Thrift Store List: the Process


So, part of the deal with participating in The Compact is looking to thrift stores and other resale outlets when we need to purchase something BEFORE buying new. I’ve done OK about not buying new stuff, overall…for sure my discretionary spending is down, but I haven’t been that creative about looking in thrift stores for items I don’t think will be there. For example, I went ahead and bought a bucket at the Dollar Tree the other week partly because I did need something right away, but also because when the thought of getting it used crossed my mind, I truly dismissed it out of hand. Two things happened: one, my right away task ended up not happening until a couple of days later so I could have checked a few nearby thrift locations. And two, a conversation with Nathalie in the comments reminded me that thrift stores often DO carry random items like buckets, even though I tend to think of them as primarily selling clothing.

As I thought about it I realized that I pretty much only have ever gone to Goodwill when I go to a thrift store. But there are so many more options; now that I’m keeping my eyes peeled, I’m seeing them everywhere. The other thing that has held me back is a general concern that I’ll wander into a thrift store and since shopping used items is OK, I’ll go crazy and come home with all kinds of unneeded random stuff. So I just haven’t gone. However, if I want to be really effective at this Compact thing and make it a true way of life and not just something I’m sort of enduring for the year, I need to actually GO to thrift stores and I need to learn how to NOT BUY things when I don’t need them. Hence, two goals:

  • Search out and visit new to me thrift stores in my city. This is basically all of them, so I’m going to check out some that have been highly recommended first and then work on more hole in the wall places that just seem to appear.
  • ONLY shop from a list of needed or wanted items. My list has a few different categories which I’ll explain below, but they are:
    • Home Projects
    • Household
    • Clothing (exluding undergarments and shoes)
    • Decor/knick-knacks

My exceptions for the Compact are consumables, ebooks and items needed to complete home projects.With home projects, the idea isn’t that I’ll start something frivolous, but we have a list of ongoing updates and repairs that we want to make to our home and property — and supplies for those projects are fair game for new purchases. An extension of this is completing partially finished projects; if buying something will help that happen, then I am ok with that. BUT. Even as I type this, I know that some home project type things DO show up at thrift stores, particularly places like the Habitat ReStore. So. The home projects category is a look here first, but keep in mind our timeline, color scheme, etc. I can buy new in this category if I have to.

Similarly, household items may or may not eventually be bought new. For example, if I want a new casserole dish just because…it’s used or nothing. But I need a new shower curtain liner and I would never have thought to look for this at the thrift store, but Katy Wolk-Stanley at the Non-Consumer Advocate mentioned finding one new in the wrapper at her Goodwill, so it occurred to me that I really should be checking thrift stores first for almost everything. However, I’m not going to wait forever on things like a new shower curtain liner, so there is some wiggle room to buy new here, too.

Finally, the clothing and decor categories. These are not items I need. At all. Ever. Except maybe a graduation gown and I actually had my mom bring down the two gowns I already have from previous degrees, so hopefully I can make those work. Anytime I say I need a new piece of clothing is really me saying that I want a new piece of clothing. At some point I expect that I’ll actually wear out my clothing and need to replace it. But my long years as a trend follower and habitual shopper mean that my closet is really full.

Same thing with decor. Anything that might fall into the actual “need” area here really would then belong to the home projects category. This is on my mind because I would like a few more spring related decorations (suddenly I am a sort-of seasonal decorator). There is nothing close to a need here, and I am not even sure I should indulge this particular want. But maybe…it seems like an opportunity to upcycle something, which could be fun.

That’s my approach for shopping going forward. I’ll share my actual list (which of course will be constantly changing) at some point just to start out with some accountability and to use this blog to track my progress in becoming less and less of a consumer.

14 thoughts on “Thrift Store List: the Process

  1. I am doing a modified compact this year. I have many clothes and need few, but I am allowing myself 3 new things per season.(I only have 2 real seasons here so 6 items total for the year). But I just don’t want or need to wear thrift store underwear. I am paring down our household belongings so I will buy nothing new there, but I am continually looking on the thrift store/garage sale circuit for a bread machine (Am I the only one in the world who never had one?) and a smaller pressure canner.
    I also admit I am looking at buying an instant pot. If I get one I imagine it will be new since they haven’t really been around long enough to be hitting the Goodwill shelves yet

    1. I like how you are modifying the compact. I think that once this year is over, I may do something similar.

      Funny you mentioned a bread machine. I received one for Christmas as a teen (because I was exactly that kind of teen) but ended up not loving it so much. So it’s made the rounds between all our different family members, even coming back to me when I thought I’d made my peace with its limitations. I don’t know who has it now, but I completely understand why so many of them end up in thrift stores!! And I also understand how they are lifesavers for some people.

      I would really like an Instant Pot, too. I almost bought one over Thanksgiving when it was on super sale, but talked myself out of it. I may ask for it as a gift, although much as I want one, I am doing just fine without it, too, so… I bet they’ll start popping up in thrift stores soon-ish, as I’ve noticed that all the warehouse type stores are selling their own version of them, so I feel like market saturation is on it’s way.

  2. Nix on the used undies…yuck! πŸ˜‚

    However, if you want to try something fun — not frugal necessarily, but fun. Learn how to sew your own. I treated it as a skill lesson and even though I haven’t quite perfected it I’m improving.

    I’m trying to do the household items on a budget and eco friendly, too. Goodwill and Salvation Army are about the only two thrift places here. They do have multiple stores though.

    I kind of divide my list into three categories: wants, would be nice, and must have now. My daughter’s jeans (for example) fell into the must have now category…so I shopped as thrifty as I could on them. New curtains for the living room would be nice, but I haven’t found anything ideal…although I am toying with altering some existing valances, which would be ideal for my goals. The wants category includes things like more cast iron cookware. I’m excited to say my sister found a place with tons of used that is near me. I’ll check it out and see if the costs are feasible.

