As the year comes to a close, I reflect on my New Year’s Resolution of 2011 to not buy new clothes for an entire year, but to purchase them from second-hand stores only. For anyone that has known me this year, this was easier said than done.

It was in February, when I got my new job as the Sustainability Coordinator at my alma mater, that I had to make some attire purchasing decisions. However, over the course of the 2011 year, I purchased a grand total of 11 new shirts, 4 pairs of pants, 2 sweaters and 2 pairs of shoes. When I purchased these new work clothes, I realized that I was not only tossing my Resolution aside, but I was contradicting my career’s position. Guilt set in. I returned a few things, but had to hold on to some, especially pants and shoes.

Lessons Learned

  • Resist the Temptation – It’s just too easy to buy new clothes because they are available everywhere, are sometimes cheap and your friends encourage you to shop. First, just because it’s right in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to buy it. Second, if it’s cheap, think about the quality of the clothing. You want your clothes to last as long as possible, so invest in them. Third, let your friend shop and offer fashion support, take the attention off you. Or better yet, encourage to take your friend to some thrift stores.
  • Women’s Pants and Shoes – During this year’s challenge, pants and shoes were the toughest items for me to purchase second-hand. There was only one pair to choose from and if those didn’t fit, I was just out of luck. During one visit in March, I managed to win big at the Salvation Army in Loris with capris pants.
  • Out of the Closet – On the positive side, when my sister visited during the summer, she forced me to clean out my closet because I was holding on to clothes, shoes and accessories that I had no intention of wearing. I probably donated about 5 large bags of items this year, just from my closet. Shopping second-hand helped me reflect on my own life and material items and realize that I could let go.
  • Explore New Places – Stores can be safe zones. According to the Better World Handbook, we have become a nation of sleepwalkers. We get caught in a cycle of our routine life, we don’t venture, we don’t change and we simply continue to shop at the same stores for the same things. Second-hand stores offer a new world of treasures, both unique and vintage. During this year, I also made a valiant effort to seek out new second-hand stores in areas I was visiting, including Denver and Charlotte. It was enlightening to shop at stores while traveling, especially when I could find Northface brands cheaper in Colorado then in Myrtle Beach.
  • More Mainstream – I have noticed that second-hand stores are becoming easier to find and new ones are constantly popping up. Goodwill alone has more than 2,500 stores in the United States. This year, I noticed the increase in second-hand stores, even in my area.
  • Both Ways – These second-hand stores will only survive if we continue to support them and buy items. The key word is buy. They can not survive one-sided by donating your entire closet every visit.
  • Be Ready for the Quest – I will be perfectly honest, shopping second-hand is NOT easy. You have to have a mind-set when you shop, it will be a hunt and you will need extra time, lots of extra time. Don’t be frustrated if you can’t find what you are looking for the first time, it may take multiple trips, so don’t lose hope.
  • Exceptional Shopping Buddy – Shopping is always fun with a friend, BUT shopping second-hand takes an exceptional friend. Characteristics in a second-hand shopping friend: Extreme Patience, Raw Honesty, True Humor, Creativity, and just the ability to have Fun!

While I did not accomplish my Resolution exactly, I learned a lot from it. This challenge taught me a lot about myself and my lifestyle. Ghandi was once quoted, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” You have to agree with that on so many levels. I have spent 11 months of my year getting settled into my job, however, realizing that I will never be settled because sustainability and the environment are continuously evolving. In order to keep up, I have to evolve my ways too, including my lifestyle. The biggest lesson I learned from this year’s Resolution is that a Resolution should not bring about one direct result or solution. If you expect that, you will set yourself up to fail. A Resolution should impact your life in a way that brings about a positive change to better yourself and hopefully those around you.

the author

Originally from Virginia, Jennifer C. Sellers is passionate about sustainability and conservation in South Carolina and throughout the world. She earned her BA in English from Coastal Carolina University and her MAS in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver. She is a university sustainability coordinator that implements programs and teaches people about going green and being sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @MyGreenGlasses

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