Choosing a Second Chance – Why you should shop second hand

by Heather Kallevig

Nice quilts and blankets, full sets of plates, silverware, and glasses, stereo equipment, and of course shoes and clothes. These are just a few of the items I found during my recent perusal of our town’s local Goodwill. We were there looking for items to supplement our BBQ set, spending money on reusable goods rather than disposable plates and platters. As I walked through the well-organized aisles, bobbing my head to Backstreet Boys’ “Bye, Bye, Bye,” I realized there was more value to recycled goods than the 90s music. There were great household items, clean, attractive clothing, and friendly staff. Buying used is not simply a second hand option, it’s a solution.

In our grandmother’s generation, you were more likely to purchase used goods than new ones. Today, consumer products are so affordable, people don’t have to shop vintage but they still should.   There are many reasons to buy second hand: you have the opportunity to recycle, your goods will have character, they’re unique and cheap, and you get to regenerate great stuff. Below are mindful reasons to buy second hand and some great ideas where.

Reason 1: Recycle

In a world where the human population is increasing exponentially, the need for recycling coincides with our rapid growth. We cannot continue to produce new, expendable goods at our current rate. The planet’s resources won’t keep up. We need to be mindful of our products – choosing high-quality, single goods that will last a long time, rather than a closet full of cheap goods that last three wears. One great way to recycle is to purchase our clothing and household goods used, bringing them back into life rather than sending them to the landfill.

Reason 2: Your Goods Have Character

Often in today’s consumer-driven world, it’s not unusual to buy a shirt at target and see fifteen other people wearing the exact same thing. Not that this is a big deal, but the most you can say about that item is it was a cheap shirt at Target. When you purchase goods second hand, you get to imagine the life it once lived, taking part in your new life. Your goods are unique and well loved. Also, it’s not unusual to find great, expensive brands, that will last ten times longer used, than that cheap, single shirt from Target.

Reason 3: You Can Find Cheap, Unique Items

It’s not surprising many thrift stores reach their peak around Halloween – people often scour these locations looking for the unique and unusual goods to supplement their costume. This treasure hunt doesn’t have to be limited to October, however, think about all the other times you’re looking for something a bit different. For example, my husband likes to find unique crockery in antique stores to serve as vases for special occasion flowers. You can find cool furniture for your house, or used goods in an REI attic. Second hand is the way to make sure your stuff stands out.

Reason 4: Regenerate Great Stuff

I already mentioned your stuff comes with a story when you buy second hand. You may never really know the tale, but you do get to breath new life into great stuff. We’ve seen the advantages of second chances and come backs – rescue pets, oldies music, Robert Downie Jr. – to name a few. Also, fashions are cyclical, the clothes worn in the 80s and 90s will eventually be back in style. The china from someone else’s wedding becomes your treasure. A priceless antique, built by the hands of a farmer in the 30’s is now the family kitchen table. Very few products are used to their full potential before they are given away, they’re just waiting for a second change to show their potential.

Where to Buy Second Hand

The options for buying second hand are as unique as the shoppers. The most affordable are generally your nonprofit locations such as Goodwill and Value Village. If you’re looking for higher-end brands, look up your local consignment shops – often people are selling $150 jeans for $30, shoes and purses too. For furniture, dishes, and trinkets – check out antique stores and furniture dealers. Many stores are popping up selling used and new furniture in separate show rooms. If you’re looking for outdoor gear, REI has their attic – in which they sell returned items that cannot be sold new. This is a great place to find good quality sleeping bags, skis, boots, and expensive coats for very low prices. If books are your handle, set down the kindle for a while and check out a used book store! There’s many great books that you can read and return at your convenience.  Finally, if you prefer to do your digging online, another great option for purchasing second hand is craigslist. This gives you the option to choose your goods before ever leaving the house.

Whatever your need, consider checking second hand first. Not only will you be helping reduce our footprint on the planet, you’ll be breathing second life into great old products. You’ll be unique, have character, and in all likelihood have a lot more fun in the experience.

If you know of other great places please share them in the comments!