    Thanks for the reminder to always check used first!

    1. Oh, fun that you mention making your own undies! I actually have a couple of patterns saved, one where you use old t-shirts. Like everything in my closet, right now I have plenty. I feel like everything I own might start wearing out at the same time, so perhaps practicing now when I don’t need them makes sense.

      I’ve been so impressed with how you’ve been decorating on a budget — I thought your couch/love seat patch was fantastic. I suppose that my items also have that kind of priority level, too.

      Cast iron doesn’t work the best on our stove, but I would like a few pieces of the enameled cast iron; I wonder if I’ll come across any? That’s definitely a want for me, though! πŸ™‚

  3. Just keep in mind, when you visit the thrift stores, that their inventory changes constantly so if you don’t see, say a bucket or a bread machine, on the day of your visit, it doesn’t mean that you won’t find one there the next day.

    I would also advise to do your research on where the money is going, since you mentioned wanting to be more politically active these days. There are thrift stores that I refuse to frequent because they benefit charities that are in complete opposition to my views on some subjects. This may or may not be a priority for you, but I wanted to mention it.

    The Goodwill in my area used to sell brand new items donated by Target, but it seems that it has stopped these days. Also, I love that their clothing is sorted by color, but their prices are higher than at other thrift stores in my area. In general Goodwill is more expensive, where I live, probably because of their overhead. I did buy my breadmaker there ($7.99!), as well as other electronics. But apart from their clothing section, it’s a mess with items thrown on shelves mostly at random, so shopping there is sensory overload for me. Plus it’s usually crowded.

    I prefer my thrift stores to be well organized and have less of a garage sale feel. I love the Habitat for Humanity ReStore because I have found such things as my over the stove microwave and one for my BFF, and furniture both for my house and for Middle Son when he got his apartment last year. But I have actually found more items to purchase at my South Lake Animal League thrift store, which is kind of small but staffed by the best volunteers ever who must all have OCD because finding something there is like shopping at Target! I can zero in on what I need if they have it almost as soon as I walk into the room. I buy my pet items there (carriers, pet beds, pet bowls, pet toys), several gardening items (pots, etc.), craft items when I need them, kitchenware, electronics, and some clothes.

    I’ve never bought underwear at thrift stores because I have lots of it and I wear mine forever. But I don’t think I’d be opposed to it. It’s like any kind of clothing, you wash it. It doesn’t have any more of a yuck factor to me than wearing anything else used. After all, I’ve worn bathing suits that had been passed on to me before.

    I’ve mentioned garage sales. Don’t discount those! Maybe on a weekend when you and Mike want to take a walk, you can check out a community garage sale and see if you come across any of the items on your wishlist.

    Good luck in your hunt this year! I hope you find an Instapot!

    1. Oh, good point about where the money goes and so on. That is on my radar, although sometimes it gets complicated (like all things). I think a number of the smaller thrift stores around here are actually not non-profits, which is fine. We have a TON of goodwills and I actually want to drive around the see how they compare neighborhood to neighborhood. And our humane society thrift store and another one that supports veterans are supposed to be the two best in town, so that’s where I’m starting Friday.

      Michael would probably rather do almost anything than go with me to a garage sale, lol, but that’s a great idea to combine a walk with treasure hunting. There are frequently garage sales in my own and nearby neighborhoods, too.

  4. I love to see your well-thought out philosophy in this post! I was hoping it would happen soon after your goals post yesterday. In my area, we have Goodwill’s on the regular, a few used and second hand “boutiques” and that’s about it. We do have a bi-annual HUGE children’s consignment sale in my county which is where I sell and buy clothes for my daughter. As a working mom, checking out thrift stores isn’t high on my priority list due to time restrictions, although I’d truly love for it to be! I’ll just have to get creative πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks! I’m lucky that right now I work from home and am a student, so in some ways my time is flexible. You actually bring up a good point about consignment — I didn’t include them in my list yesterday, but I think I will also be checking out our consignment stores, too, as I think my clothing “needs” might be best met there. My sister takes advantage of kids consignment sales all the time and has been able to get some great deals on clothing and other baby/toddler related items. I’m sure there are similar things here, although since we don’t have children I am not so aware of them.

      Honestly I think the best way to be a non-consumer is to simply not buy things! But now that I’m at the point where we are starting to need/want things, I want to feel better poised to search out used options first. It’s a tricky balance and when I worked my crazy way-more-than-40-hours job, I don’t think thrifting would have been much of an option for me. But I’m hoping that by gathering knowledge now, I’ll be able to channel my energy more efficiently when I do go back to working in a more stressful environment.

      I think you will be wonderfully creative and find good solutions for just your circumstances!

  5. I used to shop at thrift stores quite a bit. Then, I found myself buying a whole lot of stuff because it was so inexpensive – decorative items, china, etc. Had to turn around and donate them because it became too much clutter!

    I think, the problem with thrift store shopping is the time it takes to look for specific things. Otherwise, buying used is a worthwhile goal and if you can support a charity of your choice at the same time, then, even better. Wish you the best in finding what you need.

    1. Bless — that is exactly my concern!! This is why I’m planning to work with my list and pretty much not deviate.

  6. I love this post! I try *so* hard to find things used before buying new! Recently, I have been willing to pay more for used items, especially if I know they will last, instead of buying new. For example, I used to only want to pay 25-33% of full retail value for something used. I have some great thrift stores in my area, but I also have a lot of luck buying used clothes for myself and toddler on ebay.

    1. Yes, I need to work on changing that mindset, too, regarding how much I think I should pay for a used item. All in good time, I suppose!

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