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Thrifting: Learning to Embrace the Unknown

By: Julia LaFave

At six years old, I was an enthusiastic Ziploc bag collector. Yes, I collected Ziploc bags. I also collected Silly Bandz, Smencils, and other trinkets elementary schoolers in the early 2000s couldn’t resist. Each grouping was stationed in its labeled Ziploc bag and stored in my hot pink Land’s End backpack. My Ziploc bag collection was no exception to this system. My Ziploc bags, of course, had their own labeled Ziploc bag. Reflecting on this behavior at 21 years old, I realize I was so fascinated with an organization I was obsessed with the very vehicle that enabled me to enact such a structure. I cannot say my rigorous attitude towards organization has changed in adulthood: today, I’m an avid list maker, Google Calendar user, and alarm setter.

Considering this silly anecdote, I have always preferred to know where things go and have, at the very least, a mental plan of action. Thrifting is precisely the opposite of how I conduct myself and approach life, one of the many reasons I love it. Thrifting forces me to process possibilities in the moment, celebrate satisfying finds, and learn from items different from what I anticipated. Here are some ways thrifting has pushed me beyond my comfort zone and allowed me to welcome the unknown.

“[Thrifting] is like a box of chocolates.”

No thrift store is the same as others or its previous self, as people and items constantly pass through its doors. Thus, it’s impossible to predict what the store will have and what you’ll find among its sea of items. This reality of thrift stores gently pushes you to be more comfortable with feeling unprepared for and unfamiliar with your surroundings.

“One [person’s donation] is another [person’s] potpourri.” 

Once you discover an item of interest, you may wonder about its history. Who originally owned it? How did they use it? Why did they donate it? Most of the time, unfortunately, you’ll never receive answers to your questions, and you’ll be left to contemplate your loot’s origins. You can take advantage of this unsatisfying aspect of thrifting to stimulate your imagination and accept that information isn’t always at your fingertips.

“But when will I see you again?”

When deciding whether or not to purchase an item, you’re faced with the reality that you’ll likely never again encounter that item. You may find products similar to it, but they may not fit, be the same color, or fulfill a different one of your purchasing criteria. This frequent thrifting situation prompts you to appreciate the item’s unreplicable nature and provides you with practice to apply this perspective beyond thrifting.

Almost every element of thrifting pushes against the walls of my comfort zone, urging me to embrace the unknown, and I’m better for it. Give it a go; it may just do the same for you.

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