Thrifting Karma

Over the past six months or so, I’ve been doing far more donating, consigning, and gifting of old clothing than I have been purchasing new. I finally reached the tipping point where I felt like opening my closet door was an exercise in guilt. I could hear my wardrobe whispering to me, “Why haven’t you worn that herringbone skirt yet? You wanted it badly enough to purchase it and it’s been sitting here for ages. You FAILURE! Money down the tubes!”

So I decided I’d be better off getting these unworn or under-worn items into the hands of people who would use and love them. And, in several energetic closet purges, I removed most of the clothing, shoes, and accessories that were weighing me down.

I generally cull out a few of the newer pieces from more recognizable brands to consign. That “money down the tubes” bit haunts me, and I’ll admit to wanting to recoup at least SOME of my losses. But the thrifter in me knows how utterly fantastic it feels to stumble upon an amazing, well-made, fun, fantastic find at the local thrift emporium. So, since I’ve landed some mind-blowing bargains in my day, I feel like putting a few spendy, trendy pieces back into the thrift pool is good karma. I’ve been lucky myself, and would love to help some other eagle-eyed thrifter feel equally lucky.

I know that “thrift karma” isn’t a real thing. Putting more desirable or valuable items into the thrifting pool doesn’t make it more likely that I’ll discover more desirable or valuable items myself. Unless you count re-discovering your own old items on the shelves, which I don’t. And, naturally, it feels good to donate some spendy items because I know they’ll mean higher profits for the charities I choose to support. But a huge portion of my motivation stems from imagining a shopper at my local ARC’s Value Village lighting upon my old, barely-worn Fluevog sandals and nearly keeling over in sheer delight.

Do you believe in thrift karma? Ever donate newer or trendier items instead of consigning in hopes of keeping the thrift pool above average?

Image courtesy Style Fuse Diaries.

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  • AB

    I thrift versus consign because it’s easier. Where I used to live there were wonderful bargains on name brand stuff (think Dooney & Bourke purses, Chicos and Talbots clothing, etc). I think Karma is the term for it!

  • I give my “best” stuff to the Humane Society Thrift, and tell myself, whatever it cost, “it’s for the kitties”. That’s also where I bought my brand new Versace pantsuit for $200, so it does come around, I think! : >

  • Lisa W.

    Yes! I tend to save my nicer things for an annual or sometimes semi-annual clothes swap that a friend hosts. Whatever pieces of mine aren’t taken by friends are not allowed to follow me back home! They’re donated to thrift and I’m a-okay with that, even though I could consign them and could use the $! I’m also finding now that my better children’s clothing is too small to pass on to some friends and way too large for tiny cousins, so some nicer kid’s stuff if making it’s way over to my local thrift. It does warm my heart to think of another little cutie getting to enjoy a snuggly jacket for a reasonable price AND since it’s the thrift store I shop at, I feel like I’m really participating in the recycling loop.That has to be good karma planet-wise, right? I don’t know if I’m really “bringing up” their stock as it seems it’s really just a drop in the clothing bucket of the vast amount of stock they offer.

  • Anna

    Although I’ve never thought of it as karma (nice thought! I’ll give it a try!) I sometimes consign but usually donate. The usual reason is geography: I live in a rural area where all the shops are scattered here and there, and where I take any particular item usually depends on how I am consolidating that day’s errands. Right now I have some nice things that I plan to give to the local Helping Hands, which is not even a thrift shop but is free to anyone who expresses a need (rather like a food cupboard). I love the idea of helping support my very own neighbors in this little town.

  • I do believe in thrift karma. It is so much easier to let go of something that doesn’t work for me, by imagining someone else absolutely thrilled to thrift it and wear it. Plus, those consignment credits make it easier to get something that does work for me.

    I would pro’bly keel over dead if I stumbled upon anything Fluevog in a thrift or consignment store. Most definitely if it was in my size 😛

    • CpudreMode

      Oh I love my Fluevogs (I’m up to seven pairs at this point), did you know that there is a section on their website called “Fluemarket” where people sell their vintage Vogs Also there is a lot of lively re-seller action on Ebay as well. There are some really good deals on both.

