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Buying secondhand is exciting, fun an important part of an eco-conscious lifestyle.

For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed second-hand shopping. Since the days of my early childhood, it has always felt like an exciting treasure hunt. One never knows what will be found on each visit: a vintage beaded purse, an eclectic pair of chairs to go with that bistro table at home, a beautiful linen tablecloth that has never been used, a new fish tank for your child’s bedroom (which will cost less than the fish who will live in it), or that perfect pair of designer jeans that fit just right and only cost you five bucks (which you paid for with spare change).

Sometimes we have to no choice but to buy new, but keep in mind that there is a high cost involved. Every time we purchase a brand new item, materials have been mined and extracted from the earth in order to manufacture them. Water and energy have also most likely been used in the process, and toxins and pollutants have been released into the environment.  Please watch The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard. It is a 20 minute animated video, which talks about the life cycle of ‘stuff’ and is very though-provoking!

Not too long ago, thrift stores had a reputation for being dingy, smelly places where only poor people shopped. The stores always seemed to be located in a rough part of town where ‘well-off’ people regularly donated their used goods but would never dream of buying anything second-hand. Even the word, ‘second-hand’ had a negative connotation and was equated with ‘used, hand-me-downs, shabby, worn out, broken, scrap, junk, garbage, trash, and charity’.  People who bought second-hand were thought of as poor, needy, inferior, low-income, low-class, unemployed, smelly, dirty and having no fashion sense.

Today, peoples’ attitudes have changed.  We no longer have the need to buy everything brand new. It is more socially acceptable, even ‘cool’, to shop second-hand. We now use words like ‘vintage, retro, eclectic, pre-loved, memorabilia and resplendent repurposing’. Second-hand shoppers now come from all income brackets and are simply people who enjoy hunting for bargains and bragging about their savings to their friends and family. Some people are fascinated with older things and love collecting items that already have a history and a story to tell.

One of my own magical thrift store finds was an eclectic antique teacup and saucer covered in burgundy flowers with blue centers. I just loved the unique shape of the cup. It was very masculine in its design and looked like it belonged in a dark, cozy library. I could almost smell the leather and hint of cigar smoke whenever I used it. Sadly, I lost it in a move and am currently looking for more pieces of this china. I have also bought countless good books (I have hundreds of them) in new condition. Last fall, I found a brand new suede winter coat ($15.00) that looks exactly like the one Cameron Diaz wore in The Holiday (now I just need the tall leather boots to match and I won’t pay over $10). Lately, I have been wearing new and comfy brand-name flannel shirts ($2.99 each) while berry-picking or working out in the yard.  And just yesterday, while in the city, I found this ‘gypsy’ purse ($6.99). It is brand new and exactly what I was looking for. It was the inspiration for this post promoting second-hand shopping.

As our society becomes more eco-conscious, living a simple, environmentally friendly lifestyle is now encouraged and even applauded. Also, during times of economic recession, being frugal, reusing, repurposing and saving money is just using our common sense. In Canada and the United States, resale is now one of the fastest growing businesses in retail. No longer dark and dingy, the thrift stores of today are brightly lit, well organized and the clothes and items have all been washed.

Buying second-hand is not just limited to thrift stores. You can shop for used items at auctions, online (Ebay, Yahoo! Classifieds!, Kijiji, Freecycle, Craig’s List and Preloved in the UK), garage sales, flea markets, pawn shops, used book stores, markets and bazaars.

Currently there are many books published on using second-hand goods to decorate your home, including topics such as ‘flea market style’, ‘Shabby Chic’ and decorating with ‘found objects’.  In her fun and uplifting talk, ‘Wearing Nothing New‘, designer Jessi Arrington, admits that she is ‘outfit obsessed’ and encourages expressing your own unique style using thrift store finds . There are also many blogs written around the theme of second-hand shopping, such as centsationalgirl, and thingsifoundatthethriftstore, to name a few.

When shopping second-hand, you can often find unique, high-quality and inexpensive clothing, furniture and other household items. If you are crafty and have a good imagination, there are endless opportunities to be creative: a brightly colored shirt could be cut up and sewn into a quilt, a linen tablecloth could be sewn into some natural cushions (just add some wooden buttons), visit My Repurposed Life to see how a coffeepot can be turned into a lamp; or blueroofcabin to see how an old door can be turned into a banquette.

Second-hand shopping is especially helpful if you have growing children. You can find new brand-name clothing for a fraction of the price as well as toys, books and games.

Also consider second-hand pets. Adopt a rescue dog (or cat or rabbit or guinea pig or hamster or bird) from your local animal rescue society instead of buying a brand new puppy from a puppy mill. (I found Lucy through nasap.) Your pet gets a second chance at a good, loving life and you get a loyal, grateful pet. Both Lucy and I highly recommend this!!!

And don’t forget to donate items that are no longer useful to you to your local thrift store! Declutter. Dejunk.

cabinorganic’s top ten reasons to buy second-hand

  1. it protects the environment

by preventing useful goods from becoming waste in the landfill and requiring no new resources or energy to create

2. it is a way of buying ‘local’

as goods were not transported far to get to you

3. it builds community

by supporting the charitable organizations that operate many thrift stores (i.e. Salvation Army offers meals, shelter, job training and spiritual guidance to the needy; Goodwill offers job rehabilitation for adults with special needs; some are run by churches or hospitals)

4. it stimulates the economy

during periods of recession, second-hand buying increases; you save money while still getting ‘retail therapy’ and quality goods

5. it promotes de-junking and de-cluttering in your own life

you don’t feel bad donating it back later when the item is no longer useful to you, because you didn’t pay an arm and a leg for it

6. it gives you a chance to be creative

if you are crafty you can use a used item for a project

7. you find unique, one-of-a-kind goods that you may not be able find new anymore 

8. it saves you money as used goods costs much less!!!

9. it is part of living a simple, intentional, eco-conscious life

10.  it is FUN

The thrill of the hunt, getting a good bargain and finding just what you need and paying so little for it is so satisfying. And you really never know what you will find. My friend, K, was recently telling me about many of her thrift store finds, including some beautifully tailored wool suits that she once bought for her husband (you can’t find that quality material anymore) and the full length seal skin jacket that she bought for herself! Happy second-hand shopping, everyone. I’ll let you know when I find my teacup and saucer!