How to Shop Secondhand as a Minimalist
I just posted about how to shop new as a minimalist, and now it's time for the secondhand shopping counterpart!
If you're a seasoned thrift shopper, flea market fanatic, or antique shop admirer, shopping secondhand can be a dangerous game. (Hey, how did I manage to fill the back of an SUV with stuff in two hours?!) Shopping secondhand has a lot of economical and ecological benefits, and it's possible to shop secondhand while also resisting the temptation to bring home too much. I have been shopping secondhand for clothes and household items since my late teens when I was a broke college student. I've continued secondhand shopping into my (not so broke) thirties now, and since starting my minimalist journey I have picked up a lot of insight on how to shop secondhand successfully.
Something is a worthwhile secondhand purchase if...
...it's a useful item in great shape. I live in a rural area where the saying goes, "The richest farmers have the oldest tractors." Sometimes secondhand goods in my area are old and worn out beyond repair. But other times, the goods have been treated well and kept in good condition. I consider buying "want" items if they're in great shape and won't take much more than dusting or a wipe-down to bring into my home. If something is going to take a long time or a lot of materials to fix, I leave it behind, no matter how much I might like to have it.
...you have an immediate use or need for it. Anything that isn't immediately useful should be left behind. I love restoring and repainting antique furniture for my home, but if I see a great piece that wouldn't serve a purpose in my home, I leave it at the store.
...it would be perfect "if only" and you can do something about it. You know how on House Hunters, a couple with a seven-million-dollar budget (despite only being part-time bespoke napkin painters) will say a room would be perfect if only it were a different color and therefore they don't want the entire damn house? Take that concept without the trust fund kid snootiness and take the initiative to make the item perfect. If your "if only" for an item is anything to do with color or finish that you can achieve with a quick coat of paint, take the item home with you and exercise your DIY muscles. I've turned so many "if only" items into one-of-a-kind custom goods with a quick coat or two of spray paint.
...it's something you're not sure you want to buy new. Some of the best secondhand shopping advice I've seen revolves around treating secondhand shopping as a way to try an item that you're on the fence about buying brand new. Small appliances, specialty cookware/bakeware, and clothing outside of your usual style are all great categories to consider buying secondhand if they otherwise feel daunting to buy new. Best of all, since the items are already secondhand, you'll likely have less guilt about donating them back than you would if you bought them all new.
I have plenty of other tips to share about secondhand shopping (which I will do some other day), but these are my top 4 tips for buying secondhand when you're a minimalist who doesn't want to bring undue clutter home. And hey, if you don't like something you bought secondhand and you re-donate it, well, at least you didn't spend extra to buy it new and have a more expensive lesson! Happy shopping!