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Mihal Freinquel

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Goodwill Toward Man: 5 Tips for Thrift Store Shopping

Posted: 07/15/2009 5:45 pm

Not too long ago I was on the phone with my crazy Grandma Gwen. As I'm sure many old folk do from time to time, she was reflecting on her life and the impact she has had on her friends, her children and her grandchildren. The list was short albeit significant:

"I never judged your mother growing up. I might have been crazy but I was always supportive," she asserted with pride.
"I know gramma, mom always mentions that as something she really appreciates about you."
"What about you Mihally? What have I taught you? Hmmm...well I taught you about good will!" she exclaimed enthusiastically.
"What do you mean?" I asked. "Like, good will toward Man?"
"Hahahaha no honey, I hate people! I mean I taught you how to shop at Goodwill!"

That she did.

It's fair to say that in this rough economic time, thrift shopping is being encouraged now more than ever -- articles upon articles encouraging the average American to spend less and save more. Here's the problem though: the average department-store-minded American can't really handle thrift store shopping. It's overwhelming...it's a labor of love...it's dirty and kind of exhausting. What's more is, according to my Google search (the only thing I base anything on anymore) there are no good guidelines out there for people to follow if they're interested in the Great [Thrifted] Unknown. So on that note I bring you my good will toward Man:

Mihal's 5 Tips for Thrift Store Shopping:

1) Grocery Lists: This one depends on how visual and fashion-minded you are. Many times it can help to make a list of specific items you want -- a green cardigan, a pinstriped blazer, a lacey tank top, etc. etc. No need to get too specific, "leather jacket" would suffice, but the more directed you are the better. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the disorganization and the colors and the smells.

2) Be realistic: Some things are better new and worth spending the moolah on. Anything that shows its age, stretches, fades, or morphs in any way should be avoided (unless that's the look you're going for, which I have been known to do). Things I prefer to buy new: jeans, heels, running shoes (those get thrown out for a reason) and anything white. Oh, and it should go without saying, but undergarments as well.

3) Examine examine examine: People get rid of things for a reason. Sometimes it's as simple as clearing out a closet to make space for new clothes (me, every 3 months), or getting rid of anything that's out of style (me, not often enough). Others, however, might have more practical reasons like holes, rips, alterations gone wrong, stains or a host of other unfavorable flaws. If you like something, examine it well. If it checks out, please go home and wash it before you wear it.

4) Let that imagination run wild: Since you're spending $10 on a shirt instead of $50, don't be afraid to buy things with the intention of making them different. I personally am quite scissor happy and cut everything I don't like into something else. Sometimes it has gotten me in to trouble, but for the most part I have been pleased. A more traditional approach would be to buy a long dress that you can have tailored into a mini, or a blazer that needs taking in at the waist or shortening of the sleeves. Channel your inner project runway contestant and have a little faith in your artistic ability.

5) Don't give up: Aaliyah must have been singing about thrift shopping when she said "if at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and try again." This ain't Macy's people...thrift stores don't replenish when they run out of stock and there's no way of ever predicting what they will have. If you don't find what you want the first time, go back next week...and the week after that. It's the price you have to pay for looking good on the cheap, stop whining.

Like Grandma Gwen, I, too, hate most people. However, I couldn't pass up this opportunity to pay it forward. I'll consider it my good will toward man for the year.

Go forth and conquer...happy browsing.

 

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