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Why Secondhand Clothes?

Earlier this year, during the process of cleaning out my overstuff wardrobe, I packed up bag after bag to donate to Goodwill. Then I had the realization that many of these clothes were going right back to whence they came. I’ve always loved shopping for clothes at Goodwill and other thrift and secondhand shops. I’ve bought some of my favorite pieces at antique malls and even yard sales.

I know some of you may cringe at the thought of wearing used clothes, but I’ve found there are real advantages of shopping secondhand.

Better quality clothes = savings + sustainability

Unless you can afford to shop at high-end stores, quality clothes are hard to find. The shopping malls, Amazon and well-known online retailers are full of fast fashion where you can easily spend $50 to $100 on a piece that wears out in a year. At thrift shops you can find high-quality designer clothes at a small fraction of their retail price. And you’ll find vintage pieces made in an era where superior fabrics and workmanship were the norm. Nothing wrong with buying nicer clothes and saving money. Plus higher quality means your clothes not only look and feel better, but last longer. And that will be one less item in the landfill.

More variety

Merchandise featured in traditional clothing stores is geared around the latest trends and fashions. That’s great if those fashions suit your style. But if you want something more classic, unique, or a pair of skinny jeans when baggy jeans are all the rage, you’ll have better luck at a secondhand store. Traditional retailers are also geared to the seasons, featuring fall and winter clothes in August and swimsuits in April. When you’re at Goodwill, you’ll find clothes for every season, so if you need a new parka in the dead of winter, you’ll find one.

Faster and more convenient shopping

I find department store shopping to be frustrating and time consuming. If I come in looking for a pair of brown dress pants, I’m forced to look through 15 different departments over two floors to find them. It’s crazy. Department stores are organized for designers and not for the needs of the customer. At Goodwill and most thrift stores, clothes are organized by type, by size and then by color. All I need to do is go to the dress pants section, find my size and then — voila — all the brown dress pants are together. It makes shopping so much faster and easier.

No guilty if it doesn’t work out

I am being more selective these days on what I bring home. But sometimes you buy a piece of clothing that doesn’t work out for whatever reason. Maybe it makes you itch, it doesn’t fit right, it doesn’t go with enough pieces in your wardrobe — whatever the reason. If I purchased it at Goodwill, it doesn’t have to sit in my closet for years because I feel too guilty about all the money I spent on a dud — like that $200 turquoise silk blouse with huge shoulder pads. Anything I purchase secondhand isn’t going to be a big investment, so I don’t feel bad about donating it right back.

Here’s some tips for secondhand clothes shopping:

  • Check carefully for stains, wear and tear.

  • Check for the smell of strong perfume. That’s one thing I find hard to wash out and can take five or six washings to eliminate.

  • Shop off season. You might find a great deal on a sweater in the middle of summer.

  • At most Goodwill stores there is one color of tag that goes on sale each week. You might want to check which day the sale starts to nab a great deal.

  • Lastly, don’t be afraid to add some gently pre-owned clothes to your wardrobe. Almost all clothes can be washed or dry cleaned. Just give everything a thorough wash in warm water and then a spin in the dryer.

Happy sustainable clothes shopping!



Hi, I’m Lori Cronwell. As a writer and frequent traveler, I admire the values most Europeans embrace: choosing quality over quantity; residing in smaller, more sustainable homes; working less and spending more time with friends and family.

Those values were key in my decision to drastically downsize to a 700 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit (ADU) with the goal of creating a simpler, more sumptuous life with time for travel.

Slow travel, that is. Spending more time in one place — even if it’s just a week. You'll not only spend less, you'll discover a deeper and more meaningful travel experience.

Please subscribe below and join me on a journey to find affordable ways to explore Europe in the slow lane and to live a more European lifestyle every day of our lives.

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