Thrifty times call for thrifty values, shops

I must confess, there was a time in my life when I considered a Goodwill thrift store to be reserved for people without the financial means to shop at a “normal” store, a viewpoint no doubt rooted in what I considered fitting behaviors for my social standing.

I abandoned that viewpoint along with glossy hardsole shoes, valet parking and repairing cosmetic damage to my car. I’ve also realized the thrift store concept is not only beneficial for our large family, it’s right for society, and perhaps on a grander scale than current thrift store models.

Thrift stores are booming as the recession leaves more people looking to stretch their dollar. Even without an economic incentive to shop thrift, the concept fits our times perfectly. Look no deeper than the three R’s of environmental stewardship: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Reduce means use less, but it also suggests reducing the clutter in our lives. Donate it, liberate precious storage space and support a worthwhile cause.

Reuse defines the thrift concept. Many items lose usefulness for the original owner long before they become universally useless. Kids grow out of clothes faster than clothes wear out. Some clothes have a shorter useful life than bread has a shelf life. Websites like www.WoreIt run a brisk business repurposing wedding dresses. A friend paid $23 for her wedding dress at a thrift shop.

Recycle is a last resort, reserved for when reduce and reuse have run their course.

Thrift store shopping can be an economic necessity, but it also can be viewed as a thrilling opportunity. Another confession: I hate shopping in any form, but I have guerrilla shoppers near and dear to me who interpret the mantra “it’s not what you spend, it’s what you save” as a rallying cry.

Here’s the scenario: I’m reading the newspaper in my unclassy recliner when the family bursts into the den all smiles, lugging a dozen Goodwill Industries plastic bags. I’m required to put down my reading for a fashion show.

Everyone starts parading in, modeling a different garment. Each walk down the runway ends with the same prompt, “Guess how much?” I answer with something completely off base and they say, “No, $3,” with the smugness of someone who just snatched the last doughnut.

When will a nationwide thrift marketplace emerge? The piece parts are there.

UPS Ground made Bangor seem as close as Berthoud. EBay made self-merchandising as easy as self-serve gas pumps. Amazon made merchandise selection and purchase like dropping coins in a candy machine. Meanwhile, millions of Americans are donating billions of unwanted but usable items.

I imagine a service at the intersection of these Internet-era developments, where stuff in bulk flows effortlessly from people calling it clutter to people calling it desirable. A little money can exchange hands along the way, but unlike the eBay auction, it’s just enough cash to oil the machine. The concept would need to encourage the bundling of many items into one shipment, to justify transportation cost.

In the end, all of us would benefit, through a wiser society that would get more value from what makes and imports, spend less on what it needs, and waste less because the landfills would only contain items completely depleted of their usefulness.

Comments are closed.