Right before the Corona closed all my favorite stores, a Boulder company asked me to talk about how and why I thrift, and how it all began.
While my hobby is on hold due to Covid, I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Room 214 about the joys and importance of secondhand shopping. I know it will be back someday!
Find the short interview here. Now for the rest of the story…
The first time I entered a thrift store was 22 years ago, and we were there
awesomely ironically. Heading out on a sort of proto-hipster mission, my high school friends and I scoured the racks for cheesy T-shirts from family reunions, shuttered Mexican restaurants and little league teams — the apex of fashion, apparently. For the first nearly three decades of my life, that was as far as thrifting went.
Good thing I’ve made up for lost time.
Even so, my evolution to thrifting enthusiast doesn’t hinge on a memoir-worthy turnaround from overspender to mindful consumer or anything like that. The boring truth is, by both nature and nurture, I’ve always been frugal.
We didn’t go to secondhand stores when I was a kid, but watching my parents taught me about value and thoughtful purchasing. I remember isolated incidents that now add up to, Oh, I see what they did there. Save for the day my mom produced her credit card bill and taught me never to fall prey to sending the “minimum amount due,” the name of their game seemed to be show, don’t tell. Though we were comfortable financially, family vacations were mostly road trips; dresses for junior high dances, which would be worn once, were from T.J. Maxx; and some Christmas gifts were similar to what I’d asked for, but from a lower-priced brand. And fair enough: You only have to look at our nation’s scary statistics on consumer debt to see the consequences of what it can mean to be conditioned for expensive taste. In my family of origin and now in the one I’ve built with my husband, valuing value has little to do with what’s in your bank account. It’s just good sense, and boy can it save you a lot of stress and trouble to mind your money.
While predisposition and upbringing definitely started me on this path, becoming the person everyone in my circles asks about secondhand shopping was glacial. As a cash-poor New York City transplant at 25, I shopped and sold on Craigslist to “furnish” my 7-foot by 11-foot bedroom (it was a quick job). A few years later, newly married in Denver, I picked up the odd item from antique and thrift stores for our one bedroom in Capitol Hill.
It was really only once we moved to Boulder that I began to explore thrift and consignment shops, and got into conversations when friends would compliment something I was wearing, or a piece of furniture I was refinishing, or a toy I’d gotten for my twins. Before long I had frequent texts and messages asking me questions about thrifting.
Like most humanoids, as my fascination with the secondhand world has grown, I still buy new things at regular stores; I still create way too much trash; and I am not opposed to splurging on worthwhile purchases. However, as time has gone on, I’ve felt the pull to make used items a bigger part of how and why I buy. (Some call this environmental stewardship; others call it “being a cheapskate.”) I’ve increasingly begun to question some of my habits, perceived needs and the like.
For my small part of that much-larger discussion, I hope my Instagram page provides an insightful and exciting approach to where and how to look for perfectly good, gently used items for your home and life. I’ve found it all to be incredibly fulfilling, and I hope you do, too.