I have just been to my nearby thrift store. I took stuff there I don’t need and looked for stuff I do. I found the pair of everyday shoes I have needed for a while. Exact colour I wanted, perfect fit and, best of all, they had already been “broken in” so were immediately comfortable.

And what tops it for me? They don’t look new. I have a problem with new stuff—a big one. Too much is being manufactured because so much is being thrown away. We consume and Earth groans under the strain. So, I like the well-worn look. It’s probably an ego thing too, which isn’t the mindful way. Or is it not an ego thing and really the mindful way?

In the car on the way home I did a me-myself-and-I think tank. I thought about my lifetime on this planet, how I had lived, thought, walked and talked; and I realized I am now, in all ways, in the “Thrift Store” time of my life—and it’s so very comfortable… well, most of it.

When I was young, new designer clothes mattered, my new boyfriend who hadn’t had anyone else, new books, new everything. My first marriage was a “new” one to both of us and we had two new children, adding to the weight of an already complaining planet (I love you, my boys!). I lived the designer life: designer suits, designer marriage, designer family—perfect in every way and I was content. Or was I?

Slowly my life changed. The clothes were still new, my relationship moved to a used model as did many other things. Was it easier to go used? Except for the “other things,” definitely not. There is sometimes a very good reason why some things were discarded and it isn’t always because “it didn’t suit my lifestyle” or “I didn’t try it on before I paid.”

Then I moved to work with other used things—animals, children, humans, Earth. Not only used, abused. I didn’t have the time or the money to think about what to wear. I cut it down to the basics—a uniform of white shirt and jeans and reasonably OK comfortable shoes. I almost felt guilty wearing new “used” things to work with those who had basically… nothing. I slipped from designer to thrift with the greatest of ease and, for the first time, I was content.

My life centred on thrift stores to supply not only me, but also the people I was caring for. And the thrift stores had so much I felt disgusted. Clothes that had been worn once, maybe for a fashion show, or bought, taken home and hubby or girlfriend disapproved. I found discarded stuffed toys on the streets and repaired and cleaned them “for my children.”

I moved my life from First World affluence into Third World poverty and then, one day, back into First World affluence. And the agony belongs to the First World. I have tried so hard to accept new things bought for me. I cannot. I don’t want them, I will not be part of the horrific waste on this planet—food, clothes, cars, houses and yes, even people—never again.

Is it easier to have a Thrift Store lifestyle? Hmm. It’s a choice, and it takes a lot of practice to keep it up—it’s so easy to slip into the TV advertising mindset. No, I don’t need to know how to do my makeup; Dr. Oz cannot tell me more about my body than I already know myself; I don’t care what the latest model car costs; I am totally disinterested in the latest fashion; I am my own health insurance; I am my own social security. So my lips don’t plump up like some over-Botoxed Angelina Jolie and I will never have a Brad Pitt? I don’t want them—neither the lips nor Brad. Dr. Phil leaves me cold as do all the other “doctors” promoting angst-free, wrinkle-free, unblemished hearts and facades.

Each time I see the Puppets of Profiteers, I think of how many people I could clothe and feed with the money spent to advertise becoming a clone. Because, everyone is starting to look and act the same. I may not be over-the-moon delighted with my looks, but they are mine; my smile is my own as my teeth haven’t been turned into “every mans” perfectly straight, white-veneered piano keys; I have wrinkles and crinkles and gravity is not kind, but what I have is mine—all of it. It may not be ripped, dipped, chipped, cinched, ironed, fit and fiddled, but it is most definitely one of a kind.

And I will not keep quiet when I see waste. I am the kind of dinner guest invited only once to Bohemian soirees or cocktail parties (I usually decline the invite). You waste and brag and gloat and criticize? Don’t do it in my presence; I will empty a room faster than a skunk.

It doesn’t make for easy relationships—the way I live. Shopping in malls and department stores gives me the screaming willies. In the beginning I accepted that I also had to allow the giver the gift of giving. That’s fine with me…once. If the giver will not hear my distress or accept my reasoning at receiving what I do not want or need, then the giver needs to be explicitly informed. Probably the harshest thing I have ever done after thanking someone for the so-many-eth gift after the so-many-eth chiding, was to in their presence put it straight into a bag and take it directly to a thrift store. They got the message.

I enjoy thrift stores; I like the people I meet there—those giving and those receiving. They have become a special breed, these the ordinary people, and I appreciate them all. I like the whole idea of thrift stores probably because my life is a thrift store. I take other people’s throw-aways—their discards, their beings: children, clothes, animals, people, furniture, anything; and I try to fix them, put them back together so they can be part of life again—their own, mine or someone else’s. I may not always be acceptably suitable or the height of fashion, but I am content. Rather than doing to make, I make do. I will always have everything I could ever possibly need, because others throw things away.

Image: clothes on a rack at a fleamarket Copyright: Armin Staudt. Shutterstock Image ID: 203296009