The Challenges of Thrift Shopping, Are There Other Options?

Racks of clothing:

Recently, I decided to do the “Great Thrifting Challenge” and I found out soon enough that some things really cannot be thrifted (at least for me, I’m not budging). 

While light jackets, sweaters, shirts, skirts, and blouses are great items to thrift–pants, shorts, jeans, any sort of pajama, coats, and leggings are all just impossible for me.

Not to mention that some things give me the heebie-jeebies; leggings are just too close to pajama pants. Nearly all of them have piling and feature the strangest patterns and textures. It is clear why these items were given away.

When it comes down to it, I want to continue thrifting, but a certain percentage of my purchases will be store bought. A part of me is disappointed about this, and another part of me is rather pleased that I can shop the “normal” way, which includes fresh smelling clothes and neat racks of articles. Another option is to shop locally or online at places like Etsy where some items are made of organic cotton or bamboo. There are options.

So while I won’t be completely Earth-friendly, I will have a better quality of life and a much easier time finding things that fit and match my personality. I’m still debating if that sounds too selfish–it certainly could be worse.

Perhaps there is a compromise here. Thrifted items tend to have a shorter lifespan in my closet, which means more purchasing in the long run. This isn’t so bad for the environment, but it certainly is more expensive for me. A high quality item (perhaps sewn by myself or bought online) will last several years. There are, of course, items in the mall or department stores down the road that are a high quality and will last just as long.

If we go back to the classic “reduce, reuse, recycle” we will see the first step is to reduce our consumption of goods. So, if purchasing high quality goods means that you consume less, then perhaps thrifting isn’t the only option for environment-conscious shoppers. The fact is, thrift stores that house these reusable items still consume resources, such as electricity and gas for shipping. So whether you are shopping at a thrift store or purchasing a small number of high quality goods, you are still consuming resources.

Like with many things in life, it isn’t about being perfect, it’s about trying. So however you plan to reduce, reuse, or recycle, you are making a positive impact.

Still feeling guilty? Adopt an acre from The Nature Conservancy.

The Great Thrifting Challenge


I can’t quite recall when or how I came up with this. I think I watched a little too much Clothes Encounters in their earlier days when thrifting was common and exciting. The only thrifting locations that really turned up anything for me were Plato’s Closets, but the clothing is usually geared towards teens more than young adults. I did find a lot of nice clothes during my first thrifting challenge. I believe I went around six months without buying new.

Now that I’m in a city just overflowing with style and thrift stores, I think I want to give this another try. Austin has really everything I want, and I found a thrift-ish store the other day that I honestly think can take me the distance. The Closets in town are lack-luster in my opinion, but they are still options.

The Rules

The Thrifting Challenge will last one year, starting today October 26, 2014. The rules are as follows:

  • Clothing must be purchased from a thrift store/trading store
  • Clothing can be sewn from fabrics/other clothes
  • Undergarments/lounge wear is not included in the challenge
  • The rules do not apply if I am on vacation (you never know what you’ll find)

And that’s it!

5 Great Reasons to Participate

  1. Thrifting is good for your wallet! Dresses that would normally run in the $50 range can be purchased for a little under $20. Shirts can be purchased under $10 easily. You can even trade in your clothes for in-store credit. Which I love!
  2. You can find great quality items for a low price. Thrift stores carry plenty of high-dollar names. I love looking for staple items in the thrift store that are clearly on the newer side. These will last years and won’t go out of style for a long time.
  3. Thrifting is far more fun! You have a TON to look at, from the totally casual to the off the wall…all in the same space. You never know what you’ll find.
  4. You focus more on your own personal style. Mall stores all have a different flavor. You may walk into one store in the mall thinking you want to be completely polished and purchase black trousers. Then, next door you see a frilly pink shirt surrounded by bohemian looks, and well you just sorta get caught up in the mannequin’s style and buy the shirt. Because there is such a wide range of styles in a thrift store, you really have to ask yourself what you do like and what makes those garments stand out for you. Shopping will be a lot quicker when you know that you “can’t stand bright prints” or “hate black”…or if you know you want something with a collar.
  5. Thrifting is better for the environment. When you thrift, you cut out the resources to grow the cotton, create fabric, sew the clothing, transport the clothing across an ocean, and package the clothing for shipment. You are left with the resources that transported the clothing from its previous owner to the store. There are resources that go into running the store, but that ties with any other store. The point is not to be perfect but to take steps in the right direction.