Two years ago, my husband and I were trying to sell a house in Maryland in the middle of a very bad housing market. We had already moved down to Raleigh for my husband's job, so half of our belongings came with us and the other half stayed in Maryland to stage our house. It took a year before the house finally sold. A year in which we lived with only half of our belongings, sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a room with no curtains and barren walls.
In that year, I learned that most of what I owned was superfluous. But when our house finally sold and I got all of my belongings back, I also learned how much I love my stuff. And the day all of our belongings were back in one house and put away was the very first day in a year that the place I was living in felt like home.
There are a lot of reasons why we shouldn't buy more stuff: It's a waste of resources. It takes energy to produce. It takes labor - often performed by people who are overworked and underpaid. It forces us to have larger houses than we need. It puts many people into debt. I could go on...But instead let's talk about the positive. Stuff makes us happy. Clothes and books and movies and video games and paintings and knickknacks of every shape and size. They are our stuff, and so we love them.
Does that mean we have the right to fill our lives with the latest brand new thingamajig to be tossed aside as soon as it's out of style? To buy whatever we want whenever we feel like it? To ignore the negative impact because stuff makes us happy?
Of course not. But just because there's a negative side to stuff doesn't mean we all have to live a minimalist lifestyle if that's not our thing. As in all things, there's a way to find balance.
For me, buying used has been the key to balancing my want for more stuff with my need to live lightly on the earth. I remind myself to buy what I need, keep my wants to a minimum, and if it's something I really want (and have the money to buy), try to find it used. In fact, because used items are so much cheaper, sticking to used products has made certain categories of my budget feel like they've doubled. For example, if I get tired of an old but still good shirt, I take it to the thrift store and swap it out for a new one, and rather than putting a $40 whole in my pocketbook, I'm only out $3 or $4.
For all you thrift newbies out there, I've listed below a bunch of places you'll want to get familiar with in the world of used shopping. For the Baby Steps, I start with places like thrift stores because there's a certain amount of reliability since the products there have been screened and found worthy for resale. In the next section, I list places you can find used products online. These are Jogging Stride simply because there's a certain amount of trust/risk involved when buying directly from a person rather than a store. The final category includes places where the used goods are likely more expensive (but also likely higher quality).
- thrift stores
- consignment shops
- used media stores (for books, movies, video games, etc.)
- Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores (for building materials leftover from Habitat for Humanity builds)
- flea markets
- garage sales
- Paperback Swap (and other sites like it)
- estate sales
- antique shops
I'm a Jogging Stride used shopper. Although estate sales intrigue me, I have yet to work up the courage to go to one, and antique stores simply terrify me because I always have three children in tow.