Thrifting and the economy


A couple of days ago at Secondhand Nation, Carrie posed this question:

Are we thrift fanatics inadvertently making a statement about the absurdity of an economy built on novelty and competitive envy?

For herself, Carrie said, thrifting is simply about economical shopping. She also linked to this article, published earlier this month in the L.A. Times, in which author Judith Freeman writes:

Thrift stores are places where not only the poorest of the poor shop but where one can also see the incredible turnover in the products Americans have consumed and then discarded, often perfectly good items that simply don't get used any more. In thrift stores, you see the evidence of our gluttony.

A bit back, I asked WINOW readers why they thrift. Several of the comments mentioned frugality/economy as the primary reason for thrifting. And, I think, for most people who thrift, it is. I spend a lot of time in thrift stores, the the majority of the people I see there seem to be there either to buy for resale or to buy practical type things for themselves or their families. There are also, of course, the occasional trendsters who are there to find funky one-of-a-kind clothes or strange records on vinyl, but they are the minority. The majority seem to be thrifting because they need to.

Which worries me. Why? Because pickings are getting slimmer, even here in thrift mecca. While this may well say something good about digusting American over consumption (that people are buying/replacing less and thus have fewer things to donate), it could also have an ill effect on those who have grown dependent on the perfectly good cast-offs of the average over-consumer.

What do you think? Is this something worth worrying about?


When I say I thrift because I "need" to, I mean that I thrift because I can't afford to buy the same volume of things that are new. Do I really "need" 2 dressers' worth of clothes? Of course not.

I don't think I'm alone in thrifting to maintain a socially accepted (though perhaps lower) standard of living that is, ultimately, based on want more than need. I really doubt that the pickings will ever become so slim that I can no longer satisfy my needs through thrifting.

Perhaps the longer lasting items like furniture, electronics or shoes will be less at thrift stores, but the decorative pieces, books, clothes and kitchen things will still be there, I'm sure. I don't worry about it, I think for those who rely on it there are also other ways to get what they need (Craigslist and Freecycle, friends & family or trashpicking) if the thriftstores can't help them any longer. As an upside to this I kind of believe it's a good lesson for everybody if we all had a little less to choose from.


People will always outgrow clothes, and I'm willing to bet there will always be a market for changing styles that prompts people to buy new items and replace their older ones.

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