Confession: I Hate Thrifting. (But I’m Trying To Change My Ways)



I've walked into thrift stores only a few times in my life.  The whole setup isn't really my thing.  I hate digging through huge piles of stuff, I have a bloodhound's sense of smell (mold especially kills me), and I find itchy clothing depressing.  I don't care who made it in what decade, I'll take a new jersey knit over vintage polyester any day.   

I do own some vintage pieces, though.  I'm not totally immune to their charms.  All of mine were passed down from my mom.  I wore Mom's old Calvin Klein cut-offs all through high school and college, her sexy red maxi dress when I was pregnant (the only time my boobs were big enough to fill it out), and you may recall seeing her sparkly prom purse on the blog from time-to-time.  But here's the deal:  They were my mom's.  I didn't have to go scrounging through bins, worry about smells, or wonder about a stain.  They all came with stories – familiar stories, stories that are now part of my family lore.

But thrifting…it's intimidating and impersonal and smells bad.  Yet it's cheap.  SO cheap.  And it's better for the environment.   

As a tree-hugger who is not independently wealthy…yet (snort)….if I'm really serious about reducing my own personal environmental impact (and saving some cash along with those trees), I need to take another look at how, and what, I consume.  I'm all about CPW (cost per wear) and buying fewer, better quality items…so how can you go wrong with quality at $3.99? 

I'm assuming, of course, that quality can be found for $3.99.  Because Yentine said so, more or less.  And she's pretty much the thrifting expert in my little online world.  

So keeping Yentine's first tip in mind (HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE, which may have been the root cause of my past failures)….I went thrifting.  At the Goodwill in my tiiiny hometown, population 25,000.  If you ever wanted to set a thrifting bar low, go to a small, isolated town with an overabundance of non-ironic Carhartt.  But unlike Philly, in my tiny hometown I can park without fear (the PPA is NO JOKE) and I have free babysitters (thanks, Mom!).  

My thrifting trip was….hunh.  Successful?  Keeping an open mind, I did end up trying stuff on, and even walked out with an item or two.  To prove I was there illustrate, I took pics.  


I think I owned a dress like this in high school.  HEY!  I think this was my dress in high school!  Sigh. Needless to say, I left it there.



If you are looking for a bunch of old, polyester Western shirts, look no further than the Marquette, Mich. Goodwill.  Despite its Northern location, there's plenty of Yee-Haw.



You know how the '80s are back?  And how '80s sweaters are kind of a thing now?  Yeah – I thought that this *actual* '80s sweater might be perfect.  Until I realized that it was staring back at me.



I tried layering it over a polyester secretary blouse.  Still staring.  Still no.



Besides, Yentine says to look for silk, not polyester.  And then I actually walked out with this shirt:




Yes I did.  And yes, it is one of those embroidered gingham numbers, found in the old lady section of JC Penny or Kohls, thank you for asking.  



It's rather horrifying, I know.  BUTBUTBUT…I like it?  I thought it looked cool (in a slightly ironic way) with my tiny floral shorts, and figured it would come in handy at a cowboy bar?  Maybe?  Sigh.  I don't know.  I haven't actually worn it yet.  But….I think I could, you know? 


AND THEN WE COME TO THE GRAND FINALE.  The one where I find herringbone flares (by Seven for All Mankind no less) for $3.99.  


Per Yentine's instructions, I was checking the racks a size (or two) off my typical size.  And these bad boys?  Were marked two sizes bigger, yet fit like a glove.  Even with a high waist.  Love, love, love.

Sooooo……Mamas, what are you doing for Earth Day?  May I suggest a little thrifting?  (Cause only a true shopping enabler can turn a good Earth Day deed into a shopping trip.)

But seriously, Mamas, spill:  Are you master thrifters?  I know reader Nicole is – I was totally blown away by her thrifted maternity style video.  Am I the only one who has run screaming from Goodwill?  I am changing my ways, but MAN.  Thrifting is hard work.



ps.  I just found another awesome Thrifting Guide on Rookie Mag.  




