Last year when I set a goal to only shop secondhand for one year, I didn’t fully believe that I could keep it up. I’ve put myself on shopping bans before but never for anything as long as a year. For the first few months of 2017 I just didn’t shop at all, but then I started to find my feet in the world of secondhand shopping. Here’s what I learned from one whole year of buying nothing new.

featured photo by saint of sass

photo by tommy ton

1. Most impulses are fleeting.

Shopping is more accessible than ever before. With a swipe and a click on the phone you have a package heading straight to your door. My commitment to shopping secondhand created a moment of pause. If I had the impulse to buy a new pair of boots, I had to find them first. The hunt may take a couple trips to a consignment shop or some time scrolling through Ebay, and I found that most of the time I forgot about them after a day or two. If I kept searching with zeal, then I knew it wasn’t just an impulse.

photo by fanny and june

2. Thrifting is a muscle.

There is a whole rabbit hole of the internet dedicated to thrifting, and what I learned from watching videos and reading advice was that thrifting is a muscle which you build with practice. Many avid thrifters pop into their local shops several times a week. The first time you go you will likely feel overwhelmed, but with time you start to get a feel for the sections you like to look at, the prints, fabrics or types of pieces that are worth spending time on – and which ones aren’t. Eventually you get to a point where you can comb the store pretty quickly and have an instinct for what’s a gem.

photo by coveteur

3. Secondhand shopping is not just thrifting.

During my challenge I discovered so many new ways to shop secondhand beyond the thrift store that may immediately come to mind. There are apps like Poshmark and Depop where you can buy directly from sellers, and vintage shops that you can follow on Ebay, Etsy and Instagram. There are also vintage and consignment shops, and meetups with ladies who are looking to trade their pre-loved clothes. You have so many options, and even if you’re not doing a challenge like I did, it’s worth adding a few of these into your regular shopping routine. The reality of our modern world is that so many of the clothes on offer have been worn once – just for photos! This is especially true for Instagrammers’ shops.

photo by jenni kayne

4. What you want in store is probably already for sale secondhand.

Last year I actually bought a bridesmaid dress new at a bridal boutique, but realized afterwards that the same dress was listed online so I returned the new dress and bought the used one. It worked out perfectly! I learned that when I did fall in love with something brand new, I could do a quick search for the item online and most of the time it was already for sale secondhand online. You can find just about anything, including designer and boutique brands, on the apps and sites I mentioned above. On Ebay you can also set up a saved search so that you get an email if someone does list the item you’re looking for, which takes some of the legwork out of it for you.

photo by coveteur

5. Creativity thrives.

The overwhelming response I’ve heard from people who practice capsule wardrobes is that initially they worried that the restrictions on their closet would be limiting, but in actuality they were able to create more looks they loved when they were forced to get creative. The same can be said for shopping secondhand. When I shop for new clothes I find myself recreating trending outfits that I’ve seen on Pinterest or Instagram, in some cases even buying the very same clothes. When I shop secondhand I break free from the default trends and think more creatively about how I want to present myself.

photo by sabon home

6. You can find what’s trending — but better.

The designs on the runway and in stores right now are largely based on silhouettes that were designed in the 70s or the 90s. If you walk into a Goodwill today you can actually find the original designs from the 70s and the 90s from high end designers – and they will look much cooler! And this is the real kicker, they will be much cheaper! Yes, it might take a couple of trips to Goodwill to find the perfect oversized blazer or culottes, but when you do find them it will feel so much more satisfying than clicking on that Instagram photo and buying the exact blazer you saw someone else wearing. Where’s the fun in that?

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Comments (12)
  1. 1
    Rena January 26, 2018 at 5:44 am

    I see you are really a pro now in second hand shopping! Thanks for sharing your experience!
    xx from Bavaria/Germany, Rena

  2. 2
    Dalal January 26, 2018 at 9:28 am

    I love vintage shopping, I’ve been almost exclusively doing that during the last year. I found new clothes in common stores such as Zara and co so overprice quality wise and I don’t get excited by them anymore. Definitely sharing this article, a very interesting read. I would love to see a haul of what you got… 🙂

  3. 3
    Kristina January 26, 2018 at 11:16 am

    Those are some great tips! I never really check if what I am about to buy is already being sold online second hand. I’ll definitely try it out. Can you please do a blog post on your finds? 🙂 <3

    XX- Kristina |

  4. 4
    Becca January 26, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    This is so helpful! I’ve been leaning towards shopping second-hand as well because of the environmental impact of producing new clothes. I would love to hear some of your favorite spots around Austin for second-hand shopping!

  5. 5
    Kathy Decoste January 28, 2018 at 7:51 am

    Hi Ifound your story on thrift store and second hand shoping very interesting. This is something I have done my entire life. Ipassed it on to my daughters as my mom did with me my grand dad was a thrift store shopper it was like an adventure we would go on with something in mind and come home with all kinds of treasures.. good on you very interesting. Kathy

  6. 6
    Vanessa Valiente January 28, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    Fantastic read and excellent tips! I always forget to look for new things on eBay or other online retailers! Thanks for the reminder!
    – Vanessa of V-Style

  7. 7
    Christine February 6, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    I went without shopping for any clothes at all for over a year. Most of my wardrobe has been what I’ve held onto since high school, hand-me-downs from my mom, or clothes I found in a bag in my old garage that my old roommates must have left behind. It forced me to be creative with what I already had and give real thought to what I really needed or wanted to add to my closet to complete my own personal style. I finally went to Goodwill this past weekend and milled through a ton of stuff to make sure I got the best quality items that I could match with anything.

  8. 8
    Natalie March 19, 2018 at 7:32 am

    I love second hand clothes shopping. I need to do it more often as I don’t do it enough!

  9. 9
    Mathilde November 4, 2019 at 10:14 am

    This story is so inspiring and I found it only now after researching ways to reduce my environment impact alongside with my passion for fashion.
    I’ve created my blog to focus on sustainable fashion and look forward to update my French wardrobe with your tips on shopping second hand only. Thanks for the inspiration.

  10. 10
    Amy January 9, 2022 at 5:36 am

    I loved this article. It’s all the reasons I love thrifting, but articulated perfectly. The bit about creativity is my favorite. love buying my kids clothes secondhand because sometimes you look around the schoolyard and there are 12 kids wearing the same Cat & Jack outfit. My girls have especially embraced the fun of thrifting and creating outfits that no one has seen before!