It’s been about a year and a half now that I’ve given thrift shopping some serious consideration and effort as an alternative to traditional shopping methods. It was a bit difficult at first, primarily because I felt uneasy about what others would think if I told them that the sweater I was wearing was from Value Village rather than some high end retail store. How could I ever show my face if people knew that the clothes I bought were worn by someone else at some point?? But the reality is that all our clothes have been worn by someone else, either in the store or by someone who has bought and then returned them.
My hesitation to really step into the thrifting culture was because of what it would mean for my “social status” which is so cringe-y to admit openly. The perpetuation of the idea that only “poor people” shop at thrift stores really held me back for a while until I realized how completely untrue that was and how brainwashed by consumerism and capitalism I’d become—always needing the newest thing and getting bored of something I’ve had for a few months.
Despite all that, I can confidently and openly say that I’ve been thrift shopping more regularly these days and it’s made a big difference both to my bank account and to my perception of social status and identity. I think we all tend to tie our self-image in with what we own and that can be a very dangerous way of seeing the world because nothing last forever. For today’s post I wanted to talk a bit about why I' started thrift shopping, why I continue to do it, and a few of my favourite places to go in London at the moment.
Reducing Clothing Waste
I was initially encouraged to thrift shop by the documentary The True Cost, which discussed the impact fast fashion has on people, communities and the environment as a whole. This was also when I got into my minimalism kick and was trying really hard to be more mindful of the things I brought into my life after having recently quit my full-time job. At that time I was being paid a very good salary that was going toward buying new things in order to make me feel less miserable went I went to work. You can read more about that in my posts here and here.
It was then that I realized how vital it is to reduce waste with our clothing and how thrift shopping (using something that’s already been produced rather than creating demand for more) is so much better for the environment and for the psyche. It amazes me to think that thrift stores all around the world, busting at the seams with clothes in perfect condition (some never worn) are being ignored simply because they are considered “thrift”. These items would otherwise be in a landfill somewhere and I would much rather take advantage of the opportunity to buy a barely worn shirt for $10 rather than a new one that was made for much less but costs much more.
Giving My Money To A Better Cause
Rather than spend my hard earned money to fuel a company that is known to promote and perpetuate unfair trade and unsustainable materials I would much rather spend it in a store that is selling used clothes to raise funds for charities or cancer research. There are a few thrift stores around my area that put their money toward much more ethical causes and aren’t out to just make more money for their CEOs. This also makes me feel much more comfortable with any amount of money I spend because I know it is being used to help others in an indirect way.
The Thrill Of The Hunt
When people think of thrift shopping the image of oversized logo t-shirts and men’s used Levi’s come to mind. And while those are realistic there are also a lot of hidden gems in thrift stores that just take a bit of digging to find. One of my favourite aspects of thrift shopping is the hunt for an item to add to my wardrobe and the excitement when I’ve actually found something that is in great condition, fits well, and is incredibly cute. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it makes the entire process worth it. It also helps curb my spending habits because I’m not just dishing out money at the first trendy thing I see in traditional clothing stores—this takes more time, patience and consideration as to whether a certain item will add value to my life. I’ll usually have to make a day of thrift shopping because I know I’ll have to take my time going through all the wracks individually until I find a few items that catch my attention and work with my personal sense of style.