Back-to-school thrifting

Today is a holiday in Canada, but the local thrift store was having a sale – 50 percent off on all items with certain colour tags.  It’s fairly rare that I head to the thrift stores now, but I headed out with my eye on picking up some new clothing for school and replacing some of the meh stuff I have kicking around.  I love thrift stores, and will sing their praises to pretty much anyone who will listen.  I do have some issues with the culture of consumption that allows thrift stores to flourish, but so long as they do, I’ll keep buying used.  For me, it feels much more frugal and environmentally responsible than any other shopping option.

That said, regular thrift store visits have gotten me into a bit of trouble.  These routine trips have enabled me to fill the apartment, which has necessitated this weekend’s purge.  Much of what I own was bought for pennies on the dollar – it would have cost a fortune to buy new, and a lot of the older stuff is better quality and more durable than newer goods.

One of my biggest problem areas (and one I’ll be tackling today) is clothing.  For a long while, my tendency was to buy what was cheap, so long as it fit okay-ish.  This was a bad idea.  It’s really, really easy to justify clothes that don’t fit so well when they’re a few dollars (or less).   This meant that I wound up with a bunch stuff that, while not unwearable, doesn’t fit or look all that great.  (In the interest of full disclosure, the height of “oops” for me is probably a pair of pink pants – the fact that they were only a dollar still doesn’t make this purchase anywhere close to okay.)

I’m trying to overcome this mindset and buy only what fits really well.  I haven’t bought any clothing at all this summer beyond a sweatshirt that I wear a lot.  But now, I’m on a bit of a mission now to replace some of the things that I’ve bought that I don’t really wear and to pick up a few new things for the start of the school year that are teaching-appropriate.  For what it’s worth, I’m aiming for at least a one to two ratio – for every one thing that comes in, at least two have to be donated.  While this does feel a bit wasteful, it seems even more wasteful to me to leave a bunch of stuff sitting in my closets and drawers that just isn’t being worn because I didn’t shop like a reasonable person.

Heading to the store, I knew what I wanted – my usual teaching style is a t-shirt layered with a sweater – preferably a long-ish cardigan – with a nice pair of jeans, so I focused on those things.  I tried everything on, and considered it carefully.  If I loved it, I could buy it.  If I didn’t – for any reason – it had to stay.  I tried on eight pairs of pants and came home with none.  I tried on 16 different tops, and came home with five – three t-shirts and two cardigans – all of which I love. They were also all half off, so all five items cost me $18.50.

I also seem to have discovered a little shopping tip (that is likely remarkably boring for everyone else).  I can’t usually find t-shirts that fit properly.  I have a long torso, and an average t-shirt tends to bare my stomach, which is really not the look I go for when I teach.  It turns out that the answer might just be maternity t-shirts.  The three t-shirts I bought today came from the maternity section – they’re cut long to accommodate a baby bump, and they seem to stay in place and hold their shape better.

But the really good part of today’s trip was the footwear.  I wasn’t looking that hard, but there, in with the men’s section, was a pair of what seem to be unworn L.L. Bean winter boots.  They weren’t on sale, but I was still happy to pay $17 for a pair of boots that I’d had my eye on for awhile and that should help keep my feet warm this winter.

Beyond that?  Well, I did indulge a little bit.  I bought a sturdy canvas tote bag – I have a few, but use them all the time – for $3.50.  And, for my whimsical bit of silly goofiness for the day, I found a ceramic cup that’s a reproduction of those paper cups that are ubiquitous in diners.  I have no idea why, but I’ve wanted one of these for ages, and it was lovey to satisfy the urge for $0.45.

Although I haven’t really bought clothes in well over a year now, it was nice to go out and consciously and carefully pick up a few things that I needed.  Everything is in good shape and reasonable quality, and it will work well with what I already have.  Plus, I’m looking forward to getting rid of some more things and freeing up additional space for more things that work with my needs and are what I actually want, rather than just what’s cheap.


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