Is Thrifting Good or Bad?

I think thrift store shopping is not only good, but it’s also important. The reason I think this is because finding a use for second-hand items has many positive impacts. 

But before I get into the positives, I think it’s necessary to bring up some criticisms that people have of thrift store shopping.

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  • Thrift stores are dirty and unsanitary.

This is a common complaint because funky odors can leave people with a bad first impression when they enter a thrift store. There’s also a fear that being in contact with used clothing can cause allergic reactions. These concerns are understandable but I don’t think it should prevent anyone from thrifting. The reason being, there are ways to avoid these problems to better enjoy your thrift shopping experience. It’s also very unlikely for thrift stores to harm anyone. Lots of people of all levels of income shop at thrift stores every day knowing that they’re entering a stuffy environment and they come out just fine.

  • Thrifting takes resources away from poor people.

The other concern is that people who shop at thrift stores as a hobby or to resell take away needed resources from lower-income individuals. For example, there has been some backlash against people who repurpose oversized thrift store clothing. The argument is that poor plus-size individuals have a hard time finding clothing, so thinner individuals should not buy from the plus-sized section. Here’s a video that received some criticism.

I find nothing wrong with the intent of this video. The two articles of clothing she redesigned were a men’s buttoned-up shirt and a big pair of pocketless women’s jeans. To me, this was no more than a tutorial of how to upcycle thrift store clothing that just happens to be too big, or in large supply. I mean you should see how many long-sleeved dress shirts we have at The Salvation Army. And she said at the end of the video that there are a whole bunch of pocketless jeans in thrift stores. It seems to me that she was just influencing people to turn oversupplied clothing into something unique.  

I know that plus-size people have a harder time finding clothing. I agree that thinner people should not buy clothing in the plus-size section for the sole purpose of making a fashion statement. But I’ll I say it again I don’t think that was the intent of her video and I don’t think it’s the intent of the upcycling movement. My observation is that the upcycling movement has two purposes. One, it encourages people to identify clothing that doesn’t sell in thrift stores and to turn it into something fashionable. Two, the movement gives people the skillset to make changes to clothing that fits them better. This could mean slightly altering the size of something that’s a little too big or recreating an old fashioned design into something more modern. Overall I think upcycling is great. This brings me to my first reason why thrifting is good.

1. There is plenty of clothing, actually, there is too much clothing.

As I kind of mentioned before I work part-time at The Salvation Army. I see first hand how much waste we cause as a society. The store that I work for alone receives 5-6 thousand pieces of clothing every day. All clothing is given a month to sell. Have you ever wondered what happens to the clothing that doesn’t sell within the month? I wrote a blog post on this topic “Donating Clothes to The Salvation Army | Everything You Need to Know”. It explains how The Salvation Army tries its best to repurpose all the clothing they receive. In short, the clothing that doesn’t sell at the thrift stores is tried in public auctions and buy by the pound sales. Yes, that’s right there are sales where you can buy a pound of clothing for 87 cents. My store has these at the end of every month. Even with these efforts, there is still a surplus of good quality clothing. The best of the remaining clothing is sold to oversaturated second-hand markets overseas. The biggest bulk of leftover clothing is sold to textile recycling companies all around the world. Unsalvagable clothing is sent to the landfills. We need to find solutions as a society to limit waste. This is why it’s awesome that we have people thrifting and upcycling clothes. 

2.  Individual Pursuit

Thrifting is an avenue to creativity and entrepreneurship. Walking into a thrift store can be intimidating at first but if you stick around you may start to get some ideas. Maybe it’s fixing up and repainting a worn down piece of furniture. It could be upcycling an article of clothing that would otherwise be unsold. Perhaps it’s as simple as finding vintage clothing for a unique outfit. Then there’s always reselling and creating a market for cool second-hand items. All of these things are great because they build up the demand for used items. But does this demand hurt low-income individuals? People who work 9-5 jobs and have a family to provide for, can’t shop as much as dedicated thrifters. Are all the quality clothes taken before poor people even have a chance to browse the stores? I would say no. The thing about thrifters is that they’re selective of the things they buy. Meaning that vintage shoppers and resellers seek clothing with graphics and designs that fit a certain style or marketplace. Most of these individuals have a specific selection process that still leaves quality clothing on the racks.

3. Helping a cause and giving back to a community. 

The are many nonprofit organizations in the US that use the profits from their thrift stores to fund programs that help people. 

  • Employment

Organizations like Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and Deseret Industries employ people that would otherwise have a difficult time getting jobs. This could be anyone with mental disabilities, the homeless, or people recovering from addiction. Often times these individuals acquire skills that help them get jobs in other fields. 

  • Assisting the Homeless

Another common cause is assisting the homeless. Organizations like Goodwill and The Salvation Army use their resources to provide food, shelter, and clothes to poor people in different communities. Habitats for Humanity builds and renovates homes for low-income families and individuals.

  • Disaster Relief

Goodwill distributes resources to victims of natural disasters. The Salvation Army has a disaster relief program that provides mobile feeding assistance and temporary shelter that helps people all over the world when disasters hit. I wrote a post about 10 Natural Disasters and How The Salvation Army Helped. Habitats for Humanity helps too by literally rebuilding communities after crises.

Charity shops in the UK also fund many causes.

As always thank you for reading.

Sincerely,

The Salvation Army Donations Guy

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