Have you ever experienced a personal revelation while shopping? I hope it’s not just me. I was driving home in pouring rain a couple weeks ago (2.5 hrs from home) and I pulled off and decided to walk around a department store for a little while and wait out the rain. I knew that going into the store was risky. I had absolutely zero money to buy anything. Not even if it was super duper clearance. So I decided to do an experiment. I didn’t look at a single price tag while I was browsing. I grabbed an armful of clothes that I just liked. And I went and tried them all on. It must have been some kind of magical day. Everything fit perfectly. It was completely surreal. As I tried on the clothes, I noticed a few things. First, I picked out mostly really professional clothes. Suits, blazers, nice blouses, skirts. They had feminine details, and all together presented a really strong and confident image. I took some pictures so I could remember the feeling. Then I put on my own clothes and took one more picture.
Here’s the thing. 99% of my clothes, shoes, and accessories are purchased second-hand. Usually at a thrift store. I buy clothes second-hand for a couple of reasons. First, it’s WAY cheaper. Second, it’s more sustainable and ethical (generally). As I look at the differences between my second-hand clothes and the clothes that I tried on from the department store I realized something. Every clothing item that I own is some kind of compromise. I love that floral blouse. But I wish it didn’t tie in the front and was a little longer so I could wear it with more outfits. I like that black skirt, but it’s looking worn out and dated and even if it was still in good condition, I probably wouldn’t buy it in a nice store. It’s not really the image that I want. But I still wear it all the time.
As I drove home in the (still) pouring rain, my mind was racing with the realization that almost everything in my life was some kind of second-hand compromise. Many things in my life are place holders for what I really want. My job, my house, my clothes, my couch, my daily routine, even the food that I eat. As I drove I kept saying to myself over and over: I’m done. I’m done compromising. No more place holders. I’d rather be patient and keep searching for what I really want. I don’t want a second-hand life anymore. I’m done with fine. I’m done with good enough. I’m done with this will work for now.
So from now on I am resolving to wait and work for what I really desire. It’s totally worth it. That goes for my life choices as well as my purchases. Even though I’ve embraced a mildly minimalist lifestyle, it is still possible to be a minimalistic consumerist. I have fallen into the trap of making my home and my closet into a perpetually revolving door of cheap second-hand items that are meaningless to me. This is not Marie Kondo approved. It should not be so easy for me to take my entire wardrobe, 3-4 times a year and send it too Goodwill and then buy a whole new wardrobe at Goodwill for $50-100. I have purchased too many things that were On Sale, On Clearance, BOGO, or otherwise thrifty items just because they were good enough and cheap.
My new question to ask myself before any purchase is:
Would I pay full price for this? Would I pay double full price for this?
In other words – Do I love it so much it is worth spending my valuable time, energy and resources to save up for it, wait for it, and then cherish it for a long time?
A couple great examples are some shoes that I have. I have a pair of Italian leather boots that I invested in about 4 years ago. They are amazing. And I know I will take really good care of them for a long time. They were very expensive. Similarly, I also saved up for some red point toe Rothy’s. I wear them almost everyday and I love everything about them. I’m saving up for another pair!
I’ve decided to think about every purchase the same way that I thought about these two pairs of shoes.
Some of you may be sputtering: What’s wrong with thrift stores? Second-hand is awesome! It’s frugal! It’s sustainable! It’s ethical! Fashion sucks! You’re so vain!
I won’t deny the vanity part… you’re probably right. Here’s the thing. If turning my house into a revolving door of thrifted items is my temptation, then I need to stop my thrifting habits for awhile. It is more sustainable, frugal, and ethical to stop purchasing things constantly and impulsively; and instead be mindful, deliberate, and focused on items that will last.
Will I never buy second-hand again? No. I am still obsessed with ThredUp (the quality can be amazing!) But I am resolving to be WAY more picky. Like… annoyingly picky. I know what I want. I am willing to wait and work for it.