The past two years since graduating college have been a journey in self discovery. Very few things in my life have remained constant—I’ve lived in 6 different houses/apartments in three different states, worked in restaurants, cafes, and offices, considered various life paths (from grad school to WWOOFing to starting a kefir ice cream business (more on that later)), found new friendships, lost touch with others, etc..
One thing, however, that has remained constant during the past decade of my life is my love of thrift stores. And I’ve realized that a lot of life lessons can be learned from thrift stores.
Lesson #1: It’s easier to find things you don’t like. Sweat-stained “Turkey Trot ‘97″ t-shirts, pleated khaki shorts, and pink ceramic soap dishes predominate. But then, hidden at the back of the clothes rack, you see it: that gently worn studded leather biker jacket for only $7.50. And just in time for Halloween. In work, relationships, and life in general, it’s easier to recognize what you don’t like or don’t want to do. And that’s important. But it’s that rare semi-hidden gem that inspires passion, love, or enthusiasm that you need to snatch up without hesitation. Especially if it’s 50% off.
Lesson #2: Don’t buy it just because it’s cheap. You and I both know those thrift store n00bs who leave GoodWill with armloads of crapola that will only end up collecting dust in their basements within weeks. I hate to say it, but Macklemore is a major culprit (“They had a broken keyboard. I bought a broken keyboard”). In the thrift shop of life, you must “know thyself.” Don’t buy something or do something just because you can. The opportunities most worth pursuing often require the greatest investment of time and energy, and sometimes money. In the long run, being picky pays off.
Lesson #3: There is no rhyme or reason. Yes, some thrift stores are more organized, cleaner, less disgusting than others. But the basic principle of “second hand” remains the same: you never know what’s going to come next. You can organize the chaos, but you can never really control it. Embrace the entropy.
And obviously, there are many, many more delightful lessons to be learned from the humble thrift store. But I’ll leave with that for now.