Whatever you want to call it, you likely have feelings about buying (or receiving) secondhand items. Maybe you were a younger sibling who never got anything new growing up, or your mom was a thrift-shop fanatic so everything you owned was “vintage” (read: old). Or maybe you’re fine with it, but you can’t shake the siren call of the new and shiny, so shopping secondhand just isn’t part of the deal.
I grew up with a mom who could spot a deal from a mile away. Shopping is an olympic sport to her, and she is a gold medalist. She knows and sticks to her budget, shops this year’s clearance for next year’s life, and stocks up on pantry staples when they’re on sale. I’m not sure she’s ever paid full price in her life. She’s a genius!
But in this race for maximum savings AND efficiency, it means our items (clothing, shoes, toys, home goods, etc.) were new in the package every time. And this is what I learned as a child. I don’t have any strong negative feelings associated with shopping secondhand. It’s just not what I knew.
That all changed a few years ago. Unfortunately, I found out too late that I am not my mom. I lack the discipline and focus that comes naturally to her, so my attempts to buy ahead just got me into debt in college. I bought things I didn’t really need, just because they were “such a good deal!” I was kind of a mess. In fact, my home was literally a mess, because I had accumulated too much STUFF for the space I was living in, and had trouble parting with most of it because I also attach emotionally to every item that enters my home. (Too much shopping plus too many feelings is not a good combination.)
In the midst of my mess, my husband and I found out we were going to be parents. Hooray! But baby stuff was so EXPENSIVE. And you only use it for a few months. It still looks brand new when you’re done.
Enter secondhand shopping.
It was a great place to start, as many baby items are available for a fraction of the price (I paid 10-20% of the retail cost for most items!), still looking like they’ve hardly been used.
Around that time, I read a book and had some ongoing conversations with friends about this culture of excess and consumption, and the impact it was having on our planet. I began to feel very uncomfortable with all of it, and wanted to get myself out of the cycle, but couldn’t figure out how. “All things in moderation” isn’t really my style (remember my shopping debt?), so I declared on my next birthday that I wouldn’t buy anything new for the next 12 months. I gave a few caveats: socks and underwear could be purchased new, but only if I needed them, and they’d need to be fair-trade and/or organic: better for people and planet.
It was a great year, and changed my spending/shopping habits forever. 7 years later, and I still shop less and better than before.
So, when #SecondhandSeptember came around this year, I wanted to be part of it and encourage others to do the same. I hoped that some of us could find freedom from the consumer culture we live in, and help the planet survive the constant drum beat of “more, new, more, new”.
Taking a break helps us clear our minds and pause our habits so that we can CHOOSE how we want to live instead of just going on autopilot or simply doing what we’ve always done.
Secondhand September is a start. If you weren’t able to participate with us this year, I encourage you to try it. Take a month, a week, a year… whatever works for you. Avoid buying new items like clothes, shoes, homegoods, and toys. Or just next time you need something, see if you can find it in a thrift shop, garage sale, online marketplace, or friend’s basement BEFORE you go to the store.
Remember, used is the new new.
Did you participate in Secondhand September? How did it go?
How do you feel about secondhand items? Why?
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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