I’ve always loved shopping and I’ve always loved a good bargain. That’s why thrift shops, vintage stores, and yard sales have been my go-to since the early days of following my mom around the Salvation Army store. There are so many great treasures and super deals to be found, but it does take time and patience.
I have a vivid memory of wearing one of my favorite thrift store finds to work one day when I was in my early twenties. I was excited when a successful leader in the nonprofit sector – who also happened to be a septuagenarian with great style – complemented me on my cashmere sweater. “Thanks, I love it too, especially because I got it for $5 at a thrift store!”, I responded. She replied with a patronizing whisper, “Sweetie, never tell your secrets, I would have never known it wasn’t from Nordstrom!” I admired this woman’s professional success, but completely rejected that particular piece of advice.
To this day, I always tell people if I’m complimented on my thrifty finds. It feels like a badge of honor, but even more importantly, I get the opportunity to add something like, “Thanks! I love finding bargains AND reducing waste. Did you know Americans throw away over 16 million tons of clothing and textiles every year!?!?”
In fact, according to the EPA, in 2014 Americans generated over 16 million tons of textile waste. That’s about 80 pounds per person! I definitely don’t want to be a part of that statistic, do you??? With my renewed commitment to reducing my carbon footprint, I’m trying to buy new only when absolutely necessary. Fortunately, more people are becoming aware of this issue and clothing reuse and recycling are becoming more common.
What to do with your used clothing:
- Donate to a local thrift shop (we have a lovely little store run by volunteers in our town) or community closet or national chain (like Goodwill or Salvation Army)
- Sell (or give away) to someone at a yard sale, rummage sale, or online through facebook or Craigslist
- Recycle un-wearable clothes at a retailer like H&M, The North Face, Patagonia, Madewell, or Levi’s, who will not only recycle your items, but may give you a coupon, too!
- Sell your clothes to a local resale or consignment store (we have a great local kids’ consignment store) or try online services like ThredUp, Swap.com, or Tradesy
(You can also drop your stuff in one of those boxes around town, but I’m skeptical of most of those because they’re less than transparent about how they are run or where the clothes go).
So…you wanna see what I found on my recent trip to Goodwill?
- Land’s End snowsuit for my toddler (unfortunately we probably won’t need to use it this winter) for $5.99 (similar items retail for over $40)
- Silk dress for $6.99, from burlap, label I’ve seen at Anthropologie
- Paige skinny jeans for $6.99. These are super soft, premium denim (they better be – they retail for around $200!) which happen to fit me just right
Tips for Success while Thrifting:
Here are some tips that I’ve learned in my decades of thrifting.
- Go natural. Fabrics like cotton, linen, wool, down, and leather tend to hold up better than synthetics (which are essentially made of plastic).
- Let your fingers do the shopping and look for items that feel good – this will help you zero in on luxury fabrics like cashmere and silk. These things are some of the best deals in the second-hand market.
- Second-hand jeans are even better than new because they are already worn in and they’ve already done all the stretching/shrinking they are going to do. Also, second-hand is the only way I can afford designer jeans (which, I will finally admit, are much better than Old Navy).
- Little kids – especially babies – grow out of their clothes so quickly (or mom forgets about a whole box of clothes until they’re two sizes too small). Second-hand kids clothes are rarely more than a couple of bucks and they are easy to come by.
- Costumes and crafting are more affordable, more green, and easier when you use existing garments. Someday when I have time and energy to sew again, I can’t wait to try out some of the upcycled clothing ideas I’ve collected on pinterest.
There are so many benefits to buying used clothes – it’s better for the environment, better for your wallet, things are already super soft and broken in, and it’s fun (if you like that sort of thing). 😉
Where do you like to buy second-hand clothes? How do you recycle clothing that you’re done with?
Want to learn more?
What to Do With Old Clothes, in One Easy Chart, Real Simple
Read about Lily’s sustainable back-to-school shopping here