How To Thrift Like A Minimalist

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I’ve always liked shopping…

I was never one of those people luckily enough, not to use shopping as a pastime. The minutes, hours and days spent shopping would pass in a blur of cash exchanged and tempers frayed. And in those moments, the buzz I got from shopping was like nothing I’d ever known.

When I started simplifying I knew that I had to get a handle on my shopping habit. After all, there was no point crying with overwhelm about the amount of things in my home, if I then went on to buy more. And it was hard (so hard) but I slowly changed my pastime from accumulating to decluttering and found that I got the same high from making empty space, as I did from cluttering it with stuff.

Yet there was one kind of shopping that I truly missed - the second hand thrift. I had always loved shopping for treasure and not the things found on hangers and shelves, that we are told by consumerism we are suppose to like. No, I liked the hours spent perusing vintage market stalls and second hand stores, for they housed the loveliest treasure of all. But my home was stacked to the rafters with things that I told myself I had to buy and so I put myself on a ban, no more treasure hunting of any kind.

I missed it a lot. And it wasn’t necessarily the things that I missed but the experience, these kinds of places held. Stepping into a treasure trove of lives gone by, was like a thousand storybooks in front of my eyes. Tables worn from dinners made, chairs painted eagerly in wooden stain. Everything meant something and even though I didn’t know what they meant it didn’t matter, it was just the fact that they did. Unless you are a treasure hunter, I’m not sure that I can convey the joy spent looking at others things. And maybe I was romanticising it, after all I’d certainly paid good money for musty drawers that never lost their smell and vintage trinkets that gathered dust upon my shelves. Yet I missed it and that was that.

I went a few years without going to second hand shops and market stalls. I tried not to think about it and it was fine, it was what I needed after all. But even still I missed it because although we are not our things, what if just a little bit, we are? And I don’t mean that we are indeed our things, as I know without doubt, we are not. But I have to say, that I didn’t feel like myself when I was only buying new.

You see, new things didn’t have the same appeal as the old. And after a lot of trial and error, I could mostly trust myself in a shopping centre or online. These items didn’t have the same hold, they weren’t as special, as the gnarly and worn. Which was why the thrifting ban lasted a whole while longer than I first thought.

And I wasn’t perfect. Occasionally I would step into this other world of treasure abound, sinking my feet into the floor and sweeping my hands over the gold. But I would quickly leave again, knowing that I couldn’t be trusted to browse, or buy what was needed, even with a list.

But one day, many moons later, I decided to give it a try. I had come a long way and knew that I wouldn’t be swayed by all the things. Besides, months had been spent trying to find the perfect baskets, that I couldn’t find in the shopping centre or online. ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.’ and there was nothing like this that I could find.

So I stepped back into the land of second hand shopping but this time, with a firm aim in mind - to find baskets with lids, of a natural colour and nice design and what should I find, just the very thing! It was as if they had been waiting for me all this time. Three baskets, perfectly sized, beautifully vintage, My Oh My. An intentional purchase and something that brings me as much joy now as they did back then. And yes once again we are not what we own but gah how I love those baskets.

Three years into my minimalist life and I can now make trips to second hand stores and vintage markets after all. I can smell the colourful market flowers and eat fresh cherries from the stalls, it feels like a piece of me was coming home.

But now I have rules and thought that I would share them with you, in case you have trouble in these kinds of places too. If you have any rules of your own, I’d love to know and fellow thrifters, tell me, what’s been your best find?!

* Just remember, if you are unable to stop yourself buying all the things while shopping second hand and you love it so, refrain until you feel able.*

My rules for second hand thrifting:

  1. You can enjoy the experience of thrift stores, vintage markets and second hand gems, without having to buy any of it. Yep you heard that right. We are totally able to see beautiful things, in places we love, without having to buy a thing. Just because it’s unique, or a bargain doesn’t mean we have to own it. Appreciate it for what it is and walk away.

  2. Shop intentionally. I tend to save my thrifting days for when I am looking for something in particular. Be it creamy stoneware bowls to replace our coloured melamine, or candlestick holders for suppers by flickering light, these things had been on my list for quite sometime. And so I looked for them, disregarding the ones that didn’t quite do the job, whilst waiting for the ones that did.

    The one in one out rule works great for us and means that I am really intentional about what I buy and so if something comes in, something has to leave. Also I don’t have the worry of having to buy something right away, which can be a reason to panic buy in places such as these. Usually if I like something but don’t need it, I take a picture of it, go home and then decide. Usually I realise I don’t want it after all but if I do and it’s meant to be, it will still be there.

  3. I no longer buy the nearly perfect thing. I wait for things that are right. If that means searching months for the thing I actually want, so be it. For me it is the experience as well as buying the thing I need, so I will happily leave without something that isn’t right. Anything less than, will just be clutter.

  4. Picture your space. Yes I know that side table is a bargain and brilliant but if you haven’t got the space for a side table, what’s the point of getting it?! Before I buy anything, I think about the room I have available and the lay out. And Im honest with myself about whether the thing I want to buy, will be loved enough to take up space. Nine times out of ten the answer is no and so when I do say yes, I know it’s for keeps.

  5. Make a day of it. Go thrifting with your partner, best friend, or alone if that’s best. Stop for coffee, cake and a wander down the lanes. Browse without feeling like you have to buy, to have a good time. Don’t just make it about the stuff, it can be so much more than that.