The other day I was at the thrift store — shocker, I know — doing my normal routine. I fill my cart with clothing items that I like, try them on, and then decide what I should keep. Typically, I can decide pretty fast, but this time I kept putting the olive green, fall jacket into my cart and taking it back out. I just couldn’t decide on it. On my third time hanging and un-hanging the jacket outside the fitting rooms, a woman came up to me. She politely asked if I was putting the jacket back. It was then that I thought about the golden rule of thrifting, handed her the jacket, and felt great about my decision.
The golden rule of thrifting is to not be greedy.
Thrifting is not like your traditional shopping trip. You and your friend cannot walk into the store, planning to buy matching outfits. Because, well, you never know what you’re going to get. You can scour the racks for an hour and never find the same outfit twice. It’s a blessing and a curse of the thrift shop. It can also make people greedy.
I don’t mean greedy that in a negative way. It’s natural to become attached to something when you’re the one hunting for it. You can flip through an entire rack of tops and only find a few that you like — depending on how picky you are, of course. It’s second nature to want to keep those items for yourself. But that’s when you have to remember the golden rule of thrifting.
You don’t need to take home every single item that you somewhat like. You should take home the items that truly speak to you.
You know, the ones that you can already see hanging in your closet and being paired with items you already own. If you end up taking everything that you somewhat like, you end up with a closet full of items that you can’t fully appreciate. And, even worse, someone who could really use that piece doesn’t get to wear it.
I recently did a thrift haul on my Instagram Stories. In it, I had a photo of a green sweater that I fell in love with and already started styling right there in the fitting room. It’s oversized, super comfy, and was completely me. I knew exactly what I’d wear it with and was willing to spend $5 on it.
When I got home, a girl messaged me on Instagram. The message read, “Literally was there today and had this sweater in my hand and decided to set it down.” I couldn’t help but giggle to myself. The entire time that I was shopping, I could have never found this sweater.
The only reason that I could add the sweater to my closet is because this girl decided not to buy it herself.
This is what the golden rule of thrifting is all about. It’s not taking so that someone else’s day can be made. I think about it all the time when I’m at the thrift shop, and it looks like I’m not the only one. She might not have called it the golden rule of thrifting in her message, but, in that moment, it was truly golden for me.
Think about it: it’s a win-win situation. You only get the items that you need and someone else gets his or her day made. It doesn’t get any better than that.
I am a firm believer in only taking what my closet needs. Although it might not look like it at times, I am very choosey about what gets added to my closet. Every single items has a purpose. If I make a mistake, then out it goes. (Either to the thrift store that I originally bought it from or the clothing room.) It saves me money and make sure that I have a cohesive closet.
The girl that sent me the message told me about how she also helped someone else find a leather jacket. Stories like this are what thrifting are all about. The search for an item is way more fun, and actually a lot faster, when there’s someone there helping you. In fact, those might just end up being your favorite thrift trips.
Don’t take my word for it, though. Take it from the girl who messaged me..
“For some reason those are the most rewarding finds, when they’re not for yourself.”
She’s 100% right. Not every trip is about walking away with the perfect Instagram-able outfit. Or scoring tons of new finds. Sometimes it’s about helping someone else find their perfect item. Like the fall jacket that I passed along. Or the green sweater that I got from the girl from Instagram.
I might have jokingly called the girl a “thrift store fairy godmother,” but I was truly grateful. The green sweater that I found today already matches with outfits in my closet. I know that I’ll be wearing it over dresses, with leggings, and just around the house with t-shirts. If the girl would have taken it because she somewhat liked it, I wouldn’t be able to.
It sounds crazy that the golden rule of thrifting would be all about what not to buy. But those items are just as important.
I’ve seen so many people get so excited by what they find that they want to take it all home with them. I used to make this mistake in the beginning, too. It’s all so exciting that you can tend to forget about a game plan.
The key is to slow down, made sure to focus on the wardrobe that you want to build, rather than the one that you have now, and remember the golden rule of thrifting. It takes time and practice and self control. But once you find that special item that no one else bought, you will be reminded of the special rule.
Every item that you don’t buy has the potential to make someone else’s day.
So next time that you’re just iffy about a piece of clothing, think about the joy that it could bring someone else. If that’s not enough to put an item back on the shelf, then I don’t know what will.