I have been keeping a list of everything I buy new instead of second-hand. Its purpose is not to showcase it on the fridge at the end of the year, but to give myself a reminder that for everything I need there is probably a perfectly fine product already made. Sometimes it just feels like it is not the most convenient to search across the whole city for a person that wants to sell me some piece of kitchen equipment for 3€. But that feeling is wrong, I know it.
My parents have a house full of stuff. Everything has a double or even triple version so that if it breaks you do not need to run to the store to get a new one. It is just so practical. I am not so fond of all this stuff. I like to have fewer things that last, and I hate how hard it is to found that nowadays. So for me, it is actually so much more convenient to buy thrift. Older products are often of better quality and more affordable. They also eliminate the feeling of living some sort of a copy-paste life from IKEA and H&M catalogue.
Selling your stuff is really popular in Berlin, it’s like everyone’s side business. I am so spoiled that I only search for items in my neighbourhood, it can’t get more convenient than that? A guy that sold me a pepper mill even invited me on a date. If I wouldn’t be taken and he wouldn’t seem like a complete creep it would make for a cute story (technically, he didn’t invite me on a date, he just send me an email with something inappropriate that I don’t know how to translate). I guess in that way thrifting could become an eco-friendly offline version of Tinder.
When I look at my list of the things I bought new, there are only a couple of things on there, and they all involve reducing trash. Isn’t it weird that is all I am buying new? Isn’t thrift supposed to be very limiting?
In defence of second-hand shopping
Most of my wardrobe is second hand or from my mum’s youth. I used to think second-hand stores have to be overfilled with worthless stuff. I totally get the hype now. It can also be all nice stuff in small places, of good quality and totally affordable. What else could you want? Coffee, cakes, records? Some shops have that too. Who likes shopping malls anyway? Isn’t life supposed to be fun? I would prefer to buy asparagus over anything else these days. But hip second-hand stores? I can do that and I think everyone would like it too.
I used to buy second-hand clothing online, but I don’t do online shopping anymore. Not (just) because of the packaging but because my postman stole all my packages. I told him once he is supposed to leave a note for my neighbours if I take over their packages (so that I don’t need to spend my afternoon tracking people down). That got me on a hate list I think. No complaints to the post service helped. I had to resend some packages to a friends address in a different district and then call it quits with the online shopping. It’s not hard to be sustainable if the postman hates you. I’m happy it happened though because now I can explore Berlin’s thrift scene more.
There’s just something different about second-hand clothes. It’s almost like they find you. In December I was talking about wanting to own some funky red corduroy pants to combat the grey atmosphere (Berlin is absolutely disgusting in winter). Next week, I found exactly that kind of pants that also fit me perfectly – in a giveaway box on my street. What are the odds?
Tips for thrift store shopping
I am everything but a thrifting fashionista and probably everyone out there has more know-how than I do… but from one amateur to another, these are my tips for thrift shopping:
- Take the time to pick the right type of a store. I like it when it is spacious and organised.
- Go often and just browse.
- Don’t go for cheap, but for good materials and stitching.
- Have a list of what you need and search for that only.
- Dress up in something flexible so you can try on everything fast.
- You don’t need to wear grandpa sweaters and cat prints just because it is thrift. Actually, no one even needs to notice.
In a place like Berlin, why would anyone buy anything new (underwear excluded)? Why would we keep making incentives to produce more clothes to toss away or trash some third world country with our donations? Except for people that are actually busy of course. Though keep in mind, if you are single… You never know who that nice person is, selling a perfectly fine teapot a couple of blocks away.
I’d like to believe that a future of sharing, repairing and second-hand purchases will create more connected urban communities. Is it just me or does anyone else think that it’s possible?
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