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The Charm of Thrift Shopping Pt. 2

T hrift shops are also spaces of abandonment. They are places where displaced things find a transitory home, places where things that are considered dead and useless are given the chance of finding an afterlife with a new owner. There are people who complain about the disorderly nature of thrift shops. A ramshackle shop of […]

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The Charm of Thrift Shopping Pt. 1

“Granted, the obsessive thrift shopper and the antique connoisseur are bound in their love for the old. The difference is that the thrift shopper has less money to spare, has more patience for rubbish, and therefore, has more faith in the god of chance discovery.”

Thrift shops are also spaces of abandonment. They are places where displaced things find a transitory home, places where things that are considered dead and useless are given the chance of finding an afterlife with a new owner. There are people who complain about the disorderly nature of thrift shops. A ramshackle shop of odds and ends. Piles of rubble and rows of rubbish. And the smell of Febreeze contaminated with all the other smells it was too powerless to neutralize. Old shoes, old books, old lingerie: bedfellows in a dingy world of clutter and wreckage. But the thrift shopper could care less. With time the dinginess is comforting in as much as it builds excitement for the tedious task of foraging in the no-man’s-land of cast away things.

Ultimately, thrifting is all about discovery. Thrift shops give the thrill of finding something valuable by mere chance or by virtue of the fact that you were at the right  place at the right time. But like all kinds of discovery, successful thrift shopping is not all chance. It helps to be diligent and meticulous and to have a trained eye both for crap and for gems.

The fact that the price of articles have little to do with their actual value sustains the miraculous nature of finding things. This is where thrift shops differ from antique shops and vintage stores. These are stores where the thrill of finding things have been lost. An object loses its halo of discovery once it is selected, cleaned, given a price tag equivalent to its assumed value, and displayed on the shelf.

Thrift shops are different. You, as the discoverer, ascribe value to things, values that are subjective. Something could cost very little but prove valuable because it bears a mark that you alone understand. The Thrift store is the last frontier left untouched by capitalism. There is no uniformity of value that money can somehow express. What is precious to one customer is useless to the other. Values come from the depth of secret desires and longings. And discoveries are possible from the perfect mixture of steadfastness and serendipity.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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