It started innocently enough. As a project leader for my local “Hands On” group, I took a project at a local thrift shop that benefits a domestic abuse shelter. Five years later I still volunteer there, at least one a month, to get my thrifting fix. I blame the shop for the difficulty I have in shopping almost anywhere else. And at the same time I blame the shop for my willingness to occasionally splurge on something great, because I spend so little otherwise.
Thrift shop addiction is not an addiction that drives you to purchase anything and everything that’s a fabulous value. It’s an addiction to finding exactly what you need or want, at prices so low you feel like you should offer more. $5 leather coats in perfect condition. A Disney mug still in the box, $1. Almost new IKEA bar stools, $10 each. A solid wood, brand name, Parsons-style table and four chairs, also for my son’s new apartment, $100. A natural cotton shirt from that pricey store, with its original price tag. (Bought for 99 cents, I kid you not.) My rule now is buy one, donate one. It’s a win all around: I refresh my wardrobe, my closet stays under control, the shop gets new merchandise, AND I get a tax donation.
Truth be told, I haven’t bought a new pair of my favorite jeans from the Gap or Banana Republic in years. People keep growing out of my styles, in my size, and donating them to my favorite thrift shop. Or maybe they’re losing weight, in which case their loss is my gain.
In exchange for three hours of concerted work, inspecting, hanging, shelving, and racking donations, and making sure displays and racks are as attractive as those you’d find in a nice department store, thrift shop volunteers can almost always score something perfect (for them) for a song. (Well not a whole song, usually just two or three notes, as in 99 cents or $1.99.) My absolute best find of all times: a vintage Coach briefcase. It looked a bit worn but better than the briefcase I was using at the time. The case made an amazing comeback with a little effort and $20 of Coach’s glove leather cleaner and moisturizer. Thanks to the person who donated that! (To preclude tears I won’t tell you how much I paid for the case, but it was less than a fast food meal.)
I have heard a number of anti-thrift arguments from friends and family members. Here are the most frequent criticisms, and how I respond.
- “Ugh, someone else wore that!” Well yes, just like some of the clothes in department stores that were tried on by 25 people before you. And I wash thrift shop purchases or get them dry cleaned before I wear them.
- “You’re wearing something that belonged to a dead person!” Well maybe. So? (See dry cleaning comment above.)
- “It’s unlikely a thrift shop would have anything I want.” Perhaps yes, perhaps no, but you won’t know until you visit a few times. My last three Ann Taylor suits came from a thrift shop and even with tailoring costs they were a steal (figuratively).
Volunteering is good for the soul and for the world…. and sometimes, for the budget. Are you a thrift shop addict too?