Thrift shopping is a long time pleasure and escape for me, going way back to shopping for Halloween costumes when I was very young to my early teens when I had my own babysitting money to spend. I remember a camping trip to Carpinteria with my grandparents when I was in junior high school. Me and my camping companion and close friend Sandy ventured into the little town and browsed through a thrift shop full of vintage stuff. I bought a classic black clutch with a gold rhinestone clasp that I still use every time I go somewhere formal, and we are talking some 25 years later. It fondly reminds me of the beginning of my appreciation for finding such treasures. When I moved away from the beach to my current home, I not only mourned the loss of leaving such a beautiful city but also my favorite local thrift and consignment shops. Not sure I've ever quite recovered.
Now, I'm not fanatical about it or anything, especially since I'm not a big fan of clutter in my home. I just occasionally get this itch, kind of like a sushi craving, where I have to go or it bugs me until I do. These days I mostly shop for children's clothes and my own clothes. Also, when I go somewhere on vacation, I usually stop at a local shop and search for a Santa or hidden treasure. It’s not only a great way to talk to local people but also find a unique memento – beats cheesy hats or t-shirts any time.
When I thrift shop for clothes I follow a few personal rules. I only buy nice brands or labels I don’t recognize – never any brands from a big store that also sells toilet paper because I might as well buy it new. I keep away from yellow, orange, and stripes – they look horrible on me no matter what the bargain price. I stick with my mission as much as possible – if I’m there for kid pants I always look for those first…anything else I find is bonus. If I’m buying something for myself, I must really like it – a closet full of $3 shirts that I never wear and I might as well shop retail and buy one expensive high quality shirt that I wear every week. Just because it’s in a thrift store, doesn’t mean it’s a good deal – avoid the temptation and impulse and think with my head.
So, when I proudly look over my pile of ten tops for $36 that I bought yesterday (just look at that pretty green top pictured above!), I feel like I’ve satisfied my thrift shopping urge for a while, and livened up my bland wardrobe. I just love the feeling of a satisfying experience. When I stopped by my favorite Goodwill store a few weeks ago, they just happened to have a sale where all children's clothes were $1 each. I bought twenty-two items for $22 and felt the euphoria for hours later. I also smile thinking about the interesting cross-section of people I saw that day, from the loud and a little-too-talkative volunteer who was there fulfilling her probation hours (I didn’t dare ask why), to the friendliest and most cheerful store manager you ever met.
I realize that for many, thrift shopping is a necessity in order to afford clothing and household items for their family. Thank goodness there are so many charitable people who donate their items and time. But, for me it’s a sort of pastime that I would continue even if I struck it rich. Maybe it’s the solitude of browsing for a few hours by myself or maybe the thrill of finding a good deal or the adventure of discovering neat treasures. Perhaps it’s just simply something I enjoy to do for all those reasons. It might not be the most exciting thing to do with my time compared to rock climbing or salsa dancing, but it’s been a part of my life longer than any of my friends, it’s relatively inexpensive, and only slightly risky (cute in the store doesn’t always look so flattering at home). It’s a part of who I am and I certainly appreciate that more and more latelyand that’s a good deal indeed.