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Thrift Friday (again). The Ick Factor

When people react to thrifting with shock and a touch of fear or even disgust, it takes me right back to elementary school. While I grew up surrounded by other big Dutch families on a budget, I still have distinct memories of being teased for wearing second hand clothing. I was also teased for having a bowl cut, pink glasses and a massive accent... Basically, I wanted to be this girl instead when I was younger...


(This has nothing to do with thrifting but my parents brought over a box of my old school work and this is a classic that I had to share. My Grade 5 self drew this as the epitome of all that I wanted to be as a teenager. )

I grew up wearing a lot of second hand clothing, so thrifting has never phased me. In general, my 'ick' tolerance is pretty high, I can handle dirt under my fingernails like I can handle a man's popped collar... But I know that there are many people who have an aversion to the very idea of thrifting. I get a brief moment of understanding concerning this aversion when I walk into a particularly musty thrift store and a wall of that smell hits you. You know... that smell...

Thankfully, most thrift stores I frequent do not offend my olfactory senses and I merrily peruse the racks in complete comfort. I think most of the 'ick' factor of thrifting is a mental state and there will always be some people who find the idea abominable. There is room in the world for everyone, I just hope that if you don't thrift, you drop your closet purges off for us who do... For those who find thrifting only slightly questionable and need a little persuasion to get over the mental block and go to the dark side, here are some ideas to ease one into thrifting.

Start with Consignment. Consignment stores are filled with second hand clothing that has been selected not simply donated and sorted. The clothes are often higher-end merchandise that has been washed and carefully inspected. The prices are decent too, not grab the cashier in a wild hug kind of prices but definitely worth checking out. It's a small step to get one used to the idea of wearing previously worn clothing.

Look through accessories. I wrote a post previously, gushing over my rather embarrassing and extensive collection of thrifted belts. The best part about most accessories like belts, jewelry and purses is that they are often hung up or laid out on display in the thrift store; no scrounging or intensive searching is necessary. In fact you can even keep one hand free for a beverage... if you need one. Somehow wearing some one's necklace seems less intimidating then wearing their old sweater. Accessories are also super easy to clean (Lysol wipe or even just an old fashioned damp cloth )...

Have a cleaning routine. I used to thrift and leave bags of thrift greed all over the house. A bag with a dress that needed to be dry cleaned, a bag with a skirt that had a broken zipper and another bag with some sweaters waiting for a hand wash. And there was clutter in my brain and my room and my girly cat would eat the handles off the plastic bags because she's a crazy and it was all. just. bad. news. For a rather unorganized lady like myself, I proudly now have a rigid system in place whereby I clean and organize all my thrift finds. It makes a world of difference and I feel 100% comfortable with what I take home. And yes, I will share this little system of mine... next week... because I want to leave you hanging like a commercial break on Full House.


(...I will however entertain you with the close-up of my early fashion icon. The bangs, the blush, the heart patches... clearly fashion has always been my calling.)

Does any part of thrifting ick you out? Do you avoid any items or is all fair in love and thrifting?


Amanda said...

I love thrifting, but the only part that icks me out is when the clothes are extremely stained, nasty nasty shoes, or the big "wearhouse" goodwill stores. Those just make me afraid that anything I bring home will be infested with bugs.


grace said...

Like you, I grew up with thrifted stuff, so I was never easily icked. However, spending several years haunting Austin's bins (i.e. Goodwill outlet stores where things are simply dumped into giant bins for you to dig through) has cured me of any residual ick factor. I saw dirty diapers there, as well as used menstrual products and all manner of other truly stunningly gross stuff. I also got the best thrift finds of my life there. It was worth it!

Anonymous said...

Never dealt with the ick factor myself, but love you for posting this guide for anyone who does.

And THANK YOU for coming by for the chat this morning! You're my current favorite human.

Alli (One Pearl Button) said...

The only ick I get is a relatively recent phenomenon - I live in bedbug central, and I've gotten REALLY paranoid about carrying bedbugs home from thrift trips. I've had to develop an extensive anti-bedbug routine to keep thrifting. ICK.

Kate said...

I see someone already commented on this, but my issue with thrifting is my intense fear of bedbugs. A local value village had an infestation in a shipment this past year and from that moment on I REFUSE to thrift. I know you can get them many other ways and I don't want to discuss it really because I think I need therapy over this issue, BUT, just wanted to say, that is my issue with thrift stores. I do, however, drop my stuff off at consignment stores fairly frequently!

Sidewalk Chic said...