  1. It really comes down to location. There are 4 (I think) Goodwill’s within a 20 minute drive from me and the furtherest one always has the cool stuff (Joe Jeans – $5 yes, please. Last season’s Calvin Klein sweater – $3. Thank you very much). But the one closest to me, totally hit and miss. I’ve found that if you get friendly with the staff, they will tell you were the best stuff is and which days are best to shop. I’ve gotten clothes for baby girl (enough for Summer) for $30 – so, it’s not all bad. I do, wash, then wash again, everything I get – just in case.

  2. I’ve found a few things. Like a Gap Maternity Cashmere Sweater at the Goodwill Bins (where everything goes before it goes to the stores with hanging racks…but I was pregnant with my first and still had all the time in world to dig-literally-through unsorted clothes). It cost me 50 cents maybe. And thrifting is BIG in Portland, Oregon.
    Anyway, from what I’ve heard and read, finding awesomeness all the time is really dependent on how often you go. In a town where there is high turnover (like big city Portland), going every week is best.
    But who has time for that? 😉

  3. My mom introduced the World of Thrifting to me.(it’s amazing what you can find for 1.00!) Unfortunately I am in the same boat as you: 25,000 pop in the Middle of Nowhere. But, we do have one Goodwill and I have managed to score a couple things. I second the frame of mind, if you don’t have it that day, don’t go because you’ll only leave with frustration..and a musty smell on your hands.

  4. Location, timing and no kids, definitely. My last Goodwill trip was very successful: cashmere sweater vest, silk Kate Spade top, silk Bob Mackie top, wool wide-leg LOFT trousers. I often find items new with tags. But other times I’ve gone in and found nothing.

  5. My problem is that sometimes stuff starts to look good as compared to all the other crap that’s in there, but it’s not something you would actually buy in a different context. I find myself considering something because compared to the 400 scary Christmas sweaters it’s not THAT bad. Not how I want to build a wardrobe. But I did find cool stuff as a teen– I was more patient then I think.

  6. ESP! Just today I have been debating with myself about the thrifting thing. I am a believer in the cost per wear idea, but also that all my pieces should work together. You know, fewer versatile pieces that I wear all the time. I try to be purposeful about what I buy. But thrifting is hard because you have to buy it then, can’t think about it cause it will be gone and there are sometimes no returns. After 6 months of diligent thrifting I may have scored some awesome pieces but I have a closet that is so full but doesn’t really work together. So, the dilemma…be more discriminatory? If I find the perfect skirt for $8 but I dont need a new skirt…do I buy it? Maybe I’ll see what you think after a few more trips to goodwill.
    But, I’m a no holds back thrifter/junker for my house!

  7. I have an aversion to thrift stores but am also trying to change my ways (fruitlessly so far)… especially after seeing some fabulous finds of people around me. But I just starting browsing the site you linked to and it is giving me hope!

  8. I love Goodwill! Without kids of course (*shudder*… tried that… ONCE). I swear half my clothes are from there. Right this minute I am wearing a gray-and-white-striped J crew tank top ($2 on the 50% off day, it was brand new with tag attached) and slim fit gap jeans that were like, $6? They were a tad short (I think they might be petites, but the rise is high enough and I’m pretty tall) so I roll the ankles once and it looks like I did it on purpose. 😉 I look preppy, not “thrift-store-y” at all if I do say so; and for a grand total of about eight bucks for the outfit… it’s how I roll. lol
    BUT. I find that you have to go in with a very treasure-hunty, adventuresome attitude. grab Starbucks, grab a friend if that’s your thing, and just skim through crap until something catches your eye. I have to set a time limit on myself, otherwise everything starts blending together and I start thinking “Maybe this does have potential… it’s only $4…” and trying overly hard to make things work, which means it’s definitely time to leave. But then you find cool dirt cheap treasures, like those awesome pants, and it ends up worth it.

  9. Love thriftiness, Ebaying, shopping resale & consignment…I love finding the unique & hard to find fun things for cheap, especially considering the fact that I have champagne tastes on a beer budget & a HUGE addiction to $400-$500 handbags.

  10. I just…I can’t. The smell overwhelms me. And the stores are usually so depressing! And I know thrifting is a “thing” but if I can afford new clothes, shouldn’t I leave the stuff at Goodwill for the people who may only have $5 to spend on clothes??? Just sayin’…
    Kudos to you for giving it a try!

