The Beauty of Buying Used

This is what greeted me when I woke up and stumbled to the kitchen a few days ago. Phil says he was just warming up some pizza for a midnight snack, and the stoneware broke right in his hand.

I might have been really annoyed had I bought this new, but it had been a $1 yard sale find a few years ago — a yard sale where I also got a leather Coach backpack for $5 — so it really was no big deal. The Riedel O martini pitcher that broke the other day while we were cleaning up for dinner, however, is still breaking my heart because I bought that new (albeit discounted). (We don’t have to use the passive voice. It didn’t break itself. I broke it. –Ed.)

We’ve been buying more and more used lately. I’ve always been a huge fan of the thrift shop and yard sale, and I love vintage dinnerware and glassware like Fiesta and Russel Wright, so I was a weekend antiquer before we had kids. Now that Phil’s home with the kids, he and Sylvie will sometimes drop a donation off at Goodwill and pop by the thrift store, coming home with treasures like new Brooks Brothers shirts, vintage cocktail glasses, and pint-sized cashmere sweaters.

Shopping used has a lot of advantages:

  • If you’re into shopping, the treasure hunt is fun. Walk into a thrift store, and you’re going to just see a load of junk. Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find some amazing things.
  • The price is right. My favorite fruit bowl is an earthenware batter bowl from probably the 1930s. It would have been around $30 at an antique store, but I spotted it at a yard sale. It didn’t have a price tag, so when I brought it to the woman manning the table, she went into Negotiator mode. Looked it over, pointed out it was a good bowl with no chips, looked at it contemplatively. I mentally told myself I’d pay $5, $10 tops. Then she said, “How about 50 cents?” That’s what I’m talking about. If the bowl breaks, I’ll be sad because I love the bowl, but I won’t rail against the heavens about the wasted money.

Max fancying up lunch with grapefruit juice in a vintage glass from Goodwill. If he broke it, I'd be okay with losing the 99 cents.

  • It is so much more environmentally friendly. I don’t need to belabor this. Buying used and getting more use out of something is obviously going to be more Earth-gentle than throwing away something that doesn’t suit you and manufacturing new.
  • For us crafters, it’s a great source of supplies. I’ve specifically hunted thrift stores for supplies to create something. Like this great skirt from Maya Donenfeld. Or these fun Anthropologie-inspired mugs.

Making party favors for Tommy's recent birthday. These had packets of hot cocoa in them, and cost about 50 cents to make with Goodwill-purchased mugs.

In the summer, I know that if the kids are in the car, one of them is going to scream “Yard Sale!” when they see the sign, the tables of displayed stuff, or the crowd. And we almost always stop. They’ve got the fever, too, and I believe that learning to appreciate used is going to serve them well in life.

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