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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

5 Reasons to Shop at Thrift Stores

In my effort to attract some readers, I did a search on “how to attract blog readers.” Evidently, blog readers like lists. A lot of bloggers must have read this advice because there are an awful lot of lists out there. So herewith is MY entry in the list sweepstakes: 5 Reasons to Shop at Thrift Stores.

No, I am not going to mention “saving money” or even “helping the environment.” I am not even going to mention that for me going to thrift stores is akin to a Zen experience: I leave relaxed and refreshed, whether I’ve bought anything or not. Oops: I forgot to mention another thing I refuse to put on my list: helping the worthy organizations that run the stores. OK, here goes. My first list.

1. At thrift stores you get an overwhelming sense of abundance. How can you feel deprived when you can buy not one but two pairs of Lilly Pulitzer pants ($3.00 each), a Chico’s travelers skirt ($1.50), a neat military-style sweater called a “Woolly-Bully” made in England ($1.00)? That doesn’t even go into the children’s department. Or mention the zillions of nice men’s shirts, loads of Liz Claiborne, or even the St John Sport jacket (see my other post on St John) that is so ugly that it has been rejected by thrift shoppers for over a month.

2. Because of this sense of abundance, you don’t actually NEED to buy anything. This is because you know that there will always be tons of stuff as good if not better next time.

3. On a practical note, you see what the item looks like after washing and wear. Aren’t you glad you didn’t have the $80.00 Banana Republic sweater pill after a month? If I paid $100.00 for a cashmere sweater and it got a hole, I would be desolate. As is, I can buy that same sweater for $1.00 and wear it as a luxurious pajama top. Even better, I can buy a perfect item, sheer bliss.

4. If you like something at a regular store like the Gap and don’t buy it, trust me, it will appear at the thrifts within a few months. The media is full of stories about frenzied shoppers taking advantage of 75% off sales at Saks. Why bother? You can get stuff for 99% off. A surprising number will have the tags in.

5. You will meet people of all socio-economic groups. This can only be a good thing. In my little town of 8500, there are some very rich people and some very poor people. The very rich people donate and the very poor, plus the middle class, buy their stuff. It is a perfect ecosystem. And you get a real appreciation of the different gifts people have. While I never find nice furniture, even if it is in front of my nose, I am very good at finding expensive clothes by touch! And some of the very poor thrift shoppers look like they walked out of Vogue Magazine. Sadly, they may also be walking out of some houses about 10 minutes from my home that look (I kid you not) like something out of a Walker Evans photograph.

So after a morning of giving final exams to my students, I took a brief research trip to the thrift stores. I bought a few books (5 for a dollar, including the Antonia Fraser book on Marie Antoinette I’ve been wanting to read). But even though I didn’t buy much, I talked to Celeste, who hangs up the clothes at Goodwill, and to Monique, the manager. At Habitat, Charlotte tried to get me to volunteer next summer (I will! I promise!) and a customer, whose name I don’t know, told me to go to the Food Bank Thrift across the street because “they just put a lot of good stuff out.” Thanks for the tip! A blissful Zen hour. I left relaxed and ready to grade all those tests.


Chance said...

Fantastic list! I so concur with your points. For me, it is arriving at the thrift store with 5 bucks and knowing that I can buy any item of clothing in the store *without looking at the price tag*. This is bliss and abundance for me, makes me feel like a rich girl. I love your blog, you are a terrific writer.

Frugal Scholar said...

The feeling is mutual (that is, I think you are a terrific writer too)! I sometimes think you may be my only reader.

To tell you the truth (and I think you will understand this), I am a good academic writer too, but sometimes (usually) it makes me feel like I am being boiled in oil.