  11. I’ve tried but either the stores are so gross I can’t even handle it… or, they’re clean and nice but the clothes cost as much as new stuff at TJMaxx or Marshall’s. I consider the Marshall’s clearance rack thrift shopping…
    Here’s the story of my latest attempt:
    I heard a particular thrift store in my neighborhood was great for kids clothes so I went. I brought my daughter, asleep in the stroller with. The kids clothes are downstairs, no elevator. Clearly I am not made for this…
    I keep trying though.

  12. I love the fact you are from Marquette. My in-laws live there (yooper husband! grew up in western UP) and my favorite bookstore is there: Snowbound! Also try the Blackrocks brewery. I hate thrifting too. But I love your pants. An NMU student must from the Detroit area must have brought those up!

  13. I could have written this post. Thrift shops and I don’t get along at all, but I keep trying. Every time I go in though, the smell gets to me and I get overwhelmed. I’ve tried ebay with mild success, but there were still some duds here and there — the thought of wearing someone else’s clothes kind of makes me cringe, but I know that lots of people wear (or at least try on) clothes at department stores too! Plus, I’d like to be greener and I am on a budget, so thrifting seems like a great way to get nice pieces (I tried to make my own clothes, but that didn’t save me much money!)
    But, after reading your post, and reading some of the comments from the serial thrifters, perhaps I’ll try again soon. 🙂

  14. I’m a GW girl. Free People for $3.99? Joes Jeans $6.99? Dining room set for$80, where the chairs only needed recovering? Count me in.

  15. I have done really well with kids clothes thrifting, who am I kidding my mom has. I seem to do better with vintage (not as cheap but all the hard work is done for you) and consignment.
    But every time I read Yentine’s blog I think damn girl you found THAT at a Thrift Store?!

  16. I am a long time thrifter and somehow I am never as overwhelmed at a goodwill as I am in a regular store. Most of the thrift stores I go to don’t smell musty or bad, they just smell like a mixture of every laundry detergent and fabric softener ever made.
    A little more expensive but usually a better inventory, is the resale boutique. I have a few in my area that I like, where everything is on consignment so they are a lot more choosy about what they take. You can afford to have less patience in places like that, there’s not as much digging.

  17. Hells Bells, thrifting is an art form and I LOOOOVE it AND it’s slightly more upscale cousin – consignment shopping. I was raised by a garage-sale-ing, thrift store shopping mama so she passed on the gene to me. Gen-u-wine leather cowboy boots for $2? I think I will. Perfectly distressed jeans jacket? Yes please. SEVERAL army camo jackets? Uh huh. And this weekend I got the most perfect slouchy sweater (it’s on my blog today if you wanna have a look-see).
    Polyester or no, I think I would’ve brought home that DOPE 80s sweater you tried on. Loved it, espesh with the blouse. Keep on truckin, mama, you may decide you’re a thrifter yet.

  18. Can’t do it. I have enough problems getting clothes from “regular” stores to fit properly, and do all my shopping online, cuz that what a daily commute of one hour each way makes you do. It’s just too much work.

  19. Ooooh, I am a thrift-a-holic! Growing up, my mom shopped Macy’s sales racks for us. I’ve taken it a step further and in the past couple of years have thrifted most of my clothes. Some tips:
    1. Go without kids
    2. Go when you have plenty of time, and/or frequently
    3. Go with hand sanitizer and a shower when you get home
    It takes time, and patience, but I liken it to treasure hunting. You gotta dig through all the dirt to find the hidden treasures. A couple of awesome things I’ve scored:
    Grey leather Coach purse $15 (yard sale)
    Nordstrom cream cableknit cashmere poncho $3
    Vince cashmere pullover $5 (I haven’t paid more than $10 for a cashmere sweater and I’ve got a stack of them in my closet)
    Big Star distressed skinny jeans $5
    James Perse dress $6 (consignment store)
    Valentino sunglasses $3 (yard sale)
    My husband also loves thrifting (we go together a few times a month) and has found some great stuff. I do think it’s fantastic for men since fewer men thrift shop. He has found several great suits, including a Ralph Lauren purple label suit for $10.
    On a side note, I am also a reseller. I love shopping thrift stores and garage sales. I shop for myself, and for reselling.
    Happy thrifting!

