Second-Hand Shopping

Lovely teacup
Thrift store teacup

There was a time in my life when I never darkened the door of a thrift store. I had a variety of reasons – I thought it took too much work to find something really good, I thought second hand stores smelled bad (they sometimes do), and I didn’t really like the idea that some stranger had worn that shirt or eaten off this plate.

Things have changed. These days I love second hand shopping. When I had kids I discovered that children’s clothing can get really expensive, really fast. This is especially true when they’re super-tiny and they grow through clothes at an alarming rate. Sometimes you don’t even remember to put them in an outfit before they’re too big to wear it. Suddenly, I could see the appeal of thrift stores where the items were a fraction of the cost and sometimes hadn’t even been worn.

Learning about environmentalism also changed my view on thrift store shopping. We all know the mantra ‘Reduce Reuse Recycle’. Buying used clothing and household items is a really great way to put new life into old things, saving them from the landfill and reducing your own carbon footprint at the same time. A second-hand tablecloth doesn’t need to be manufactured just for you, it already exists. I feel much less shopping guilt when I buy used.

The biggest factor in my thrift store change of heart, though, was adjusting my mindset. When I believed that I wouldn’t find anything I liked, that the store was awful, and that buying second-hand was icky my beliefs were largely fulfilled. You’re not going to find something you like when you’re miserable. But if I enter a store with an open mind, believing that I’m doing a good thing and that I can find some great treasures, I do. Maybe not all the time, but the same thing is true when you buy new.

I don’t buy everything second-hand, of course. I draw the line at second-hand underwear. Or used bed linens. But most of my shirts are ‘new to me’ and I’m amassing a lovely collection of thrifted china teacups. They’re not matchy-matchy, but I like it that way. And I’m always on the lookout for cast iron pots and pans or vintage fabrics. If you keep your eyes open you can make some great finds, and save money and the planet at the same time.

Second-hand shopping doesn’t end at the thrift store, either. Garage sales, swap meets, consignment stores and antique shops are also great places to find used treasures. You can even venture online and check out Craigslist or track down vintage items on Etsy. Even if your local thrift store leaves something to be desired, there are ways to make second-hand shopping work for you.

What about you? Do you enjoy shopping second-hand? Any recent finds you’d like to brag about? Please share!

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You can catch up with Amber’s first-hand accounts of life on her blog at

7 Responses to Second-Hand Shopping
  1. Cathy
    April 9, 2010 | 9:10 am

    I love this post. For the longest time, I was a thrift store “snob” and thought only people who couldn’t afford to buy things brand new went there to shop. Well, I have changed that mindset completely. We have made some wonderful finds at our local thrift store and it has become a favorite place for my husband and I to browse through together!

  2. Wendy (The Local Cook)
    April 9, 2010 | 10:28 am

    I really need to try to go to secondhand stores. With an open mind. Thanks for the post!

  3. lace
    April 17, 2010 | 1:33 pm

    I’ve just started thrift store shopping. I just bought several shirts to turn into dresses for the girls. I don’t think they’ve ever been worn either. I’m hoping my sewing skills will be able to create something nice for them.

  4. Monica
    May 25, 2010 | 7:19 pm

    I live in a very rural area. There are a few second hand thrift stores but some of the prices they are asking for things you may as well buy new. What’s up with that? Then there is the Good Will…LOVE that place.

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