Friday, April 28, 2017

For the love of thrift stores

Younger Daughter has been sorting through some clothes recently, selecting some to give away. In one of those "one thing leads to another" conversations, we both agreed on the superior quality of thrift store clothing.

Oddly enough, despite its reputation, thift-store clothing is usually of higher quality than that found in new-clothing stores. Why? Because it's withstood the test of time. It's been through the wringer already, and is still tough enough to be sold as usable. With judicious selection for style and fashion, thrift-store clothing can last many years.

People donate clothes to thrift stores for a wide variety of reasons. They may have outgrown the garment, or it no longer suits their taste, or they're just discarding older clothes to make room in their closet. But the one thing you seldom see in thrift stores are clothes that are worn, torn, or stained beyond redemption.

That's because thrift store employees are smart. They weed out the garments too battered to resell. As a result, the clothes displayed on the racks, while perhaps not up in the latest fashion, are not worn out.

Of course, this assumes you're not bitten by the "fast fashion" bug, wherein you must always wear the latest style. (That is SO not me.) Besides, "vintage" clothing is now fashionable, right?

But thrift stores supply so much more than clothes, of course. I remember one time I was in need of laundry baskets. (I prefer the wicker ones.) I kept my eyes peeled and, sure enough, hit the jackpot a few weeks later with a bunch of wicker laundry baskets in excellent condition for pennies on the dollar.

(This photo, for example, was taken from a website selling the basket -- new -- for $59.99. Ouch.)

Aside from such benefits as cheap prices and minimal packaging, thrift stores provide variety. So much of what we use every day, everything from laptop cases to pots and pans to couch throw pillows to canning jars to books, come from thrift stores (or other thrifty options such as yard sales). In fact, true story, I believe the only new furniture we have in our home is our couch/loveseat set we bought in 2004. Everything else came second-hand or was built by Don.

Older Daughter, now working as a live-in nanny in upscale suburban New Jersey, has discovered green living. Having grown up in a "green" home where we "disposed of disposables" years ago, where we compost and recycle and re-purpose and shop in thrift stores, at first she relished the novelty of new stuff. While she is diligently saving an enormous portion of her paycheck, she splashed out and had some fun with her income, buying clothes and books and things she enjoyed. This is perfectly normal and understandable. When you're raised on a tight budget and then suddenly earn enough money to play, you go a little crazy.

But now the novelty is fading, and Older Daughter is looking around at the wasteful habits of the suburban neighborhood around her and becoming appalled. She's learning that green living (without the requisite militant green attitude, of course) is frugal, thrifty, and sensible. She's exploring a zero-waste lifestyle. It's kind of fun to watch her grow in this area.

Raising kids with a thrift-store lifestyle has beneficial long-term repercussions when kids become adults. Essentially, Older Daughter is returning to her green roots, though she's limited in what she can do in an urban environment (i.e. garden, raise livestock, etc. -- even composting is not permitted in her suburb) or with a family addicted to prepackaged snacks and meals. While she may not be able to influence the wasteful habits of her live-in family, she can at least adjust her own actions.

So her legacy of bulk buying, scratch cooking, and of course thrift stores will serve Older Daughter well in her adult life.

Yep, thank God for thrift stores -- the truly "green" way to purchase household necessities.


  1. Unfortunately, not all thrift stores are great. My local Sal Army has items on the racks that are ripped, stained and falling apart....and there was a flock of fleas hovering above the prom dresses.

    Also, now that bed bugs are proliferating, buying used stuffed furniture can be a nightmare.

    But you are right, Patrice...going thrifty is the real green.

  2. I use to love thrift store shopping, but most of them now have priced there goods at almost the same price as new . While paper back books are about half price at $3.99, that's still more than I am willing to pay on my oh so tight budget. St Vincent De Paul still has some reasonable priced goods but the Salvation Army and Goodwill up in Tucson are way out of my budget. I find the real places to save are in Garage sales .

    Dee in the South West

  3. I've noticed the same thing about our five children--after a brief fling with living high, they return to their frugal roots. Especially when they have a goal and a strong desire to reach it. This is very satisfying to me to see the fruits of all my parenting labors. As for thrift stores, I've found that private, local stores have better prices than the larger, national chains. And I love finding the high priced brands for prices I can afford to pay.

  4. Between thrift shops and yard sales, we hardly buy any "new" stuff. Good deals take some digging, and many times some waiting, but perseverance and patience are always rewarded. We've bought clothing, furniture, appliances, and even things like ham radio gear and chickens, for literally pennies on the dollar. And yes; more than likely, the things we buy are of superior quality than what is sitting on store shelves these days. There's no shame in buying used. There is, however much money to be saved!

