Green? Not today. I'm teaching a three week intensive at SAIC next summer, and you can bet that after hours I'll be hitting up every Village Discount Outlet in town.
On the upside, Brooklyn has stoops full of goodness just set out for the taking. New Yorkers don't have time to take things to the thrift store, so they just take what they've got outside, sometimes leaving a "free" note, but usually not. Everybody gets the stoop code- if it's sitting there, it could be yours if you pick it up. Nothing lasts longer than a few hours on a sunny afternoon. People just set things out that they don't want any more, thereby cutting out the middle man. With books it's like a community wide lending library, no card required and no late fees. In December I found two items that had been on my wishlist for a long time; a tripod and Trivial Pursuit, both in mint condition. I actually found two Trivial Pursuit's on the same day, but the first was in kind of sloppy shape. I was bummed for only five minutes until I found the second. All three of the books I got my dad for Christmas were found this same way: for free! Sweet! Right before I went to Squam last year my neighbor put out a giant box of embroidered monogrammed linens. I gave them to all my students (after washing on hot twice.) I miss those color co-ordinated t-shirt racks, but I'll take what I can get in Park Slope.