I consider myself a world class thrifter. I’m very proud of that credential. If I’m traveling and I have a little time, I head right to the local thrift store (there’s an app for that). I’ve learned that the best thrifting is found in affluent communities where thrifting is not cool. More good stuff for me.

When I found myself in Fairfield, CT, one of the wealthiest counties in the country, I hit the mother lode. I’ll even text friends and say, “I have a shirt here you would love… the tags are still on it… do you want it?”

For years I’ve been pondering why thrifting speaks to my soul as well as my budget. I’ve discovered that the art of thrifting has many layers.

It’s a cultural experience, a spiritual experience, a chance to exercise my creativity, and a good, old fashioned treasure hunt. And it’s good for the environment. Many people don’t realize how “disposable fashion” creates tons of waste.

Actually, I’m a Minimalist

My visits to my local Salvation Army have been especially fun and productive. It’s a store I’ve gone to for many years. The clerks recognize me. I bring my own cloth bags.

My affection for the Salvo is not as simple as my love of bargains – like buying dresses with the tags still on (and maybe, if I’m really lucky, the tag is the 50% off color of the day).

Ironically, I’ve been thinking a lot about materialism and embracing the reality that I have more than enough. For goodness sake, I’m just about to launch my online course “Too Much Stuff,” which addresses clutter and helps people navigate their feelings about needing to keep things they don’t use.

But thrifting falls into a different category for me. It’s just as much about the process. I thrift mindfully. I’m no longer buying things just because they are bargains. Thrifting has become an art form with many facets.

World Market

In Syracuse, New York, we have an active immigrant resettlement program, and many new citizens shop at the Salvo. I hear languages from all over the world. I see faces that are clearly not native to Upstate NY.

I soak in the international vibe, and I feel connected to the world community. I have deep awe for those who have traveled very far to come here. Sometimes I think about what they’ve left behind, and what it was like to relocate so far from home.

I know some people have never seen snow before. I am also aware that not everyone is welcoming to immigrants, so I try to send welcoming vibes, even if it’s just a smile.

I can’t imagine how challenging it must be. Appreciation is an enriching experience, as is the gratitude I feel for not having to flee from my own country.

I’m with Marie on This

When I pick up an article of clothing, it has a history. Marie Kondo speaks eloquently about clothes and their spirit. These items are imbued with a story. Although I wash the clothes before I wear them, wearing them also helps me feel connected to others.

There’s a spiritual strand that connects us through wearing the same clothes. It reminds me of when I went away to school and I shared clothes with my dorm buddies. It felt familiar and friendly. It’s a kind of shared experience.

Connecting with Creativity and My Mom

My strolls through the aisles in the Salvo also allow me to relax my mind – to be open to surprise. Buddhists call this “beginner’s mind.” I try to consider styles that aren’t part of my usual psychotherapist uniform.

What about this color? How could I wear this? I channel my mother who was a professional artist. She gave me an eye for color and quality. It’s a skill I’m very grateful for. Sometimes I take a chance on something I wouldn’t usually wear – especially if the tag is the color of the day.

Dogs and Purses

Rescue and rehabilitation are another part of the thrifting experience. Some of the items need a little love. I bought a very well worn, high quality purse that had seen better days. I took it home and washed it with leather soap. Years of dirt came off and it had a new luster and lease on life.

It occurred to me that thrifting can call on our compassion. I believe in second chances. That probably explains why I have three rescue dogs.

I also love to shop at the big box store nurseries, where they have a rack for unloved plants. One of my fellow shoppers called it the “death row.” Either way, some of my best perennials are thriving after a little love and water.

It’s Not for Everyone

I know that thrifting is not for everyone. One of my friends says there’s a “shkeev factor.” My son says it smells bad in the Salvo. I get irritated when the local college kids come in for their party costumes and can be quite oblivious and even arrogant.

But it resonates with me on many levels. Finding the activities that fit your identity at the deepest levels is important. I joke with my husband that my tombstone will say, “She was a great thrifter.” That would be fine with me.

What do you think of thrift shopping? Is it an experience you’ve tried or would like to try? What are your best thrift store finds? Do you see a connection between thrifting and mindfulness? Please share your thoughts with our community!

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