  20. Thrift stores always give me a panic attack. I get overwhelmed and totally freak out. I do wish I was better at thrift store shopping in the same way I wish I had read all the classics. You know, I want to be the person that finds awesome stuff at the thrift store but am not disciplined enough to get it done.

  21. I used to be a thrifter until the whole bed bug thing was in the news a year or so ago. I guess if I bought something that was washable…I don’t know…
    Rise and Shine Mom

  22. Every time I’ve tried I leave frustrated. I can find accessories but never clothes. Being 5’11” is a large part of that. I struggle to find a 35″ inseam in stores and there’s no tall section in a thrift shop. I think it must work best for the girls who wear more mainstream sizes. I am, however, a big giver to thrift shops.

  23. You talk about cost per wear. What about cost per minute searching for it? It is worth it to me to spend 4 times as much if I’m in and out that much faster. My time is so worth more than $20 savings!

  24. Do you have a Plato’s Closet near you? I live in San Diego and the one near me always has great things! Citizen of Humanity jeans for $20? Yep, they are mine ;p They only carry name brand and designer items. That might help ease you into the thrifting community!

  25. Yes! Wise, wise words. I too am a thriftaholic; I tell people that I cant afford to dress at the quality that I do (lots of Jcrew, Ralph Lauren, COH jeans) if I have to pay full retail. I would have to pay MORE to shop at retailers like Kohls, etc, and would get pretty crappily made clothing.
    The only tip I have to add is that touch is your best asset. My husband says that I have to touch every item in the store, and he isn’t far off. You can feel good quality materials without having to actually look at the item, and only when you’re touching something GOOD do you pull it out and see if you like it.

  26. Thrifting is one of those things I agree with in theory but never manage to pull off in practice. I tend to shop with a specific goal and purpose, and thrifting is all about serendipity. More often I make it to the consignment store near where I work; that’s a great way to score deals in a much more curated environment.
    If you really want to get on the thrifting bandwagon, I recommend reading Dress With Courage ( Elissa is the queen of thrifting; she’s even written a book on it.
    (And I did my own thrifting/consignment/vintage roundup here:

  27. Whaaaat? I can’t believe it. I love thrifting! The Goodwill stores around here are incredibly clean and well organized; I pop in one at least once a week with my kids! It is like a treasure hunt. I’ve scored so many high-end items for a few dollars. Some standouts: $19.99 for a new B. Makowsky leather purse, $6.99 for Stewart Weitzman leopard flats with their $215 tag still on them, $2.99 for a new JCrew cashmere tee and $8.99 for a JCrew wool coat…I could go on. Lots of great toy, book, and homegood deals to be found too! We often find bins of Legos or Hotwheels for a few bucks, books we need for homeschooling, etc. I pretty much outfit my family from Goodwill and it has saved us hundreds a year. I supplement with new things when I have to, but thrifting actually allows us to wear a greater variety of higher quality items.

  28. How is that I’ve been reading this blog for years and never knew you were from Marquette? Hello from Skandia!
    Every time I’ve ever gone to the Mqt. Goodwill, I have awful luck (seriously, that place is so crammed I just freeze with stress when I walk in the door). Granted, I don’t look over every single thing there, but I never seem to find the hidden treasure. One of my coworkers always seems to find those, though, so they must be out there. I do have good luck with clothes for my kids, though.
    I did find a great vintage blouse at a thrift shop a couple of weeks ago, one of those random finds. Love when that happens!

  29. Lol, a town of 25,000 is ton tiiny. Try 300, give or take. The nearest big town, where there was a thrift store (and a Walmart!) was 8,000.
    Anyway, I don’t consider myself a master thrifter, and I really don’t do it often enough, but I have found a lot of good things in the past. Almost all my summer capri’s were found at the thrift shop a couple of summers ago. My mother, though, is the bomb at thrifting. She has worked at a second-hand store for several years now and she is always finding awesome stuff for my kids.

  30. Good for you, for trying out something new!
    I grew up thrifting, my mom is hardcore and we lived in an area with amazing thrift stores, because of all the old rich people (Santa Barbara). We once had a Christmas where every gift had to come from a thrift store, it was awesome! Most of my winter coats are from thrift stores, but that is a particular feature of that market (everyone had a winter coat from their one trip to nyc a year, but never wore them, so they were usually in great condition, in cool vintage designs).