  • Anne

    My last great thrifting score was a very nice Club Monaco tweed skirt that I bought for $2.50 last spring. I am more of a consignment shopper and I have definitely scored some great deals at consignment stores over the years. I have come to the realization that I come out ahead on the buying, but not so much when it comes to selling. It’s taken me a few years to realize that if we’re all finding good deals, then none of us is really making money from consigning clothes. Now I take the approach that at least the clothes aren’t sitting in a landfill, and that someone else might buy my skirt and tell her friends, “you wouldn’t believe the deal I got today.”

    I have also started giving my clothes to a few of my neighbors. I was afraid that I would offend them by offering them, but now they like going through my pile before I head off to Goodwill. If by chance I see one of them wearing something that used to be mine, I think, “Yes, now that item has a good home and won’t just sit in a drawer taking up space and collecting dust.”

    The rest I just take to the thrift store. I take all my boys’ and husband’s cast offs to thrift stores. I know how expensive and challenging it is to keep growing boys in clothes so I figure it is a good turn to make that job a little easier for some mom out there.

  • Moira

    I don’t know if I think it works like karma, but I always find that after I’ve done a lot of thrifting, I want to donate to the shops. It just gets you thinking about it. And if you donate good stuff, then other people will have positive thrifting experiences, and maybe they too will bring good stuff to the stores.

    Spent a little while yesterday thrifting and totally struck out. But hope springs eternal.

  • Margo

    Who can afford to do that? I try to wring every last ounce of use from things I buy. Fewer, better and worn forever.

    • AB

      For example: Things no longer fit me. The trend is not so nice on me after all. I bought it for a specific reason and no longer have a reason to wear them.

  • Aziraphale

    Nope, but I can’t really relate, because I’m not into thrifting. But if it makes you feel good to donate quality things, then go for it!

    I CAN relate to your comment about “money down the tubes”, though. I’ve don’t have an overflowing closet, but it’s not as small and well-curated as I’d like it to be, and it bugs me when I find I’ve got tired of something and no longer want to wear it when it’s in nearly-new condition. I’m also finding that although I have a pang of sadness when I wear out a much-loved garment, there’s also satisfaction there. So I think that tells me something.

    My current plan is to try to look at clothes the same way I look at food: they are expendable. They are there to be used fully and enjoyed, to be consumed completely. My goal is to WEAR OUT all my clothes. I already do this with underthings, socks and hosiery, and no matter how pretty they were in their prime, I never feel a pang of guilt about tossing them out when they are worn out. I realize this gives me no thrifting karma at all, but it cuts closer to the root of our first-world over-consumption problem, and completely bypasses the guilt I feel at having perfectly good clothing languishing in my closet.

    • jii

      Yes, me too…I try to and succeed in wearing out my clothing. Sometimes I continue to wear favorite pieces even with some frays, stains, oh, this is horrid but it takes a lot for me to throw something away. I get new zippers and buttons sometimes, and that helps. But, clothing is not made well enough anymore, mostly. My grown sons wear out their shoes so badly that when I take them for shoes (they are struggling financially and I spoil them) the shoes that they are wearing to the store are thrown out at the store, new shoes worn home. We live in an upscale college town, very casual seems to be the trend. Neutral and recycled clothing are the lifestyle here.

  • Anonymous

    If I’m giving something good to a charity shop, I’m very careful about where I donate it as I want the charity to recognise it’s value and sell it for a decent amount of money. On a personal level it’s lovely to pick up a bargain in a thrift store/charity shop, but they exist to make money for their charity, and I don’t like seeing items sold for a fraction of their genuine second-hand value. Don’t know if the situation is similar in the States, but in the UK you can see hospice shops selling jeans for 50p, which they could easily be charging £5 for – that’s £4.50 that the charity hasn’t received.

    • Halo

      I consider that, too. I’ll also consign more desirable pieces simply because I want people to actually find them. The charity shops around here get so much in donation they sometimes have to dispose of things without even going through them (sell by the pound to various other companies). I will donate appropriate stuff to Dress for Success because they’re trying to outfit low-income women in career wear and my nice plus-sized suits and things are highly prized. But for trendy stuff that could make a buck or two, I consign to a store that keeps an edited, easy to browse selection and it always sells.

  • Andrea

    I absolutely donate good stuff. I don’t buy much that I don’t need or really like, but sometimes I get nice gifts that just aren’t my thing or sale purchases that don’t quite work but can’t be returned. I don’t know if it comes back to me in a karmic way, but I like to imagine the look on someone else’s face when she sees something beautiful at a price she can afford.

