It’s just 4 more days till Chinese New Year, and people are busy cleaning their homes and clearing their unwanted goods. Many people are also shopping for a new outfit to wear on the first day of the new lunar year. Hence, this is a great time to visit a second-hand/thrift store. Here are my 8 (auspicious) reasons why you should consider buying used.
1. Cost Savings – This number one reason is quite obvious so I won’t go into detail here, but here are 7 other less obvious reasons…
2. Dyes, toxins, and other chemicals in clothing & furniture – Ever wondered why new things have a certain distinct smell to them? New research has shown that during the manufacturing process, some fabrics and materials have dyes, binders, and other chemicals that can leach out in the environment or into your skin. I used to think the skin was like an impenetrable barrier, until I was prescribed a transdermal medication. That was when I realized that the skin is like a sponge. It’s also the largest organ and it’s part of the immune system, which means that it’s important in keeping you healthy and well. Let someone else deal with all these chemicals. Buying second-hand means that most, if not all, of these chemicals have already been leached out over time from use, washing, and wearing.
3. Shrinking, stretching, and color changing clothing – I once bought a cashmere blouse at a thrift store. It was marked down to less than $5. Why? Because it was size large that shrunk into a size small. The person who bought it likely dried it in a dryer, which made the delicate fabric shrink. By the time things end up in thrift stores, it’s wysiwyg (what you see is what you get), any morphing of the clothes will have already taken place and there won’t be any surprises after it comes out of the wash.
4. Clothing with a story – By the time an item makes it to the thrift store, there’s a lot of “equity” in the item. Many hands have touched it and countless hours were spent making it, transporting it, and selling it. From the people who collected the raw materials and spun those materials together, to the people who sold the finished product, at each step, energy, money, and time went into the item. It probably traveled a great distance before coming to Singapore. It carries with it all that equity, and yet you can own it for just a mere fraction of the actual cost that went into making the item.
5. Living a greener and more sustainable lifestyle – Most people are familiar with recycling and know that recycling greatly benefits the environment, but there are 2 other more important R’s that are part of sustainable living, that is, Reduce and Reuse. “Use it Up, Wear it Out Make it Do or Do Without” was a common saying during the Great Depression Era in America. As mentioned previously, items have equity, and that means fossil fuels and other energy have already been spent to make the item. If the item is usable, why not make that equity last? A lot of people are trying to adopt a green lifestyle, and I hear them say, “I’m going to do my part to recycle my containers and newspapers”, but perhaps one of the biggest thing people can do to be green is to curb their consumerism. Recently, the haze in China has been dangerously high and it’s spreading to other countries, even blowing across the Pacific Ocean. What is the primary source of all that haze? Manufacturing goods for export to all of us consumers.
6. Recycling uses energy – Even if an item can be recycled, it is sometimes more costly or dangerous to recycle it, and hence, it would be better to prolong the use of an item or to repurpose it. A good example of the former is plastic bags. It costs more to recycle plastic bags than for a manufacturer to make them. This is why choosing to use reusable shopping bags can make a big impact. For appliances and gadgets, particularly those cannot be disposed of in a rubbish bin, it is very important to try to extend the life of these as much as possible. The Samsung Galaxy S4’s slogan is “Life Companion”, but do they really mean that? What happens when their next model comes out? If you absolutely need a new phone every time you are up for recontracting, then please donate or sell your used phone. There are organizations that will give it to a good cause, like Project Silverline. If your phone or other devices are not in working order, you can drop it off at a e-waste recycling centre. Starhub has several e-waste bins set up in their shops in various regions of Singapore. Although these bins suggest that your device will be safely recycled, know that much of the e-waste simply gets dumped to poorer countries where people will try recover some of the metals inside often using dangerous and primitive methods of extraction.
7. Older things are sometimes made with better quality – The age of plastics, which started about a half century ago, came with an idea of “disposability” and “better living through chemistry”. But prior to this time, things were made with more natural materials – steel, glass, ceramics, and wood. The items might not have been as convenient or as stylish, but they were functional and made to last. Nowadays, with cheap materials, cheap manufacturing, and cheap labor, most items have “planned obsolescence” built right into them.
8. An opportunity to make money, or at least break even – I can’t tell you how many times this has happened to me. I found an evening gown up for auction on Ebay with few page view, very few bids, and set to close at some odd hour in the middle of the night. I put in my maximum in the auto bidding system, won the auction, and paid less than $15 for the dress. I wore the dress to a D&D when I was in my 20s. Now in my mid-30s, I felt it was no longer age-appropriate for me, so I sold it back on Ebay around Christmas time, and it sold for three times the amount that I purchased it for. When I buy used and sell used, most of the time, I just break even (this is what I refer to as “borrowing from strangers”). I’ve done this with clothing, furniture, appliances, tools, gadgets, books, textbooks, jewelry, toys, and computer games. For non-electronic items, if I strategically sell the item (I will have more details on a later post about this topic), I can even make a fair amount of money while also getting some use out of the item.