Have you ever donated anything from your closet? If you haven’t, I highly suggest this practice.

We all have stuff. A lot of stuff. We get into the cycle of buying more new stuff and getting rid of old, good stuff. A great resource called The Story of Stuff is a narrative about our consumerist society. You should check it out.

Let’s go to the idea of thrift stores. Some of us love thrift stores, some of us are skeptical of thrift stores and others avoid thrift stores. Regardless of your standing, most of us donate to thrift stores. According to the Goodwill Industries Web site, more than 74 million people donated to more than 2,200 Goodwill stores in one year. This statistic doesn’t include the thousands of other donations to similar organizations. Can you imagine how much stuff that would include? Especially during tax season, people may think about donating even more, just for tax receipts.

Think about this. What if people continuously donated their stuff to thrift stores and organizations? What if no one bought any old stuff?

My point has to do with survival. The thing about thrift stores is that they can only survive in cycles. Simply, as items come in, items need to go out, and then it starts over. If this cycle doesn’t occur, the store becomes just another repository full of accumulated old stuff, like your closet. Thrift stores have purpose. Some stores support a non-profit organization, such as The Salvation Army, Goodwill or a hospice. Other stores are for-profit, but may offer items on consignment so other people can support their livelihood. Any way you look at thrift stores – they all have a purpose – to give someone and something a second chance.

One thing we all can try to do is help support these second-chance stores by buying items from them, instead of only donating to them.

And by the way, not all stores are solely about one-sided donations. Some stores, especially consignment, offer cash for your clothes. Although, don’t be totally crushed if the store clerk says, “No thank you,” to your pile of

  • T-shirts, pants and skirts. (Another future column about how to sell second-hand).
  • Yes, thrift store shopping is a different way of thinking and sometimes these stores can be overwhelming, to say the least. Here are my suggestions to shop second-hand:
  • Bring a friend. Friends can provide a fun adventure and good advice for your selections.
  • Leave the kids at home. Second-hand shopping is easier without distraction. I have a 5-year-old, I know.
  • Take your time. There is so much to see, don’t shop if you are pressed for time, especially if you are a thrift store virgin.
  • Focus on looking for no more than three types of items. Pick your top three, such as shirts, shoes and pants, to browse only. It will seem less overwhelming that way.

The best advice when you visit a thrift store is to keep an open mind and realize that each of these stores is different in so many good ways. Not only will you find treasures, but you will find yourself saving money in this new journey.


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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