watercolorAs a girl, I was a perfectionist. I can remember my boxes of watercolors, and how I obsessively rinsed my brushes between colors so as not to turn them into a rainbow of blacks and browns. Pastels were even more precious, and took a soft touch to blend them on paper, but not on the instrument itself. It's hard to create when you're spending your energy focused on keeping things neat and orderly.

And then I had kids.

The first time I let my two-year-old destroy a perfectly good watercolor box in a happy hour, I took lots of deep yoga breaths and then faced facts: I was not about to run back to the art supply store after every messy creation to get a new box. Painting in the black and brown spectrum didn't faze him at all. Why fight the power of a preschooler's exuberance?

So during my next trip to the Goodwill Bins, the outlet where everything is sold by the pound, I "picked" until I found some treasures. A very good quality, but heavily used, watercolor set, missing its brush. A treasure trove of fancy pastels, half of them dumped out of their box. In five minutes, I'd gathered up all the broken and chalky bits and ended up paying less than a dollar for my artistic treasure.

It turns out that the art supplies are now partially destroyed, and I often end up discovering a brilliantly-colored pastel chunk underfoot (note to mothers out there: don't clean up pastels with vinegar. It's like dying your floor). But I don't sweat: I rescued those supplies from the trash, so I can let go of my obsessive-compulsive self and just let the little boys be. Thrifting art supplies for little ones is the way to go.

This post was written as part of a series on how to thrift shop smarter. Read more on what to buy, and not to buy, at thrift stores.

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