Thank you for writing this. Most clothes I'm not icked out by, but there are some (knitty sweaters, fur coats) that make me second-guess trying them on. Basically if I can't see into an item's crevices, I'll be squeamish about going through it. I'm getting over it though.

I have little bags of thrift greed all over the house too. It's like I marked my territory or something.

Anonymous said...

You know...I used to not purchase shoes there and then, I visited one where the shoes had obviously been repaired. I also used to avoid all underwear...and then relented and found a bra or two. Still won't purchase briefs, although often they are brand new. DH has found brand new appliances that he can easily repair in his workshop.

Really look forward to your cleaning and repair routine next week...

Stella said...

The one thing I hated buying was shoes. But now I'm pretty over that! I really never had the ick factor, and, wow. Am I a germaphobe.

My mom used to have the ick factor though. I cured it through multiple visits to the Salvation Army and repeated prodding.

I want to see you thrift organization system!

Prissy said...

Great post!! I've really never had that "ick" factor either. I grew up dumpster diving & moved on the becoming a great "thrifter" LOL.
How cool is it that drawing...Fashionista in the making!!!


From Suns To Moons said...

Your early "ideal" self looks like a blue-eyed Guidette from the 90's. Are you kicking yourself for not having pitched Jersey Shore first? Or The Real Housewives of New Jersey? (She looks like Teresa and her Matryoshka-sized daughters). Thanks for the laughs!

Emily AKA Hyperactive wacko said...

Is that girl wearing a 'Bumpits'???? And is she skipping rope or bumgee jumping? (don't tell me neither and break my heart)
SOOOOOOOOO you know what's cool? (other than the 2 of us)
I went to the salvation army last night (50% off yesterday and today if u have one nearby... assuming ontario works on the same schedule...) AND got some big gems.
Then I blogged about it and told everyone to come HERE for advice if they wanted to thrift. Because I think everyone should! Except not on my turf.

(oh and my point? - almost forgot - you posted a thrift "thursday" right after my post telling everyone (all 2 readers) about it) parentheses in parentheses! blows my mind. Um it's 4:45 pm on Friday afternoon... I finish work in 15 minutes so im a little hyper. Keep that in mind when you read this.

Shen Dove said...

Thrifting doesn't bother me in the least, I really should do it more. Obviously, you'll launder or dry clean anything you bring in your house before wearing, but other than that, thrifting is awesome!

6 said...

would LOVE to hear your or Alli's anti-bedbug routine.
look forward to next week.

FutureLint said...

My oh my, that is some killer blush! Once in a while the really dumpy thrift stores will gross me out with the smell, but I pretty much don't care. Plus we're lucky here in MPLS that bed-bugs aren't a concern yet, but I'm sure they will be at some point and then I don't know what I'll do!

Sheila said...

I love that bit of art.

I won't buy second hand underwear (bras especially), but I'm strangely okay with vintage full slips. I also avoid the really nasty broken shoes.

Wendy said...

Thrifted underwear--wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Otherwise, I'm no snob. I do throw everything in a hot dryer for 30 minutes when I get home before beginning my actual cleaning routine to kill any bed bugs. I actually got my thrifty husband into that habit too. So proud.

mitukatie said...

not a whole lot grosses me out...i was raised in the country and loved playing in pools of mud. on that note, the shoe section grosses me out, but i just pick out the newer looking ones. also, undies, like most people.

Olivia said...

Love thrifting. Live for thrifting. But even I got icked out when I realized a pair of thrifted silk pants I was trying on for my Halloween costume were peed in. That's right, pee stains down both legs. Aw, the glamour of a thrifted wardrobe.

Julie at Modern Day Middle Age said...

I used to have no standards at all ... my thrift greed was totally equal opportunity. Now that I'm grown up, I won't even LOOK at the underwear, socks, bras and tights. Hats can be pretty gross too but I try to overcome it for something really cute. And, for the record (also, catharsis), I keep my thrift greed in the trunk of my car now to hide it from my hubby and bring it in a few pieces at a time. He is appalled by thrift ... and greed.

Thanks for the great post!

Anonymous said...

I just wash/dry clean everything as soon as possible. Just like I wash everything I get new & who knows how many times they've been tried on at retail stores (especially when I only shop the sale racks). I used to not bother with thrifted shoes, until I noticed how many people are constantly trying the new ones on, too.

Someone said...

Thrifting is always such a great subject!

