I haven’t always loved thrift shopping.
I say that because I’ve been thrift shopping for a long long time.
Be it the divider between the lower and upper middle classes, or just my mom loving to get a deal, going to thrift stores and flea markets was a part of my childhood I always hated.
I distinctly remember always griping about the dusty smell making my “nose itch” and yearning for the chance to go to the mall. But, shopping at the mall for a 7-year-old is neither prudent or sustainable…I soon later found out.
I think it was when I became a teenager with my own job and own source of income (and an acceptance that it was far far too expensive to buy my complete wardrobe at Urban Outfitters…and since I didn’t have one in my hometown) did I fall in love with thrifting.
After a trip to my grandma’s house made me obsessed with vinyl, and an immense Tumblr/Pinterest obsession surround me with styles I loved (that were grungy and vintage) kicked into full swing, I fell in love with the bargain and thrill of finding second-hand clothes at extremely low prices.
What’s important to know is that thrifting is a process–and a really great one at that. Thrift stores are supplied through donations and those donations are dropped off by anyone in that store’s community. That means that everything there had a former life and someone at some point wore or purchased that item before.
Whenever I go thrifting, I can pick up 3 or 4 shirts at the time, for the same price as something on super clearance at Target. But, I have 3 or 4 shirts at home I’m no longer wearing. That’s when the process of thrifting comes into play: going through your own clothes to donate.
Throwing clothes away only further fills up landfills. By donating clothes, you’re giving those (often in great condition) materials more life, so fewer resources have to be used in order to create them.
From a humanitarian perspective, thrifting also cuts down on sweatshop labor. Cheap clothes from some of my favorite stores (cough cough Forever 21) are most likely produced at a cost…people making pennies an hour from producing this season’s “latest trends.” If you study fashion, trends are cyclical. What’s in today was in 5-20 years ago, and where can you find the actual clothes from 5-20 years ago? The Salvation Army or Goodwill. Thrifting is the easiest and most passive way to “stick it” to the system of cheap labor. By not buying clothes directly from the chain store that outsources their labor in unfair ways, you’re not supporting the brand and they’re not getting your money.
Thrift stores that are not for profit (i.e. Salvation Army) are also great charities that help people in tough situations. Thrift stores provide people who could not be hired anywhere else with a livelihood and a source of income, and the profits of the thrift store go to that charity…helping feed the poor and keep lights on at a shelter.
Make sure to research your thrift store brand before you shop to make sure you agree with the charity (if there is one) before shopping.
I love thrifting, first because I love clothes.
I have always loved the excitement of shopping and that rush of dopamine you get when you find that piece you can’t live without. I also hate spending $40 for a single shirt. Thrifting was the cure and helps me learn more about yesterday’s fashions and today’s trends. Through my surface level love of thrifting, I’ve also learned and thought about the other benefits second-hand shopping creates, a both humanitarian and environmental peaceful protest.
How you spend your money is often political, but instead of spouting out hate and “I’m better than you because xyz,” why not just spread the love of thrifting? Through shopping and donating to thrift stores, you’re doing a huge part. Think about that before you drop $40 on a t-shirt or just throw your unwanted clothes in the trash.