Thrifting is one of those activities that's become novelized these days and deemed “hip” and “trendy” by the mainstream media, but people have been shopping second-hand for as long as the fashion industry has been up and running. I never thrifted much before college, but always longed for a unique sense of style that was environmentally-conscious and made me stand out.

Combine that with my early interest in helping the environment that began in the second grade — I solely watched Animal Planet until fifth grade and started a recycling program at my elementary school, basically hoarding my classmates' unwanted homework assignments to recycle later — thrifting became the obvious choice.

Today, shopping second-hand is second nature to me, and I consider it as much a lifestyle choice as it is a hobby and fun activity to enjoy with friends and family — I haven’t bought new clothes from retail in almost a year! Here are the reasons I shop second-hand, and why you should, too. 

1. It's Good for the Environment in More Than One Way

Everybody's heard that shopping second-hand is good for the environment, but most of us only have a vague idea of why. The fashion industry alone is the second largest industry in the world and, as a result, consumes more water than the entire United States irrigation system. More unsettling is the fact that the industry functions through a labor system of foreign outsourcing that doesn't protect its workers from workplace or chemical hazards caused by the manufacturing process.

Shopping second-hand decreases demand on new, retail goods — especially clothing — creating less pressure on companies to produce large volumes of clothes for profit. Moreover, thrifting keeps others’ unwanted clothes out of landfills, and decreases the probability that you’ll buy an item and quickly grow tired of it, since you're consuming not at the whim of the fickle fashion industry trends, but at your own judgment. 

2. It Saves Money

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Anna Arteaga

If you’re looking to buy clothes on a budget, shopping second-hand is a no brainer. Used goods will inevitably cost less than new ones, but many items in thrift stores are only slightly used or even in new condition.

Next time you find yourself desiring more clothing, books, puzzles, décor, kitchen ware, or crafting supplies, stop by a thrift store before immediately hopping online or passively heading to your local store. Your bank account will thank you later, and you might just find something you like more than the mass-market item you were planning on purchasing.

3. It's More Sustainable in the Long Run

"Sustainable" is a buzzword that’s thrown around a lot these days, especially in the age of green-washing. However, watching the documentary The True Cost finally motivated me to commit to shopping second-hand for the long-haul.

The more we can stop seeing thrifting as merely a hip generational trend and start viewing it as the most practical consumer alternative to improve ourselves and environment, the better off we'll be. As thrifting becomes integral to our daily lives, the positive impacts of our actions will be more durable — even long after we grow out of the experimental, free-spirited phases of our young lives. 

4. It Can Help You Explore Your Style or Discover New Ones

Before I started thrifting, I had a very limited sense of style. And while some may feel ambivalent about my current wardrobe, I can honestly say that after twenty-one years of life, I love what I wear and feel that I’ve finally found a style that expresses who I am.

Thrifting is the easiest way to experiment with new articles of clothing that may be outside your comfort zone with limited cost and guilt. Thanks to thrifting, my style is an artsy, naturalist, androgynous compilation with a hint of sportiness, which may not be great taste, but hey — it fits me and makes me feel good, so I’m sticking to it. 

5. It's a Unique Form of Self-Expression

If you find something in a thrift store, chances are you’re the only one who will be wearing anything like it. Shopping second-hand means that the clothing came from another time and place, and oftentimes the brands are unheard of. Shop second-hand, because if nothing else, why not stand out from the crowd and be unique?

6. It Fosters a Sense of Curiosity and Wonder

This is one of the hidden gems that I realized after shopping second-hand for a while. Thrifting makes life interesting by constantly keeping you on your toes, always guessing at what you will find next, but never knowing until you experience it for yourself.

Every time I walk into a thrift store and look through their home décor or mugs section (my favorite), I feel a rush of excitement knowing that I could find literally anything in those few aisles. Additionally, finding a particularly eye-catching bowl or wine glass (or even an ordinary-looking one), can inspire even the most thrift-adverse person to wonder at its history, adding a dash of child-like wonder and curiosity to daily life. 

7. It's a Fun Way to Bond With Others (Or Meet New People)

Because thrifting is like a hobby or lifestyle, finding others who share the same interest as you can strengthen friendships and be a great conversation starter. Talking to people about thrifting and inviting them along has made me realize that more people thrift than I thought, and that the stigma of buying things used is an outdated one that's better left in past century. If it’s your first time, take a friend or significant other along, and enjoy the countless ‘Look what I founds!” that will fill your day.

8. It Allows You to Be More Creative

Thrifting is like showing you parts of a puzzle that you can’t fully see. When I thrift, I’m constantly imagining new styles and options that I’ve never tried before, and in that sense, thrifting forces you to be creative with your style. Additionally, one of my favorite things about thrifting is buying used bowls, plates, cups, or wooden décor and upcycling it by painting or writing on it with a paint marker. I’ve even thrifted an on old photoframe and spray painted it, then sanded off the edges to give it an antique look. The possibilities are endless, and the thrift store is your oyster.

9. It Helps You Focus on the Things That Really Matter

Something interesting happens when you start thrifting. That is, the more you do it, the more you realize how much of what’s produced in stores and what we see in ads are useless, materialistic fads that will only go “out of style” in the next half-year or so. When you thrift and buy things that you yourself truly like, then the “trends” of the season stop mattering, and you start honing in on your own opinions — which, at the end of the day, is what truly matters. 

10. It Changes Your Perspective on Life

Now that I’ve been thrifting for years, the very act of thrifting has caused a shift in my perspective on life. For starters, I’ve become truer to myself by buying clothes I love that make me feel good about myself and my duty to the environment, instead of clothes that make me seem more stylish in the eyes of society at large.

Every time I enter a thrift store, each act of exploring its nooks and crannies, rubbing the fabric of someone’s old jacket between your fingers, and cupping old mugs and chapter books in your hands, I'm reminded to slow things down and pay more attention to the details of my daily life. Along with this newfound mindfulness comes a greater appreciation for the role that man-made items have in our lives, and for the human labor and environmental resources that went into their production.

The Bottom Line

Not only has buying used goods made my life more gratifying, but it’s also made my day-to-day interactions with others more authentic. The biggest takeaway from thrifting for me has been the realization that the world really only needs a small amount of what it produces, and that, on a personal and larger level, the most fulfilling way to live is to cut down on quantity while harboring a greater appreciation for the goods I'm fortunate enough to have.