Since I didn't have anything second-hand as a kid (I was the oldest kid too so no hand-me-downs either), I was trying to figure out why I ended up being a big thrift fan. I think I know...when I was much younger I found (and umm...borrowed...) many of my aunts' awesome Mad Men era dresses that were left in my grandmother's attic, and that probably set me up good for the vintage craze that hit in the early 80s. From there...a hobby was born.

Once I figured out that thrift stores were a WAY cheaper way to get cool older styles, that was a lot easier on the wallet. So I've thrifted for decades now.

Let me note that yard sales are also a great source of bargain priced reuse items, plus you actually meet the people and see the outside or garage of the homes they come from, possibly lending a little more confidence in the cleanliness of what you're getting.

Turns out that the city I moved away from early last year is on the top 15 list of bedbug places now, but we've never had them. Still, this gives me pause and I will probably thrift less until those problems are improved, even though I'm in a new state. :P

Hannah | The Outfit Repeater said...

I'm a thrifter through and through. You made me laugh when you mentioned the smell, I do know that smell. I am always a little hesitant about my purchases coming from a store like that. I actually go to one frequently that shares a very small building with a nail salon and the polish scent is SO intense it's pretty much soaked into all the clothes.

Anwyays. When I am faced with someone who is grossed out by second hand shopping I usually tell them that everything was donated by people like me, and then ask, "would you buy something from me?" The answer is usually yes because I appear to be a clean person and the idea of buying something from me isn't gross. (I do only more than appear to be a clean person, I am one! haha)
It doesn't always work, but I'm fine with that. More for me!

thatdamngreendress said...

The only thing that grosses me out is when I find rolled-up kleenex in pockets! However one time my boyfriend found $20 in the pocket of a bathrobe so, well, you never know!

Secondhand Stella said...

Hahahahahaha, I love the bangs!!!!!

Sara said...

Man, I would have believed you invented the Bump It with those bangs! Awesome! lol

I am going through a phase of wanting to get over the Ick factor. I've just started experimenting with thrifting and second hand stores, and I think if I get home and wash what I find, or send it to the dry cleaners, I'll be just fine. It is a state of mind I need to get over haha.

Anonymous said...

I love thrifting! Growing up in a family with six children we wore a lot of thrifted clothes. As a kid I didn't care for it so much but as an adult I love it!

I also have found money and other item in pockets of thrifted items. Strangest thing I've ever found was a condom. Fortunately it was still in the wrapper! The alternative would have been the ULTIMATE ICK!

I clean my thrifted items as soon as I get them home. I don't like the smell of thrifted clothing in my house.

I love your Thrifting Thursday (Friday) blogs. HAPPY THRIFTING!

Shey said...

haha I've been laughing so hard not only reading your funny post but the funny comments! I love thrifting, the only thing I stay away from is mothball smell, hard to get rid of, underwear and nasty smell shoes. I kind of like junky thrift stores because that's where it's more exciting to find the goodies.

Artfully Awear said...

I'm probably a lot like you in that I would endure just about anything for a good bargain!

Rachella - said...

nice blog. please check out my blog too and follow if you like!:)

Sheila said...

Jentine, thank you so much for the comment! In case you don't see my reply on my post:

I think it's because slips aren't worn as close to the body as a bra is. A bra will always remember the boobs it covered, but a slip forgets.

You never did swing by and collect your Major Award earlier this month, by the way. I only give them out once a year, so you best put on your party frock and collect your leg lamp. :) You can find the link to it in my sidebar.

veronika, tick tock vintage. said...

i only get grossed out when i'm in house that smells like urine. i went to an estate sale that smelled like ten thousand cats were locked in the house for the past 20 years. that i can't handle.

blehhhsdfsdl. i shiver whenever i think about it.

Tiffany said...

I have a pretty high tolerance for 'ick' too, but there is one thrifted item I could never bring myself to wear... I purchased an awesomely vintage 80s multi-colored striped Reebok romper/leotard/bodysuit thing. Believe me when I say that it looked cooler than my description sounds, but I could not ever get over that patch of fabric that buttoned between the previous owners legs. Gross. Back to Goodwill it went.

Rae said...

Yeah, I'm with you. I consider myself a fairly strong-stomached thrifter, and it helps that my best friend is, too. There are few thigs as lame as a friend waiting uncomfortably in the foyer of Goodwill while you thrift, which has happened to me before.

I probably should have known when she was averse to going through the Target sale racks. It confounds me as well.

Robyn said...

It hurts my soul when people react like that to thrifting. 90% of what I own is second hand, and it definitely makes me a little bit proud.

Emma at Daily Clothes Fix said...

Thanks for sharing your awesome drawing. That made me smile so much. I think you should do a post where you recreate this look, hearts and all.

