Be a Better Thrifter / Uncategorized

Should I buy it? 6 Things to Consider Before Making the Secondhand Purchase

Sometimes you have a good day at the thrift store. Sometimes not so much. Either way, you need to make decisions before you leave. What is going to make the cut and join the ranks of the glory that is your closet and what’s going to wait around for someone else to love? In this post I will discuss the types of things I think about and examine when deciding if I will buy something and be happy with that purchase later on. Long term satisfaction is much more valuable than a short term flighty happiness.

I should probably mention that I just watched the documentary “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things“, which may be influencing my current train of thought. One thing I really enjoy about minimalist concepts is the idea that each object you bring in your life should have a purpose and add meaning in some way. If you have too much stuff, the objects compete for meaning and it can feel really overwhelming. I really like thinking about how that could play into thrifting.

A few loose rules/guidelines I use and suggest using when deciding what to purchase can be found below. They’re only sample rules. I encourage you to create your own guidelines. The hardest day at the thrift store can sometimes be the day that everything you try on happens to fit.

  1. Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it’s meant to be.
    I emphasize this because a lot of people who are new to second hand shopping often get caught up in the discounted prices. While it’s great that you can buy more since things cost less, it’s very easy to end up with things that don’t have a purpose in your life. Many times while rummage saleing I’ll get caught up in the fun of it and return home later with things I’m not sure I’ll ever wear. Sometimes this is okay, specifically if you’re in a place that doesn’t have dressing rooms. If the pants are fifty cents and you think they might fit, by all means, buy them. But if you later discover they don’t fit, make sure they don’t end up in your closet or in a Goodwill pile forever. Donate that and get it back into the second hand cycle so you can free up some space.


    photo by Flickr user Aranami

  2. If you would hesitate to buy it in that store, hesitate here.
    Here I mean more in terms of brand or style. If you don’t normally buy clothes from a certain store because you don’t like the quality or fit, why would you buy it here? This goes along with the rule above as well. If there’s something about the item that would normally have you putting it back, put it back. Be picky.
  3. Look closely for wear and tear.
    Many times, especially in smaller thrift stores, the volunteers or employees sorting the items won’t catch a hole or snag in fabric. Make sure you look over your items closely. Something to look for on pants is the stretch right below the zipper in the crotch area. Often in used pants, that area is stretched to fit someone else, making it baggy or awkward fitting on you. Check hemlines on knit shirts to see if they’re fraying. Decide if the sweater is too ball-ey.
  4. Do pay attention to brand. Just don’t be a snob.
    I know for a fact that I don’t like to buy Forever 21 clothes or any of Target’s brands.I hesitate on big box store labels as well. This doesn’t mean I’m a snob, it just means I don’t like buying clothes that I know won’t fit well and that I just generally dislike. I often look for brands that older or boutique. It’s generally a balanced combination of the look and feel of the item along with the brand.
  5. Could you see some of your style icons wearing it?
    This is something my mom told me to think about when buying clothes. Could you see the people you admire for their style wearing this? At first I immediately got defensive about this because I thought I was all about making my own look. But just as much as artists have their own styles, they look at other art. If there’s someone you follow on instagram or pinterest or a blog, keep in mind the things you like abou their look when out shopping.
  6. Is it love?
    If you don’t love it, don’t bring it home. You want a closet full of things you love, not a closet full of some things that you love and lots of fillers. It’s stressful when we’re surrounded by excess stuff we do not need. If I was really following the minimlists’ principles in that documentary, I’d keep in mind what they say in the end: “Love people, Use things. Because the opposite never works.”

That’s all I’ve got for tips and tricks. What goes through your mind when attempting to decide if you really need another white t-shirt? Or if another pair of leggings is really necessary?

p.s. If I’ve piqued your interest in minimalism, the documentary I describe follows “The Minimalists“, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, who have been producing podcasts and a website for awhile and now are on a book tour. Pondering a minimalism and thrifting post for the future.




2 thoughts on “Should I buy it? 6 Things to Consider Before Making the Secondhand Purchase

  1. Your tips are really great! A lot of those same things go through my mind too when I thrift shop. Another thing to look for in clothes are fraying (especially on the bottom of pant legs) and excessive pilling (which yes, can be shaved off, but it still will never look the same). Also with shirts, sweat and deodorant stains are a big problem in the second hand industry, always have to watch out for those!


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