  5. The other reason that the thrift store clothing is better is the poor quality of the new stuff available! I can remember when Japanese goods ment shoddy, I am still waiting for China to figure it out.

  6. My favorite thrift store find was a plastic dish drying rack, with the tray, in new condition. My old one had worn out and when I shopped our local big box store for a new one I refused to pay the price. I decided I would keep the tray that I had and put a dish towel over it, then I would just dry the dishes and put them away once they were washed, instead of letting them air dry. After about two weeks I was getting very tired of this but refused to give in. One day I happened to be at a Salvation Army Store with my sister and Aunt and came across a brand new dish rack priced at about 1/4 of what the big box store price was. Woo Hoo, was I a happy girl!!

  7. I definitely think the quality of thrift stores depend on the area. I have cousins in Maine who have great ones. Ours are generally terrible for women's clothes. My husband can find decent shirts sometimes. The prices are certainly higher than they should be.

    Actually, I have noticed overall higher prices in used items, from books in second hand stores and Ebay, to Craigslist stuff. My dad and I have made a sort of competitive hobby of buying used and we were debating what was driving up prices. I wish we knew for sure!

    PS re: women's clothes...I have much better luck sewing my own since I have a simple "uniform" consisting of skirt/sleeveless shirt. In Florida this works 10 months out of the year! I only wish the quality of fabric was better in big box hobby stores...

  8. This belongs in the last blog - but I thought too many might miss it and it will be enjoyed by more here. Perhaps someone else has coined it - but I had not heard/thought of it and nor had the rest of the extended family - many from a big depression era farm.

    My youngest has been taking care of my hens the past week while I have been out of town helping my elderly parents. Up returning he commented on the behavior of my laying hens - who we lock up each night and release every morning. He stated that they sure like being released from the "Henitentiary" in the morning! :-) Natokadn

    1. Have you ever seen the movie Chicken Run? it is a stop motion/ claymation film based on that premise - the egg farm is styled as a concentration camp, and chickens who don't produce get the chop.

  9. Our daughter had signed up to attend the spring formal. We found a beautiful gown that fit her perfectly - didn't even need to be hemmed - plus strappy heels with the same sort of decorations as the dress, all at our local thrift shop for $7.47 for BOTH. The masquerade mask we purchased was the most expensive part of her outfit!

    We were marveling that some girls spend hundreds on their prom gowns. Maybe I'm slightly biased, but our daughter was absolutely gorgeous in her gown - plus elegant and modest. It was a win, win, win.

    Sometimes she gets tired of shopping thrift stores but then can't bring herself to pay normal retail when she shops elsewhere anyway.

  10. I once thought of making a list of the things I had purchased used like at thrift shops, yard/garage sales and such. Then I realized that a list of the new things would be way smaller. I would not mind buying new if only they were of a good quality. My little church based thrift shop has 25 cent day on all clothing every Friday with only a few exceptions. You can really get a ton with those prices.

  11. The majority of my clothes are thrift finds and you are right the quality is so much better. Prices have gone up in recent years but I still know a store selling used paperbacks for a quarter... but most stores are higher now. As people have commented, its true different areas have different quality of stores. My aunt from California visits me in the Midwest and thrifts back here as she cannot find as much in her area of a quality she likes. My wardrobe is so nice for so much less.. why pay $30 for something you can get for $2.50-$5.00. I have decorated my house, filled my kitchen with dishes, bakeware, and some nice appliances and happily done up my patio.. all thrifting. Sooner or later everything ends up at the thrift store. JAV

  12. I wish I had better thrift stores here; the Salvation Army store that was good went downhill and closed, the Good Will is expensive and limited, and the local store that used to be good closed.

  13. I live in an area where the Goodwill stores have 1/2 price Saturdays twice a month. Also, we have ARC stores that do 1/2 price Saturdays each week and also have a 1/2 price color tag of the week.

    I have found the expensive "not my daughter's jeans" for $15 or less. They cost $100+ at pricey department stores. I think I own one sweater that was bought new, and it was a gift. I also have gotten really lucky and found some dance/skating dresses around Halloween. Figure skating dresses can be incredibly expensive, so that was truly "getting lucky" for me.

    We also found almost all of our son's furniture on 1/2 price days. When he got his first apartment, we offered to help him get some furniture and household items for Christmas and his birthday (a couple of weeks later)instead of regular gifts. He was thrilled with our offer. We found almost everything he needed for a studio apartment, including cookware for under $200. It took a little digging, but it was fun "hunting."

  14. Yikes! A new willow basket costs THAT much?! I just bought one at the thrift store for $5!