As for thrifting, anything is fair game in my book apart from underwear and tights. There I draw the line.

the other emily said...

I think I have a seriously low ick factor because I too grew up wearing thrifted and second-hand clothes. I steer completely clear of underwear, socks, bras, and any tights not in a completely sealed package - everything else is fair game. I've finally learned to skip any blouses or dresses with pit stains (no matter how gorgeous it otherwise is, it is not comfortable to try and keep your arms down all day - UNSURE!), and if I'm in a hurry I pretty much skip knits entirely because they're so often fuzzy, pilled, or wonky in some other way. I will definitely go for shoes, although now I always keep a pair of trouser socks in my purse while thrifting after one or two experiences of trying on a shoe barefoot* and coming out with my foot covered in little bits of disintegrating crud.

*Yes, I admit this is gross, but sometimes you are wearing sandals and there is a gorgeous pair of Aigner riding boots that just might be your size! What else are you gonna do, right?
the other emily

whoaMYgoodness said...


Love the post! Thrifting to me is fashion adventure. I love going into a store, only to find a remarkable ARTifact, from fashion's past. I feel like it's also quite a pragmatic response to the urge to constantly be consuming new clothing. What you can get for a mere $5 is amazing!

I really appreciate your blog, I'll be back!

Mine is also documentation of my thrift-store-scores, chek it' !



Erica said...

Ooh, I still have a problem thrifting shoes. Most just look so worn out and used... and dirty! I know if the right pair comes along, I will crumble. Until then, new shoes for this girl.

heidiluxe said...

for me, shoes need to be very gently used. no sweat marks. and last week there was a pair of used underwear on the floor. that made me almost die.

ps-i think the best tip i've ever read on here was when you put a vintage fur in the freezer. that helped me reconsider a lot of things i didn't want to pay to clean.

Amanda @ Life with A.Co said...

GREAT post (but what else is new?? ;).

I know 'the smell' you're talking about and sometimes I get a little ick'ed out when I try stuff on. Stuff that has stains or sweat marks are a no no, and anything that's damaged or would be a bitch to repair, I tend to avoid.

Once I found this AMAZING forest green suede/leather snakeskin printed pencil skirt (from Danier) but it REEKED like smoke. I called a Dry Cleaner immediately and asked how much it would be to dry clean it, they said $35, so I passed. The skirt was already $30 and I just wasn't willing to fork out THAT MUCH.

A.Co @ A.Co est. 1984

PS - your fur-in-the-freezer worked for me too!!!

Ally said...

i usually prefer consigning but I have recently gotten into thrifting and have scored some great finds! one of my main rules is that hand sanitizer is a MUST! I take it in the car with me everywhere...not just thrifting, but the grocery store, the mall...anywhere where you are touching a lot of stuff that isnt yours...this obviously includes thrifting:) your tips are great...keep 'em coming:)

Sara K.S. Hanks said...

My ick-o-meter is practically non-existent. I will happily scrounge through the shelves and racks at a thrift store without any concern over germs or dirt.

The only place where things get iffy is the swimsuit/bra/underwear area, which I can't imagine actually purchasing from. I also feel a little nervous about bedding, though I have purchased some really cool old sheets in my day.

Anonymous said...

Obviously I am a bit late, but I just wanted to comment that some people who can't overcome the "ick factor" may actually be like myself and have OCD. I have worked very hard to overcome my avoidance behaviors, but it is a constant struggle. Rather than think someone is looking down on you for thrifting, they might be like me and actually admire you, and hope to one day be in a place where it is comfortable. I used to thrift a lot as a teenager, before my disorder fully developed, and I am trying to get back to it. Reading your blog has helped! Of course, I also can see that the stuff you have would not look a quarter as amazing on me because I am not a tall gorgeous blond, but I shall persevere!

myedit said...

Dear anon,
I really hope that one day you are able to get back into thrifting.
Certainly, back in the day, I used to have a bit of shame (not sure if that is the right word) over second hand clothing but now I don't care. To each their own...
All the best!

Chandra said...

I avoid:
used tights
toe imprinted shoes
worn shoes
holes in anything
stains in anything (visible dirt stains are acceptable)
think cable knit sweaters (these thick sweaters carry tons o'funk, and unless there are tags attached, I ain't buyin')

When I thrift/vintage shop I simply look for the following:
Vintage Dresses
Designer Anything
Vintage Hats
Faux Fur


april deann said...

bras & under-garments, however, i will still buy a pair of cool socks if they still have the tags!

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