  31. Yes, you have to touch things (and of course try them on!). I’ll make a run to Walmart and see cheaply made shirts for $12 when I only pay a couple of bucks for hardly worn J Crew ones at the thrift store. Location, too, of course is huge. We live in a decent size city (150k) and a lot of people here have money to spend on higher end clothing (not us! lol). But where my sister lives, it’s slightly smaller, but the thrifting would definitely not be so good. I long to go back to thrift stores in L.A.!

  32. There are 6 Goodwills within a 30 minute drive from my house. Growing up we had so little money that buying pajamas from Wal-mart was a treat, so we HAD to thrift. And honestly, I am not addicted and really can’t even imagine buying clothes for my toddler any other way. A) he’s going to ruin it before the next kid can wear it as a hand-me-down B) he will grow out of it really soon. So two bucks a shirt? Heck, yes.
    I’ve also gotten a new 50-dollar pair of boots that I had literally almost bought the month before but changed my mind because of the price. I got them a month later at Goodwill, in exactly my size and color, for 3 dollars.

  33. I’m with you. If im spending money,it doesnt matter if its $2 or$200, i want to feel comfortable, and im totally uncomfortable in someone elses clothes. Also, time is money and how much time does it take at those places to find something good?(i also apply this theory when i clean my house and tell my husband that technically he should pay me $90 a week for my time;) I feel like thrifting is just allowing people to have more stuff. For the past year ive been working on decluttering my life. Less is more, but im not sure paying less is always more.

  34. Holler. Love the UP shout out, I’m an Alpena girl myself. I’ll second the sentiment of thrifting in a wealthier area. Way better finds.

  35. I meet my husband 11 years ago. He was a regular thrift store shopper – he is a book and CD collector. He can spend hours in a thrift shop and think he’s only been there 10 minutes. He comes by it honestly and its in his blood, his momma is an awesome antiquing companion.
    I HATED thrift stores through our dating time and early marriage and dreaded being asked to join him. Then came kids and I started wandering the children’s aisles to pass time and was finding some really really wonderful things for our girls. My efforts increased and my eye started being able to quickly narrow in on things that would work for my kids. About 6 years in I started venturing into the women’s section…and oy – thrifting truly is an art!
    10+ years in I figured out a technique that works for me…if it doesn’t jump off the rack at me I’ll never wear it. I treat it like shopping my closet – something can hang in there for years without being worn, but the favorite pieces are always trying to get off the hanger. Due to time and budget constraints the thrift store has become my friend and you can’t beat awesome jeans from great brands for $6.99 and under…it does make a difference where to are urban, professional areas are the best!

  36. I am exactly with you, shannon. I once found a great pair of tall jeans (in my size) at a thrift store – never seen anything tall since then. I have big feet, too… so all I can find at thrift stores for myself is accessories and the occasional shirt.
    Works great for shopping for my kids, though 🙂

  37. Piping in as another die-hard thrifter. I don’t really go for new brands, though I do see them at my local (yup, that’s how familiar we are), but I am a fan for the true vintage. It’s all about the fabric–now even contemporary brands that sell shirts for 4 and 500 dollars use poly blends. I prefer to wear only natural fabrics and I feel like if it’s at a thrift store and has survived the last 40 years, it’s a darn good bet 😉 And always check the men’s section–good sweaters cheap!

  38. I love thrifting. I’m in a small Canadian town but our local thrift store has clothes shipped in from the states. Its all clean and mostly stain/torn free. I’ve outfitted my kids with all sorts of brand name stuff for 1 or 2 dollars. Not as much luck for myself, but I consider it more of an activity anyways. That way I’m not too disappointed if I didn’t find anything.

  39. There is a really high-end Goodwill in Arlington that I am sure to visit each time I go up to see family. Last time I was there I thought of you — as I scored a like-new pair of Vince Camuto Clairey sandals for $9. 🙂 I’m going to have to send you a pic for inspiration though…I think they are gorgeous but have no idea what to wear them with!

  40. Ah, thrifting. For some reason, my mom has this down like a glove…but her local Goodwill is in a wealthy area of Houston. I live further away, and my Goodwill is, um, scary? I don’t venture there unless I’m donating. I wish I could do this? I just don’t seem to know how.

Leave a Reply