I do and don’t like to shop at Thrift Stores. I love thrift store shopping when I have extra money to spend and encounter those thrift stores that are clean, well merchandised, and prices are affordable, and I feel like I have purchasing power. I don’t like thrift store shopping as much when I have fewer choices and absolutely have only XX dollars to spend and I’m not in the ‘mood’ for gently used anything. Usually when I’m in those kind of moods, it’s dark anyway and I’m more in memory of childhood days when sometimes it was ‘hand-me-downs’, and not much other choices. So, it’s a frame of mind for me.
Over the years, from teen, to young parent, to middle aged parent of almost adult kids, to grandmother, my identity, self esteem, and needs have changed. In my teens, having cool, new clothes of the 1960’s made a major difference to how I felt about myself. As a young wife and mother having fun clothes was important to me as I assumed my new identity as wife and mother. As a working wife and mother, career woman of the 1970’s and 1980’s, having a professional wardrobe was important to my sense of identity. Making sure my children had new home, new clothes, new toys, plenty of groceries was important to my sense of being a successful parent.
But in the 1980’s something happened. Brand name labels became the ‘have to have’ among kids and with the brand names came gradually escalating prices until ridiculous prices was the operating word. Tennis, running, basketball shoes jumped to over $100.00 a pair and kept climbing. And that was rather my own personal ‘wake up call’ and when I put my foot down, explaining to my children, by my logic, that this brand name label clothing was a marketing device and nothing more. I wasn’t going to buy into it.
Not so easy for them, because part of their forming identities was tied to what the kids at school were wearing and having whatever was the newest, coolest marketing product. Things like Cabbage Patch dolls began the trend towards ‘must have at all costs’ toys that parents needed to get for their children. Where was this mentality coming from, I wondered, while I didn’t purchase Cabbage Patch dolls at outrageous prices? Well I did purchase some of the trendy toys of that era for my children, but only in what I considered to be an ‘acceptable and affordable’ range by my standards.
Fast forward through the 1990s to the present, and the trend of buying the newest, latest products is a firmly entrenched mentality among families today. I shudder at the challenges my children, now adults with children of their own face in their efforts to satisfy the perceived wants and needs of their children. If I were faced with some of those financial challenges now, I would have to consciously work to stay above the fray.
But now I sound like my own grandparents sounded to my ears when I was a lot younger. So I’ve reached ‘that age’. Even so, I have growing concerns for my adult children and my grandchildren because I sense strongly the lifestyle we enjoyed when I was raising them is more elusive as they raise their own children.
I began frequenting thrift stores for the fun of finding those very special finds — cut crystal, unique bags, vintage tablecloths and napkins, yard ornaments, occasional kitchenware. But I didn’t ‘have to’ shop thrift stores, so it was a fun way to spend an afternoon and I was spelunking, looking for those great finds. And then I tried my hand at looking for certain collectibles and antiques in thrift stores and the best of the best thrift stores were when we lived in a city that had wealth that was measured only by more wealth. I found some of the best quality of whatever I was looking for in the thrift stores that dotted that city. It was my ideal of shopping manna.
When we moved from the city to a more rural setting, in region known to have a shrunken economic baseline, so did the availability shrink in the shrunken towns that comprised the region. The spelunking changed and took on a different element, but was still fun, because I could ocassionally find authentic antiques at thrift store prices, and collectibles not yet priced at collectible prices. When we made the decision to go from two incomes – his and mine to one income – his – we felt proud of our decision, made the shifts to tighten our belts, and I earnestly began to look at reviving all the dollar saving hints and tips I’d learned growing up as a child in an economically-challenged family.
I wanted to see if I could do with our household what some of the Depression-era people did to creatively stretch a dollar, recycle, re-use, re-fashion, and remake. It wasn’t easy to find reading material on such things, and I wished I could have been in the tutelage of some of the elderly who knew how to do what I did not and could teach me. I realized that I had grown accustomed to the ease of consumerism, and began to contemplate ideas like what if…….
— what if the economy implodes and we have no choice but to revive some of the older skills?
— what if we couldn’t drive cars any and everywhere because gas cost too much and global warming was a concern?
— what if and the what if’s went on in my mind
And perhaps it could be called an intuitive sense of changing times because as a society, a nation, we seemed to have reached a point of needing to reconsider lifestyles permitted to evolve at the hands of marketing devices.
I’m most encouraged though by the creativity I am seeing among the young families and especially the young women of today as they try to manage their lives and lifestyles on a shrinking dollar. I see a revival of a need to find creative ways to re-use, re-make, re-fashion, re-cycle, and I see young families finding ways to do more with a bit less and keeping a good spirit while doing so. For some it seems to be an effort to restore or return to a prescribed faith-based lifestyle that puts women in their homes with their families. For some it is a flair for the artistic in finding new ways to create clothing, fashion, home decor, gifting. For some it is the challenge forced upon them.
And the thrift store takes on a new prominence in the modern era. Or so it seems to me. So let’s talk about thrift stores.