Essay: Thrifting in a Consumer’s World

Writer Elizabeth Maxwell shares the many reasons to choose thrifting over first-hand shopping.

It’s the clear truth that thrifting is an easy way to help save the world. 

Americans waste an estimated 11.3 million tons of textile waste every year, according to This accumulation of waste fills landfills, causes the release of carbon emissions and unnecessarily depletes the world’s resources. 

Ensuring your old clothing goes to a place where it can get a second life allows you to help both the world and the items’ next owner. Just as importantly, purchasing clothes second-hand reduces waste and allows clothes to be revived. 

Besides the fact that it reduces the amount of waste in the world, there are several reasons why everyone should take part in thrifting. 

Thrift stores offer a much larger selection than normal retail stores. Instead of simply seeing the items that are currently popular, thrifters are able to see what was fashionable in past decades. 

One store may offer anything from a ‘50s style dress to a top from last year. The various styles and brands allow me to find which clothing  suits me best, even if it’s something that lost its popularity years ago. 

My favorite part about thrifting is the wide selection of jeans. Growing up I always hated how jeans fit me. When I began thrifting in high school, I found that I prefer the fit of men’s jeans much better than women’s. The chaotic arrangement of thrift stores somehow makes shopping in the men’s section as a teenager less intimidating and, over the years, I’ve been able to pack my closet full of various kinds of jeans that I love. 

The prices at thrift stores are what primarily compel me. Today, even the stores I used to see as reasonably priced have started to charge ridiculous amounts. Finding thrift stores opened my world to a whole new set of options, all labeled with price tags I could actually afford. 

Through thrifting, I’ve been able to try out many styles that I would normally be wary of. The lower prices that second-hand clothes are marked with allow me to purchase them even if I’m not sure I’ll end up wearing them. If I take an item home and decide against it, I know I only spent a few dollars and don’t feel guilty giving it away again. 

Even better, the prices are extremely beneficial for children and teenagers still growing. It’s difficult for them not to waste clothes when their increasing size forces them to frequently cycle through them. Purchasing clothes at cheaper prices allows them to cycle through the same amount of items but without such a financial burden. 

In the age of fast fashion and consumerism, so many people are determined to stand out—a seemingly impossible task when every store markets the same styles. Thrifting is a sure way to collect items that no one else will have. 

It’s not my goal to stand out, but I also don’t like resembling everyone around me. Thrifting helps me accomplish this. Even if my items aren’t attention-grabbing, it’s rare that I come across someone with the same ones. 

More important than the items that you find, thrifting is a fun way to pass time with anyone. The variety of options make thrift stores inviting for everyone. I’ve thrifted with nearly everyone in my life — my boyfriend and I have had numerous thrifting dates, and it’s my mom and my favorite thing to do together. 

While there are numerous reasons to thrift, it’s important to keep in mind the reason that thrift stores were created in the first place: to help those in poverty and provide them with the items they need. While shopping second-hand, it’s important to only take your share, allowing others to gain all that they need at the affordable prices they deserve. 

As long as this respect is maintained, whatever age you’re at or whatever style you hold, a thrift store will have items for you. And while you wear them, you’ll know you’re helping the planet as you do. 

Feature image by Eliza Thomas / The Phoenix

Elizabeth Maxwell

Elizabeth Maxwell