Confessions of a First-Year-Thrifter

BMW and rusty old jeep. Starched linen J.Crew portfolio dress and soft plaid old lumberjack. Luis Vuitton Alma handbag and drug store pleather fanny pack. Choices and contradictions guide my style. I have a taste for the finer things in life and a deep appreciation for the simply simple. As I approach my one-year anniversary as marketing manager in the thrift retail business, I am reminded of my transformation to a thrifter and how this came to be.

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I’ve always been thrifty, shall we say; I grew up in a home that had homemade bread and home sewn clothes. These lifestyle elements gave me an appreciation for quality and simplicity and for the value of a dollar. Being the youngest child and recipient of any and all hand-me-downs I gained an appreciation for a variety of styles; I learned to dress for the occasion and “dress for your day” which became a thing in corporate America. After spending many years in the luxurious corporate job lifestyle, I was used to having financial options and my lifestyle fashions were as eclectic as my CD collection (yes, CDs) of hip hop, techno chill, country, bossa nova, old blues and classic rock. With corporate profits being reevaluated, I was launched into the next chapter of my career to work for a nonprofit. The immediate challenge was how to do more with less. A lot less. With the stock market hovering well-below the promised 6% and with a significantly smaller nonprofit paycheck I had to design a new lifestyle budget. But how? I still love hiking and the outdoorsy Minnesota gear and clothing that goes with that. I still love throwing champagne cocktail parties in a flirty designer cocktail party dress. I still love original preppy prepster looks of Ralph Lauren and J.Crew so what is a poor fashionista to do? The answer was right in front of me. Literally. Secondhand thrifting!

My weekly visits to five Arc’s Value Village locations yielded me no fewer than 52 shopping trips this year. Doesn’t sound like budget downsizing to you? The Sunday tag sale offers an impressive selection of clothing priced $1.59! And if you venture to housewares you’ll find items for $0.99! In one year I have managed to surprise and delight all of my friends and family with the treasures of thrifting. My executive board room husband has three new sport coats (one is Hugo Boss) and two long wool dress coats for work. My classy mother has designer dresses (St. John Knits and Lela Rose) for ladies bridge night. And I have new dresses for every dinner party at my newly thrifted designer dining room table! In fact I have a fun new outfit for every hobby of mine.

Think about the things that you donate. It didn’t fit. It was the wrong style. It was a generous gift to you but you never liked it. Every day 20,000 items like that become available at Arc’s Value Village. Unique pieces from that lady’s vacations in Paris. Designer clothes from that person moving to small-closets NYC. Amazing treasures from the fashion icon who clears out the closet to make room for the new. Every donation has a story, and every donation becomes a new opportunity. The new owner delights in the treasure and ultimately through the work of The Arc, that treasure funds a better life for a person with a disability.

So I’ll always be that girl with the black scrunchie and fanny pack. And through thrifting I can continue to splurge on the indulgent pieces as well. But maybe you’ll appreciate my assorted style knowing that I support people with disabilities by donating and shopping at Arc’s Value Village. It feels good supporting Main Street instead of Wall Street. Pay less and give more. Happy Anniversary!