Growing up, the extent of my thrift store experience involved sifting through racks of old t-shirts at the Salvation Army. Dated Cleveland Indians gear that perhaps no longer seemed relevant to a disgruntled fan. A cast-off souvenir from Jamaica. An outgrown pee-wee hockey league championship memento. For whatever reason, my girlfriends and I couldn’t get enough of these worn tees, and the more random the motif, the better.
It wasn’t until a few years back that I realized the multi-faceted benefits of thrifting and really came to view it as a means of discovering a wide range of unique items (clothing, home décor, kitchen tools, you name it) that still have plenty of life left, and for a fraction of the off-the-shelf price. I have since vowed to embrace my admiration for all things vintage and recycled and take the time to find distinctive, second-hand items instead of rushing to the nearest mall to buy new.
I’ve stepped foot in pretty much every thrift and consignment store within a 15 mile radius. I’ve hounded Craigslist for many furniture and athletic equipment needs. I’ve discovered a charming cluster of antique stores out in Loudoun County, Virginia. And I’ve even turned up some great vintage shops on Etsy. My favorite finds thus far include a hand painted dish set; my current road bike; various vintage necklaces; a leather couch and matching chair; a beautiful oak-framed mirror dated 1906; and various dollar-a-piece picture frames and flower vases, many of which I used as décor at my wedding reception and are now sprinkled around my apartment. All for a pittance of what it would cost to buy these new.
1) A sample of my thrifted jewelry collection
2) A hand painted dish set I found at an antique store.
Thrifting sometimes gets a bad rap for being tricky and tiresome. It does indeed require patience to sift through other people’s cast offs. It sometimes can lead to buried treasure, and other times leave you empty handed. But boy, is it a joyous occasion when you dig up a worthwhile piece. To me, giving a second life to thrifted finds is simply recycling what would otherwise end up in a landfill. Our country’s consumer-driven nature constantly bombards us with reasons to buy new, upgrade, purchase the latest and greatest. Some of this may be necessary, and in fact good for innovation and economic growth. But many times, it’s downright wasteful.
These days, whenever I feel the need to make a purchase, I first evaluate whether a thrifted item would fit the bill. This mantra continues to lead me to unique finds that have an interesting history, or that perfectly worn-in feel. It truly is a win-win, both for the environment and the wallet. The next time you’re looking for new workout tees, jewelry, dishware, a new kitchen table…whatever!….I encourage you to first check out the multitude of options out there for buying second hand (Craigslist, Etsy, a local thrift/antique/consignment store, a neighborhood yard sale (my fave, especially in the summertime!), an EcoWomen clothing swap) and see what treasures you uncover. Happy hunting!