Thursday, August 6, 2015

The challenge of buying used

Even the idea of searching those racks make me anxious. [photo: gnosis / john r]

If you start reading up on how to go green or simplify your life, one of the most oft given tips is to buy used. Frugal living blogs tout buying used because of the immense savings.

And who could argue with any of that? Of course buying used instead of buying a brand new item saves energy and resources and enables us to get more mileage out of those that have already been expended. Plus, I really love to save a buck.

But even though I'm on board philosophically, buying used is one of the things other frugal, planet-saving minded people seem to do all the time that I struggle with the most.

Take clothes. Of course I'd love to pay $5-$10 per outfit rather than the quadruple to ten times more I pay for new clothes (and that number would be a lot more if I wasn't so cheap..I mean frugal). But I have a really hard time finding used clothes that I love, fit well and don't already look, well, used. Several times I have purchased used clothing items only to never wear them again before finally, guiltily returning them back to the same thrift store I purchased them at. Despite numerous shopping trips to thrift stores to find clothing, I can only count  7 pieces of used clothing I've purchased in the last say 10 years and worn extensively, while other people have created entire blogs out of their thrift store fashion finds.

Why is this, I wonder? Am I just unlucky? Perhaps it's that I don't thrift often enough, don't have a lot of patience to hunt through rack after rack. Or maybe it's a matter of being too tall (I'm 5'11), not skinny enough (although the thrift store I like best seems to have a surplus of 1X items and larger, which is bigger than I wear). And sometimes I think other locales must just enjoy better selections of items than we do, because I see a lot of heavily used clothing, but there again others who nearby prove that theory wrong.

I'm extremely squeamish about buying soft furnishings (bed bug fears you know), shoes, plastic food items and books from thrift stores due to hygiene concerns, so those are off the table entirely.

One of my few thrifting successes

I have had luck in recent years buying purses at my favorite thrift store, which is somewhat hypocritical compared to the list above since you can't throw then in the washer. Instead I leave them in my hot trunk for a number of days to weeks or freeze them to kill the nasties and use Lysol to disinfect. Although I have noticed used purses start to show wear far sooner than new new ones. Over the years I've also purchased a few household items used, mainly decor items like the piece of Pyrex pictured above.

So what about you? Do you have good thrifting karma? Am I the only one who doesn't? Any tips? I'd really love to hear about your thrifting experiences.


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