I’m no stranger to used clothes. Growing up, most of my outfits were hand-me-downs from an older cousin. I’ve raided my mom’s closet more times than I can count for clothes that didn’t fit her anymore. Throughout my life, my family often went shopping at vintage stores and flea markets.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting thrift stores. It takes a bit of searching to find what you’re looking for, and the process can be hit-or-miss, but I’ve had quite a few great finds over the years. Two of my favorite jackets are a cozy plaid pea coat straight from the forties, which I found at a little vintage store in Harlem, and an Italian leather jacket that I bought in a consignment shop in Northampton. I found my prom dress while thrift shopping; it was the first and only dress I tried on. I believe that there are many things that are beneficial about shopping at thrift stores, and there are a few reasons why.

One thing I love most about thrift shops is their originality. You’re much more likely to find a unique piece of clothing in a thrift shop than in any major chain store. In addition, thrift shopping allows you to experiment with vintage styles because the clothing actually comes from a different time period. There’s potentially something for everyone, and in this way, thrifting is a great option for anyone trying to develop their own sense of style.

This recycling of vintage clothing is beneficial in another way. We live in a culture surrounded by consumerism and materialism. People are always looking for the newest version of a product and often don’t think about what happens to the “outdated” items they don’t use anymore. It’s the same case with clothing—our society often focuses on keeping up with the latest trends or styles, and after clothing becomes outdated, it isn't put to good use. By thrift shopping, you’re giving a second life to things that other people would consider useless. Clothes that other people don’t want any more are put in good hands. This is also why it’s important to donate old clothes to thrift stores if they have nowhere else to go. This keeps the cycle going, and someone else is bound to fall in love with that used dress that doesn’t fit you anymore.

Lastly, thrift shopping is a great choice for people who are smart about their money. You can often find nice clothes, sometimes even designer clothes, for a very affordable price. In addition, many thrift stores are charitable organizations. For example, Housing Works donates its profits towards AIDS healthcare and housing resources, and Goodwill employs workers who might otherwise face barriers to employment. Many other thrift stores, though not directly affiliated with a charity or cause, are small, local businesses. By shopping regularly at these stores and not from some department store owned by a large corporation, you are supporting a business that needs its community to thrive.

Thrift shopping allows you to express your style creatively, and it’s an excellent option for those who are smart about how they shop. It's very easy to find thrift stores near you, especially in a city like New York. These stores are precious resources that are often overlooked; hopefully, more people will begin to make good use of them.