My first experience with thrifting was when I was a teenager. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of those kids that could turn someone else’s trash into a funky outfit for less than ten dollars. Rather, it was my cousin who had suggested we go shopping at a Goodwill in downtown Toronto. Knowing what Goodwill was but not necessarily knowing that that would entail, my sister and I agreed without much thought. As soon as we entered the store, I felt like I entered in another world. Another dank world. The smell was a mixture between old library mustiness and ancient body odour. Piles and piles of clothes were ready for the picking. But I just couldn’t get over the smell. And the fact that my nose started acting up and all I could think about was that incessant itch in my nose and throat. That did it for me. That was my first and only trip to a thrift store in the past decade and I didn’t regret my decision… until now.
After starting this blog and reading more into the environmental impacts of all the things that we do, it became clear that living a more minimalistic life meant more than ridding yourself of things you no longer need. It also meant living a more sustainable life. And while cutting out meat from my diet and being a stickler for recycling definitely helps, it isn’t the be all and end all. Fast fashion has become so fast that we forget about the immense resources it takes to make it (2700 liters of water for one cotton T-shirt, anyone?) and these days, rarely do things really get worn out before they are forgotten for the next great thing. I know I have been guilty of succumbing to the temptations of fast fashion and my garbage bags full of unwanted clothes speak volumes to that. But after freeing myself from the excess, it felt necessary to be more mindful of what you allow into your life going forward and how your choices will impact more than just yourself in the grand scheme of things.
Determined to change my views on second hand clothing, I went to a local thrift store this past weekend. I headed into my local Value Village not knowing what to expect and truly not expecting much. And to be honest, it wasn’t that bad. Sure, there was still that “thrift store” smell, but it wasn’t as intense as I had recalled. I rifled through several racks of clothes (my vast shopping experience at Winners has definitely helped in this regard!) and managed to find a few things I would actually wear! Sure, the itchy nose syndrome did start about five minutes into my trip, but it didn’t bother me as much as I had remembered. I did manage to salvage what looked to be a completely new pair of linen pants for $5.99 and a beautiful silk and cashmere* cardigan for $7.99. Honestly speaking, I probably didn’t need anything at that very moment but the satisfaction of rescuing something eventually destined for the landfill was appealing and was really the whole point of it all. And sure, there may be controversial issues with thrifting, such as the sanitary concerns of the clothes you buy (that’s what washing machines and dry cleaners are for, right?) or how thrifting is so trendy these days that we are actually taking items away from people who need it the most. Those are definitely important and legitimate concerns. But to me, if I can do even a little bit to save the world’s resources by reusing someone else’s unwanted clothing so that one less shirt will be consumed, what’s wrong with that? This is not to say every single thing I buy will be second hand, but I am glad I took a step outside my comfort zone to know where my new boundaries lie… but I have to say, I do draw the line at buying second hand intimates 🙂
For those who may not be so keen on wearing second hand clothes, I implore you to explore other options. Buying less frequently, only buying what you need, swapping clothes with family or friends, or looking into environmentally sustainable brands. Be on the lookout for more on this in the coming weeks!
* P.S. Adopting a vegan lifestyle also means refusing the use of animal products, including silk and cashmere… but what if it is second hand? That will be a blog post for another day!
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