  • Kelly

    LOL, I HAVE seen some of my donated things in the thrift shops before, and not once I have felt the urge to bring any of it back with me. That’s sort of satisfying all by itself. Also, a large chunk of my wardrobe came from the thrift shop in the first place, so I feel comfortable perpetuating the cycle. It makes my wardrobe interesting and varied to have frequent closet purges. I don’t keep a lot of things long enough for wear to be a concern, and I’m happy to think someone else might enjoy it too. My friends at work are surprised at my lack of emotional connection to my clothes, but I like the variety I get with my closet cycling. From the thrift it came, and to the thrift it shall return!

  • I think donating back is the quickest and easiest way to purge our closets. I however use to own a consignment store and recommend it as well.

  • I totally believe in thrift karma. If someone can have the same overwhelming good feeling I do while thrifting – I’d be super happy. I have been attempting to resell the nicest stuff via my blog or ebay before sending to donation, but I tend to have a set limit of time I’ll hang onto that stuff before saying adios.

    Most of my closet is thrifted these days. I don’t know why some people send these things to donation, but I am grateful that they gave it up for someone else to find.

    I have a bag of stuff right now that needs to go to donation. I’m hoping to get it together this afternoon. Maybe it’ll bring me some luck tomorrow on 50% day.

  • I generally donate, most of the time it isn’t worth the time to consign if I am only going to make a few dollars for a few items, and there are lots of places to donate right by my house but not really good consignment, so it is easy. I don’t generally have much “like new” clothing that I would consider truly nice enough to consign though.

  • Anna D.

    I don’t really believe in thrift karma, no – I just get rid of stuff because it’s old/ugly/doesn’t fit any more, and do it because it benefits me, not for any other reason. However, at my heaviest weight, I bought a pair of Boden jeans (on sale!) that turned out to be way too long, and I just never got around to taking them to get hemmed (since they were jeans I was reluctant to use the hemming tape I use on dress pants), and then I lost 20 lbs, so they didn’t fit any more. I was actually bummed to donate them (I could have totally used those jeans when I was heavier! what was I thinking??), but I was happy thinking that someone who wanted/needed them might enjoy coming across a pair of brand-new, never-EVER-worn jeans from a decent brand (not designer or anything, obviously, but you know – nice jeans).

    The thing is, mostly I don’t think the clothes I donate are really nice enough for other people to want (I’ve never consigned anything). Apart from big baggy t-shirts (of which I have about a gazillion for some reason, although I only wear them in the house!), I don’t think I have a particularly large wardrobe, and I’ve been buying stuff on the cheap, mostly, for the last few years (because I went back to school). So there isn’t much stuff I own that I don’t wear, and when I do find stuff I own that I don’t wear, it’s usually because it doesn’t look good because it’s worn out – or sometimes because it was a poor choice to begin with (which usually means I bought it because it was cheap). So I have a hard time thinking that anyone is going to be thrilled to find those items in Goodwill, and honestly, if they are, I feel kinda bad that they can’t do better than my old clothes.

    (Perhaps this is where it’s useful to point out I don’t thrift myself, for all sorts of reasons, but since I don’t like it myself, that probably makes it harder to think of anything I donate as bringing someone else pleasure.)

  • Lady Harriet

    I get just about all my clothes from thrift stores, garage/rummage sales, and hand-me-downs anyway, so I feel absolutely no guilt about donating them. I never spent much in the first place, so I feel no need to recoup what I paid. Things that I got as an amazing bargain can become an amazing bargain for someone else! If I bought everything new, I think it might make me anxious to “lose” the value of an item, but I think that I would feel the same way consigning since you don’t really get that much money back. I’m also happy to support the things that St. Vincent de Paul or Goodwill do for the community. I don’t shop consignment because the prices are too high for me, and I live in an area where you can find very high-quality clothing for relatively low prices in thrift stores.

  • Rita

    The stuff I think I can make at least $15 on, I’ll try to sell on eBay. Otherwise, I release it back into the thrifting wilderness to be scooped up by some other bargain hunter.

    I flip items on eBay that I get from rummage sales and thrift stores. It’s just a hobby/side business thing. After hitting the secondhand market for several years now, I just almost never can get myself to buy stuff new off the rack. It feels like such a waste of money on my part and, on a larger scale, a waste of the Earth’s resources. There is already so much stuff out there! So I guess I do feel as though I’m courting a sense of karma by donating/thrifting.

