Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Let's Discuss: Is Thrifting an Alternative to a Materialistic Mindset? Are We Filling Emotional Voids with Objects?

Last month I wrote 12 Reason to Buy Nothing New. Style, Environmentalism, and Deep Introspection. Reader Raffaella left a question in a comments that beat me to my planned follow-up:


While thrifting is very interesting (I only wish we had thrift stores here!) and I agree with your points, I've always wondered if it really is an alternative to the consumeristic mindset. I mean that buying secondhand is still buying, so still a way to fill an emotional void with material things. What do you think? 
I agree with Raffia. Buying second-hand IS still buying and a way to continue to fill emotional voids with material objects. I took a long break from ALL buying, including second-hand buying, even buying for my business, to examine what I tend to buy and why I buy. These are my thoughts a few months in:

1) We Need to Be Careful About Every Object We Bring Into Our Lives. Free, Thrifted, and Otherwise: Thrifting is environmentally friendly; reducing landfill mass and provides an alternative to products made in sweatshops. Hell, it's fun. But once you're in the lifestyle it becomes too easy to obtain wares for free or close to it. You get to know all the best stops, your eyes are glued to curbsides. You can easily pick up too much, leaving you with an unorganized hoarder-mess.



2) You Need a System: These free and low-cost supplies are necessary from indie business owners on a budget, but you need a strict set of rules on what comes in and out and a detailed organization system. Example: Keep all plywood organized by size, texture, and color in your workshop and remnants for jewelry creating neatly organized in a (thrifted) tackle box. Donate one thing for every item you bring in.

3) Think of the Legacy You Want to Leave: I often think about the legacy we'll leave behind on a macro and micro level. Let's think about what people would say about our homes and our work after we pass. I want them to see a thoughtful, helpful creator who collected with a good eye; not piles of junk.

4) Human's Innately Crave Constant Novelty: In Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping I read about 19th century economist/sociologist Thorstein Velben and his "aesthetic nausea" theory. It's when you get bored with the latest fashion, the novelty's gone and it's chucked for the next trend. This has been going on since our first civilization in The Fertile Crescent and in caves before that. The human-best constantly examines and collects, seeking new resources and better chances for survival. It's natural, but we can overcome and do this in a more organized fashion.

5) It's okay to examine the world, collect from it, and re-arrange. Thoughtfully. Make a plan: We choose what to bring in and how to reconstruct it into something new. Think about where you choose to spend your money or what to bring in. Do it wisely and with care.

Also, note: I've happened upon comments on past posts asking detailed questions. I don't often read comments on past posts after that week (you can see the dates at the top left of each post). Please e-mail me and I'll get back to you.

What are your thoughts on thrifting and materialism? Is it still a bad thing?
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20 comments:

  1. I often think of what people would think if I died suddenly. Ugh. It is not a pleasant vision and makes me want to get more organized and be better about letting go of objects. Most of my thrifting is for resale but I do get pleasure when I find something I really want.

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    1. I think the same thing often and it helps me the same way.

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  2. I experienced it first hand when I had to clean out my parents house after they died (10 years apart), As my mom got older, she was tired and didn't have any help and she was also pretty broke (I live 1200 miles away). So all of those lovely antiques that her and my dad collected over the years, where not taken care of and there were so many. My dad was an artist and all of his lifes work were also in disarray, my mom was a chef and she owned every cooking apparatus and doo dad you could imagine. Boxes and boxes (at least 100) of pans, specially knives, utensils, bowls etc, Probably 75% of them still new in packaging!! It was a huge load to clean out. It definitely gave me insight as to "having stuff" ....for what? I heard this saying on a documentary I watched about the people in Denmark. They have very small houses that are so minimal is hard to imagine living like that. They grocery shop every day or two because they have small kitchens and small refridgerators, They shop for that days meal. Someone asked how they could live that way, and the response was (love this....) "less stuff, more living" Okay, easier said than done, I do have a lot of stuff, but it is what I sell, and what I do. The other stuff, I will just blame my kids......

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    1. I adore looking at the efficiency of homes in Denmark and aspire to live for like that every day. In Europe and Asia in general you have less space so you are more efficient with what you have. I've seen the tiny fridge living in action when I lived in Italy. Yep, they did got the fresh market daily and there was a lot more prep/cooking-- but so much more emphasis on living and family time with the family prepping (healthy, fresh- literally just-killed meat) together. It was awesome. I continue to challenge my minimalism goals with those memories in mind.

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  3. I guess if you find a balance, like anything in life, you should be alright. Thrifting can be materialism if you go shop often and mostly the times you buy stuff you dont even need. We will always buy stuff, no matter if you are living in the hoods in a sustainable house or if you are homeless.
    I prefer to spend my money in experiences than material stuff but I want to improve my photography so I need to buy a new camera... what I can do is to sell my old camera first, this way you get less materialist.

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    1. Yep, it's all about balance. Sometimes I beat myself up over my material lust, I love new technology like good cameras and lenses to help with my art and beautiful things made by artisans, but even then, it's all about moderation and thoughtful consumption.

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  4. I think part of why I feel more willing to buy something if it's re-sale/thrift is because a lot of it just gets trashed. If something sits in a thrift store for too long it's sent overseas or elsewhere for textiles - and if I like it, might as well. I try to keep a balance though!

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    1. Yep, it's all about keeping the balance. I'd love to start finding ways to help/support more recycling/upcycling efforts into the future.

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  5. Amen, amen, and amen!!! I used to be in the "rescue" mindset when I felt I had to save everything I found hidden at the thrift store, abandoned at the curb, or stranded at the swap meet. I have been on a self-imposed buying freeze. It has given me paise to consider exactly what I want and need in my life. It has coincided with a healthy purge of items that were merely filling space!

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    1. Great minds think alike, I've done the same with the buying freeze and it really does help illuminate the problems of constant consumption, even as a thrifter.

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    2. Yes, I also take things because of a "rescue" mentality. Can't bear to think that a "good" or "fixable" something will be thrown out.

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    3. If we're not fixing snd using it immediately though, it's clutter. Its all about fixing it fast. Definitely understand the mindset. Big time.

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  6. Hmm, even minimalists have things, so I feel that buying at the thrift store helps both my pocket book and if I ever have buyers remorse I paid bottom dollar and can always donate it back, although that rarely happens except with the odd piece of clothing. I also like the fact that there is no packaging involved. I bought a new comforter the other day and was shocked at all the freaking packaging, which I can recycle but most of which was unnecessary to begin with.

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    1. Good point about no packaging.

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    2. Yep. Packaging is painful. I recycle/upcycle as much as possible. You sound like you only buy what you need while thriftng, and your thoughtful about it. I'm so deep in being minimal/cheap that thrifting isn't always "bottom dollar" anymore. Our goodwills have shirts at $5; and dresses at $7...meanwhile I just got a batch of beautiful brand name clothes for free from a friend.

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  7. Glad we are on the same wavelenght. :-)
    I'm not "Raffia" though.

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    1. Sorry for the typo, I know it's annoying to see your name spelled-wrong in print. Fixed now.

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I love reading your comments. Thank you for adding to the discussion! I always reply to any and all questions.

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