What You Will Find Thrifting

One of my favorite pastimes is thrifting, or as my family calls it: Goodwilling, since there are mainly just Goodwills where they live.

Thrift shops are a magical experience. Sifting through other people's discarded and ancient knick-knacks is always more interesting that looking through your own. 

Thrift stores all have a distinct smell of old shirts that have been in the attic for years and potpourri. Certain stores may smell more or less like this depending on the posh-level of the establishment, but even if they have sprayed air freshener, you can still find this smell living dormant underneath.

Image of a “salty duck” that I took at a local thrift store. You never know what treasures you will find when thrifting.

Image of a “salty duck” that I took at a local thrift store. You never know what treasures you will find when thrifting.

The majority of the store is clothing, sorted by type and occasionally color. Racks lining the wall and aisles seem to embrace the store in a soft collection of dresses from the 70s, high school sport jackets, and themed sweaters. There is almost never anything in both your style and your size, but still you have to check.

Some people do quick sweeps over the rack, looking for something to catch their eye. They push the clothes apart every once in a while to investigate a cream shirt or to see if a pair of jeans is in their size. These are usually people who are just there to kill some time, or were dragged by their friends. They aren't looking for anything in particular.

Others, usually with a few clothes already draped across their arm, are pushing each item one at a time into view so they can investigate more thoroughly. The longer this browser has been looking, the faster they flip through each item. They generally have an idea of what they want and are scared of the idea of missing out on that one, specific thing.

Each section of a thrift shop has more or less of these browsers. The higher racks that hang on the walls, which tend to be dresses, winter coats, and 90s pant suits, usually have more casual viewers who scan through quickly. Meanwhile, shirts, skirts, and pants tend to have people who take longer to look through each item. This is probably because the fit of these items is more important, as well as, the fact that these are more common things for people to be looking for on a day-to-day basis.

When two browsers get near each other, whether going in the same direction or not, a strange game of chicken begins, where each shopper sees how close they can get to the other person before one of them gives up and moves further down the rack. This really only becomes an issue for more involved browsers, as casual browsers can see from a distance if anything looks worth investigating.

While thrift stores are usually mostly devoted to clothes, the best part of thrifting is the 'home goods' section where all the dusty, knick-knacks are kept. Porcelain clowns, vacation mugs, candle holders, and empty picture frames litter the metal shelves with various bits of kitchen wares and children's artwork thrown in-between. Antique televisions line a wall looking like soulless eyes, asking the question of what technology will be here instead of them in the near future. Golf clubs lay between the record bin and the collection of used board games. Barbies have never evoked the question of mortality more than in the pile they are thrown in, bent in strange angles, their hair knotted with half a scrunchy still in it, as they look blankly at passersby.

People give their unwanted goods to thrift stores. Then they shop at thrift stores for new stuff, which they eventually give to thrift stores when they don't want it. It's a strange circle of giving, receiving, and cycling through finite resources. And yet, they always have new things to look through.

As they say: One person's trash is another one's treasure.

Until next time,