  • Sarah

    My challenge with donating is the in-between items–things that I don’t wear much because they are starting to show their age but are not really worn out yet. I find myself hanging on to these items to wear for “everyday,” but I don’t truly love them anymore. When I consider donating them, I question whether people will really pay the (too-high, think retail clearance price) Salvation Army prices for them. I don’t want to overload the thrift store with junk, but on the other hand, the items are too good to just throw away or turn into rags. Anyone else have this dilemma?

  • I have various thrifting/donating processes.
    I never used to thrift and once I began, I had some very good luck finding beautiful, barely worn things. To me; that was thrifting Karma….a force that helped me realized that I don’t have to buy retail to be well dressed.
    I take some things to consignment…for the same reasons you do. Some things will be donated to the Goodwill in hopes that they will find that person who feels they have experienced their own ‘thrifting karma’ when they find it.

  • tina

    I try to donate to Dress For Success. If my donation can help a woman get a job then that is good karma for me!

  • SamiJ

    One thing I would like to mention is that if you are holding on to a nice dress or formal outfit because it’s too nice to thrift. Don’t. The newer /more recent it is the more likely it is to be used. Nobody wants to wear a dress from 1982 unless it is a classic, or unless it is for a costume party. So if you can’t use it — give it up as soon as possible. There are charities that take formal gowns for prom, career attire for women re-entering the workforce, winter coats for well, everyone.

  • Elizabeth

    Honestly, in my area, the consignment stores are ot as nice as the thrift stores! The thirst stores you can find Coach purses, Banana Republic, Chicos, Talbots, etc. I once found a Nieman Marcus silk shirt in my size!

    Now there is searching to find these, and some sizes are way easier to find these brands than others, but the consignment stores in my area tend to have a much smaller selection, fewer brand names, and higher prices.

  • Hell yes! I figure I’m paying back now for the good stuff I found while a broke student and then one of the employed. I know people who have to shop in thrift stores and they also understand the pleasure of something that is well made and lasts.

  • Eleanorjane

    Yup, I donate everything ‘cos it benefits the charity that’s running the shop and benefits the folks who shop there.

    With things that might suit people I know (who don’t mind 2nd hand clothes), I tend to offer them first pick. I used to give some of my best stuff to our Vicar as she shops most from thrift stores and I had a good disposable income then (and we were similar sizes).

  • Ros

    I have hopeless charity shop karma. The best thing I have is a beautiful purple needlecord skirt that was new with tags – but I didn’t find it! A friend saw it in a charity shop, thought it was too good a bargain to pass up at £1 but it was completely the wrong size for her, so she sent it to me, thinking I might like it. I love it!!

  • Kenzie

    Part of me believes in it because I had a moment this summer after I donated a bag of decent stuff where I went into Goodwill to shop and found five pairs of Clarks (my favorite brand!) in my size! They must have all come from the same donor or something. It was crazy. I only bought one pair. I was proud of my restraint.

  • Angela

    I try to consign as much as I can. It can be heartbreaking to be offered so little for items that I’ve paid a pretty penny for, but it’s better than nothing! I just have to remind myself of all the amazing consignment bargains I’ve found over the years, and remember that those are possible because others have also been willing to part with their designer duds for a pittance.

    Sometimes I donate the good stuff when I’m lazy. It can be a lot of work to separate everything out, take it to multiple places, and then deal with the leftovers that the consignment shops won’t take. So if I’m pressed for time, I’ll just throw everything in bags and purge it before I can think twice about any of it. 🙂

    Any chance you’ll tell me which Arcs you dropped your Fluevogs off at? 😉 I kid. I’ve found Stuart Weitzman and Prada shoes at my neighborhood Arcs! I found a beautiful vintage Diane Von Furstenberg blouse last time I was there, but it wasn’t my size. It’s so fun to unearth the treasures.

  • becky f.

    When I gave away an *almost* perfect coat — one I’d purchased after a long time of looking — to my cousin, I found a *perfect* coat at a thrift store within a month. And on a 50% off sale. I don’t often have good quality, high-end things to donate, but I do believe in thrift karma.

    p.s. I thought of your thrifting tips this weekend, Sally, when my sister and I got tired of waiting in a dressing room line. We had both, by chance, worn tank tops, so we got to make use of a nearby mirror to try the shirts and sweaters we’d collected.