If you plan on thrifting for the next 50 years or so, you will have many more [opportunities] to buy things, and passing things up will become a necessary and realistic part of the adventure. —Dawn, a commenter on an Ars Longa post
Impatient as I am, I need to be reminded of this again and again. There are no “backsies” in thrifting, so it’s tremendously important to be able to deliberate on a dime. When I recommend taking the long view, I’m talking about everything from considering carrying the stuff home to fifty years from now when you’re still (hopefully) thrifting.
In attempting to combat my impulsiveness, I try to consider both the immediate and future consequences of buying whatever is under consideration. In doing so, I’ve developed a few techniques I use while shopping. These aren’t meant to be prescriptive, but maybe one or two will work for you (and if you’ve figured out other ways to take the long view, please let us know in the comments).
- Do I have a place to put it? Pretty self-explanatory. I won’t purchase anything if it’s destined to gather dust in storage. I left the above-pictured A-frame dollhouse at the Goodwill on South Broadway because I had absolutely nowhere to put it.
- Will I see it again? I’ve become better at passing up things I love–Pyrex casseroles, certain types of glass jars, vintage scissors–because I know I’ll run across them again. Even if you experience a little twinge of regret at leaving something behind, if it’s mass-produced you’ll likely see it again eventually. If the item is common, like the aforementioned heavy vintage scissors, I’ll only buy it if I find a real bargain. If it’s not something I’m likely to find again–an interesting painting or unusual piece of embroidery, say–I spend more time deliberating.
- Will I be crushed if it’s not here tomorrow? This one can be a little tricky, because when you find something that seems fabulous it’s hard to imagine that you might not miss it later. But if it’s a fairly big purchase (either sizewise or monetarily) and I can’t make up my mind in the store, I ask myself if I can afford to sleep on it. And if the answer is yes, sometimes I go back, but often I’ve forgotten about it by dinnertime.
- The 10/10/10 technique. I ran across a mention of this on a blog recently–I don’t remember where. Three years ago, O Magazine columnist and former Harvard Business Review editor Suzy Welch wrote about how she makes decisions: She considers how the choice will affect her in ten minutes, ten months, and ten years. I immediately adopted the technique for thrifting, though I usually add ten days to the mix. (In ten minutes I’ll feel satisfied by buying something, but in ten days or ten months I might be re-donating it or trying to figure out if it’s worth moving to my next home.)It turns out Welch’s column received such an enormous response that she wrote a book about it. What appeals to me is that, unlike the majority of self-help books, the only prescription is the process: Otherwise, it’s up to you to figure out what you care about and how your decisions reflect your values. Where better to start practicing more deliberate behavior than in the aisle of your local thrift store, the place where you go for entertainment, for meditation, to create a wardrobe or home for yourself?
I’ll close with Welch’s Charlie Rose interview. Until next time, happy thrifting!