Thrift stores are the new best friends that I used to vehemently loathe. The mere mention of them would evoke images of shelves drowning in dust and spilling over with discarded junk, unorganized racks displaying the unwanted garb of some prehistoric era and that musty smell reminiscent of a football team’s locker room. That said, I was no stranger to the thrift scene. Throughout my college days friends on student sized incomes shopped for gently used clothes, shoes and accessories before selling last season’s stale getups. And although I was surprisingly impressed by their frugal new finds, some even bagging unique vintage frocks and handbags, I could never bring myself to dabble in the secondhand world. The only hand-me-downs I ever accepted were from my fabulously fashionable fashionista of a sister. And even though my friends looked equally as fabulous in their preowned gear I was far too proud to be so ‘cheap’. Thrift stores were, in my estimation, the refuges of asylum seeking knickknacks.
This snobbery of mine would soon to be tested. I’ll set the scene for you: I’m pregnant. At the mall. This baby of mine needs some stuff. Heck, he needs a lot of stuff! I’m convinced that I can buy all of it in one mad shopping spree and call it a day. So I begin browsing the aisles of Babies’R’Us, which is as frightening as Disney World, and peruse the many price tags. Suddenly I break out into a sweat and begin palpitating. No, I’m not going into labor, and no it’s not because I’m that bad at math. My distress is from wondering how on God’s planet earth I’d pay such a hefty sum for things which would eventually become obsolete, outgrown or dumped into a charity bin. Should I send my friends and family a desperate plea dressed up as a baby shower list? Would my child end up as the scarred consequence of my not being able to afford matching decor for his non existent nursery? Would he be dapper enough to accompany me as my trophy child to socialite hotspots, (which I obviously frequent regularly, duh!), if I were forgo the designer baby wear? Then, in my moment of absolute despair, I catch a glimpse of a ‘Reduce-Reuse-Recycle’ signpost and I knew instantly that those preowned junk stores that I’d previously scorned and mocked would be my only sanctuary.
Like a criminal I stealthily made my way along a stretch of road bursting with used goods and skeptically entered a store, hoping no one would spot me. Oh the dread if they did! How would I explain myself? I should have proceeded in a Lady GaGa disguise so as to conceal the sins I was about to commit; after all nobody judges her, right? And……Ta-da! To my pleasant surprise this store was more baby boutique than consignment. Clothes were washed, pressed and neatly arranged in labeled aisles. It was easy to navigate and that tell tale smell wasn’t lingering around. It was stocked with slings, nursing pillows, prams, toys and other bare necessities and merchandise was in like-new condition and even boasted brands such as Under the Nile and Kate Quinn Organics. I was speechless. This changed everything. I’d have to rethink my entire philosophy of buying and spending. Here I’d been, prejudice towards the entire ilk of thrift without making room for the possibility that they might, just might, be alright. But they were more than alright, they were bloody wonderful!
Thrift stores eventually became my playground. I went from extreme thrift hater to extremely thrifty. My unborn child’s wardrobe for the first year of his life (I like to prepare in advance you see) and other essentials were almost entirely store bought second-handers or hand-me-downs. That said, my new passion wasn’t without it’s drawbacks. Aside from the obligatory items I also managed to rake in a whole load of junk. It was so cheap and I just couldn’t resist. My living room morphed from minimalist haven, to hoarders paradise . Like an addict looking for her next fix I spent hours seeking out deals and patted myself on the back for being so economical. Eventually the stores weren’t enough to sustain my habit. I began to itch, I needed a virtual thrill, so I resorted to hookups like Ebay and Craigslist – which is Gumtree and Preloved for those of us in Her Majesty’s Kingdom. I wasted precious hours contacting quack sellers and trying to win auctions, of which I won none. Eventually my husband was forced to stage an intervention… and I lived to tell the tale. I am now free of my thrift addiction and do on occasion stop by the mall *gasp*. I still continue to shop frugally, especially for baby items, but realise that unbridled consumerism, in whichever form it appears , can be extremely destructive.
So if you are like I was, completely grossed out at buying someone else’s leftovers then don’t be, you’ll be doing the environment and your purse a huge favor. And If you are already a seasoned thrift shopper then I salute you. But you will both do well to remember that there is a hierarchy when it comes to shopping for seconds. At the bottom we have the misfits, selling clothes that would have made spiffy cleaning rags, and other gadgets and gizmos clearly rescued from the landfill. Then come the mediocre guys, which contain a plethora of 80’s fashion, funky halloween costumes and Simpsons memorabilia- all in good condition but that were discarded for obvious reasons. At the top are the more sophisticated types: clean cut, well dressed, nice smelling, and worth every penny you spend in them, unless of course they have an adverse effect on your health, the quality of your life and your bank account.
And so the next time you ask me where I bought that cute little outfit for my son from and my response is ‘it’s from a friend’, you know exactly which ‘friend’ I’m referring to, those new best friends of mine to be exact, who may also be responsible for your child’s next birthday present.
A few knickknacks of my own:
- Grove Street Kids based in Berkeley, California Is the chic store which was the impetus for my thrift addition.
- H&M have begun a garment recycling initiative in recent months. It’s also great to know that the company finally signed the agreement to ensure better safety standard in the factories they use in Bangladesh, after the recent factory collapse.
- It’s hard to believe but kids will have absolutely no idea whether they’re wearing brand new or not so new.
- When buying larger used baby items such as cribs, car seats and walkers, do make sure they are safe to use before purchasing.