Growing up, my mom was a super hard working nurse. Everyone assumes we had a ton of money, but really she was just super responsible with what she earned. (I should stop using the past tense. She IS hardworking, she IS thrifty. Honestly, she’s fucking amazing and totally my best friend.)
We shopped at thrift stores throughout my childhood, not because we had to but because we liked to. It was a great way to supplement our wardrobes and save a bit of money. When I was 15, my first job was even at the Salvation Army! It was so much fun!
I fell in love with thrift stores again when I lost my weight. Keeping up with the changing sizes would have run me a fortune without being thrifty. Even now that my weight has leveled off, I’ve found my thrifting routine has done SO much for my mental health that I’m keeping up with it… in moderation of course.
So why is shopping at THRIFT stores any different from standard stores?
It’s the focus it requires. The stock at second hand stores rely 100% on donations. There’s never a guarantee that you’ll find what you’re looking for, but you also never know when you’ll find a hidden gem. It’s exciting!
When searching through a rack I look at each piece of clothing individually.
First level of focus: Do I like this item?
Second level: Is it in my size?
Third level: What’s the price?
Bonus level: Is it on sale?
That bonus level is my favorite part. Every Wednesday at the Salvation army is “family day,” where almost all clothes and shoes are half off. Every other day one specific colored tag is half off. It’s an amazing way to save money, but it also adds the level of thought that keeps me in a meditative state.
Yes, you read that right. Thrift shopping for me is a meditative experience. My creative brain is searching for items that appeal to me, and simultaneously my logical brain is doing the math of my running total, the discount on sale items, and withdrawing those prices from my budget.
When I find an item that hits all four points (appealing, my size, price, sale) my brain releases a small dose of happiness endorphins. I found my gem, and I have a second of joy with my dopamine. The logic and math keeps my OCD list making at bay, and while I shop I’m able to shelf my anxieties. The whole experience for me is very relaxing and enjoyable.
Obviously with Bipolar disorder and addictive behavior there’s a risk of getting into financial trouble when using shopping as a coping mechanism. The way I control this is setting a cash budget ahead of time, and leaving the debit card in the car. This creates a physical, tangible boundary and makes it exciting to get my math exactly right to make the most of my budget! I buy things we really need. For example, Arielle has made a habit of losing every single winter coat we’ve bought her this school year. It’s been a blessing to find her coats for a buck or two so we aren’t devastated when they’re lost.
As with anything, being open about my habits and feelings has guided my success. My husband is always asking questions and trying to understand my mental health- this habit is easy to talk about because I’m proud of the bargains and gems I retrieve!
With the right boundaries, thrift shopping can do wonders for mindfulness. I even spent Black Friday – the single most stressful day of the year – circulating Salvation Armies with my mom. It was the most relaxing day I could have asked for.. Of course, the wonderful company certainly made it better.
This is just another example of how many different therapies and treatments are out there. You have options, and you do not have to suffer. Help is out there. Get creative, get educated, get healthy.
With healthy hearts (and fabulous second-hand wardrobes,)
Kate and the Kids.