A Muggle’s Room of Hidden Things

With the holidays upon us, stress is building and department stores are filling and bank accounts are quickly emptying. This holiday season, I would like to plug the benefits of thrifting rather than buying things store bought.

As a disclaimer, thrifting for gifts is a controversial topic. Some people believe that giving a previously used gift to someone is stingy. Others find no issue with it. And an overwhelming amount of people believe that it is socially acceptable sometimes and other times not-so-much- for example, buying clothes at a thrift store to be used as gifts is generally frowned upon, while buying decor or accessories is often not a problem. Many people believe that giving thrifted gifts is only okay if the items are very gently used. Certain situations, such as Secret Santas with spending limits, are more open to the idea of thrifted gifts than others. Before you buy all your gifts at Goodwill, think about who you’re giving to and what your relationship with them is. Even if you don’t thrift for any holiday gifts this year, I hope you will keep this blog in mind as you search for your own clothes and accessories later in life.

I, personally, have been thrifting for about half a year now. I hit secondhand stores whenever I need an item for a school project, and recently have been buying a lot of my clothes there as well. There are many reasons for this, the main ones being that clothes and accessories at thrift stores are a) much cheaper, b) much more unique, and c) with much more variety. Who wants to wear the same jeans as three other people walking down the street? Who wants people to look at them and know immediately where they got their shirt? Thrifting brings unique style to a whole new level.

Austin’s city wide garage sale. Courtesty of shopacrosstexas.com

Furthermore, by purchasing used items, I am helping the environment significantly- thanks to Goodwill alone, over two billion pounds of goods are kept out of landfills and available for those in need. Think about how many things you’ve given away or thrown out in the past year. Humans (and Americans in particular) have a habit of buying too many things that aren’t needed or that they don’t have room for. Self storage units didn’t even exist until the 1960s, and now there are over 58,000 storage facilities worldwide. Being a thrifter means that I have the chance to help the environment and support organizations, like Goodwill, that help people in need.

There is another reason that I thrift, and it is possible the biggest one. Do you remember the episode of Friends where Rachel tricks Phoebe into thinking that her Pottery Barn furniture is from the flea market? When Monica informs Rachel that Phoebe hates Pottery Barn, she says,

“Yeah, she hates all mass produced stuff. She thinks her furniture should have a history, a story behind it.”

I recently went to a city wide garage sale, and the number of stories that filled the room astounded me. In fact, it reminded me very strongly of the Room of Hidden Things from Harry Potter- so many old things, from years and years ago, forgotten by their owners and waiting for a home. Everywhere you turned there was something to learn or to look at. There were wedding dresses from the 50’s, cameras so old that they don’t even make the right kind of film anymore, collections of anything and everything you could think of. I even found my high school yearbook from fifty years ago- it brags about bouffant hairstyles, the ‘Jackie Kennedy’ look, and the Twist. Garage sales and thrift stores are a story-lover’s dream, which makes me believe that many of those who work with or support the HPA are the type of people who would enjoy digging through old stuff, even just to marvel at the histories behind it.

Thrifting isn’t for everyone- even if I wish it was sometimes. But even if you’re not open to the idea of thrifting, when you do your spring cleaning in a few months, consider donating your old clothes and furniture to a secondhand store. You can still be a part of the action without wearing a thirty year old dress!

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