‘I’m coming out’: confessions of a charity shop lover

I decided to write this blog because I am on a journey to live simply and resourcefully. The mantra I aim to live by is to ‘live simply so others can simply live’. My love of charity shops and reduced foods is a constant source of shame, embarrassment and laughter to my nearest and dearest which is just fine by me! In particular I wanted to talk about these things from the perspective of being a British born woman of Black (specifically West African) descent.

A few weeks ago I was talking with my mum and Grandma about my most recent purchase from a local charity shop. Both agreed that they loved the dress I bought and how fortunate I was to have come across such good quality for little cost. However in almost the same breath both immediately said ‘Don’t tell everyone where you go it from even if they ask you. You will be judged by it believe me. People will look at you through that lens and will look down on you for it.’

Now I have no intention of going round with a megaphone advertising where my dress came from, however their views challenged me and dare I say, are not uncommon within some parts of the ‘Black’ community (Disclaimer: this is not to say my relatives constitute the ‘Black’ community or whether there is such a thing as the ‘Black community’ is another discussion altogether).

I have had numerous conversations with close family and friends who have expressed similar opinions mainly of African and Caribbean heritage; shopping at charity shops equates to poverty, hardship and deprivation. Further still I am inclined to think this might be a generational issue with those from an older generation less likely to favour second-hand goods, out of choice, because of the stigma associated with itWhereas for relatively younger generations (not talking teens) the stigma is not so great; depending on what social circles you find yourself in- ‘vintage’ is quite the thing!

I remember as a child hearing one of my ‘aunties’ (aka one of my mum’s friend of Caribbean descent) that you must be careful about purchasing second-hand clothes because they might belong to dead people and their spirits might somehow be ‘attached’ to them. This put me off going to charity shops for YEARS because I was afraid of some sort of spiritual transference.

The truth is you don’t know where the clothes come from. You just have to hope for the best and trust that it comes from the ‘right source’ whatever that is. Things from charity shops might have once belonged to people who have passed on, but equally it might be from ordinary living folk like you and I who no longer need these items. How often have you bought something brand new and decided a few months later you don’t like or need it (and its too late to take back)? Or how often have you gone through phases and decided certain clothes no longer suit the look your going for? On occasion you may even find that items in charity shops are actually brand new surplus stock from major retailers; basically you just never know!

5 reasons why I love charity shops…

I love the idea of:

  • Making ‘ethical’ purchases i.e. knowing a good proportion of the money will go directly to a worthy cause
  • Being environmentally friendly– buying quality items second-hand means that I am less likely to buy easily disposable cheap clothing
  • Buying quality items for a fraction of the original price
  • Exploring and delving through these treasures to find a ‘hidden’ gem
  • Buying ‘unique’ items- charity shops is a great antidote to the latest high street trends

Stigma and superstition finally overcome, I am happy to ‘come out of the closet’ and confess I really like charity shops and am not ashamed of it!

Do you love charity shops if so why? If not why not? What has been your best buy from a charity shop? Why do think there is a stigma with charity shopping with some particular groups? Would love to hear from you!

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