Love It or Leave It – or, Learning to Say No to Clothes at the Thrift Store

I went thrifting with my friend Caitlin the other weekend – she racked up several items to try on and I struck out, so I ended up in the very spacious dressing room (thanks Newnan Goodwill!) giving her picks the thumbs up or down.

(Shoutout to my mom for training me to think it’s fun to help someone else try clothes on – Ma, you would have been proud of my re-hanging garments and sorting into yes/no/maybe piles while my friend kept zipping through her selections.)

My friend mentioned at the beginning of the process that she always tries things on twice, to give herself some time to marinate on a selection before sealing the deal.  I nodded in agreement – sometimes you just need to revisit a piece to decide if it’s coming home with you.

But then she found this purple, leopard print dress by Soprano (retailed for around $50).  My friend’s face lit up and we both oooohed and ahhhhed – it was love at first fit.  “I won’t have to try this on a second time!” she gushed.

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Great necklace to go with it!

In an ideal world, ^^that is the reaction you should have for anything you buy at the thrift store.  That is the litmus test that will steer you clear from buyer’s remorse, thrift lust, and other thrifting pitfalls.

Obviously if you are going to a funeral or an interview TOMORROW and all you have to wear are technicolor sundresses, your definition of a thrift win will be slightly different.

But if you’re shopping to deepen or upgrade an already serviceable wardrobe – to turn “average” into “amazing” and “this is fine” into “I LOVE getting dressed in the morning” – shoot for that million bucks feeling.

Be prepared – setting such a high bar means you will say “no” to lots of things. That can be hard for me; I love thrifting so I’d much rather walk out with a win than empty hands.

But if a “win” is feeling like a million bucks instead of having one more thing in my closet I’m only sort of excited about, then suddenly my definition of a successful thrift run shifts: the goal isn’t to come home with something  every time, but rather to come home with only things that make my heart sing.

Instead of letting a trip with no purchases make me feel blah, I work to think of it as a win because I’ve avoided adding mediocre clutter to my closet – and hopefully I had fun!

(One way to make a no-purchase trip fun?  Instagram!  Take photos of the finds you love but won’t be buying – a style you love on others but not you, a color you wouldn’t wear, not the right fit, etc. etc. – and share with the world.  Knowing someone else appreciated your sweet find makes it easier to walk away.)

And the deeper reasons behind learning to say no? (Waxing Philosophical alert):

  • Abundance instead of scarcity
  • Practicing being content with “enough”
  • $5 thrifted dresses are not the source of happiness
  • Appreciating something without having to own it. 


What are YOUR techniques for saying “no” to less-than-ideal pieces at the thrift store?  What deeper philosophical idea are you marinating on when you think about your wardrobe? (Maybe nothing…I could be a lone geek on this one.)  Scroll down to comment & share!


2 thoughts on “Love It or Leave It – or, Learning to Say No to Clothes at the Thrift Store

  1. I look at it as a treasure hunt. It’s fun to look but unless it’s a 10, adds a dimension to existing wardrobe or is a trend I want to try it stays for someone else. I’m very selective about fibers, fit and condition. I heard a someone liken it to going to a museum. You can appreciate lovely art pieces, but don’t have to bring it all home to hang on your walls. This was an eye opener for me. I battle the scarcity quotient but limit my basics to one and a back up. Everything else comes and goes at it should.

    1. Love the museum analogy – heard that somewhere too. Although when you have to walk through a themed gift shop at the end of an exhibit before you can leave, I think they’re trying to tell you you DO have to buy something to remember the experience. Sigh.

      I also love the “it stays for someone else” mindset. I’ve used that to let go of pieces but it should be equally liberating for pieces still in the store. “Don’t be selfish, Leah – someone out there will love this WAY more than you and they deserve to find it!”

      Thanks for commenting Kathy :) Happy Friday!

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