I love shiny new things, enveloped in soft brown crinkly paper, delivered by the postie the morning after the night before, because this night-feeding mama deserves something special.
But then I get the guilt: did I really need to get this lovely thing brand new? That’s why I love buying secondhand even more: kids’ toys, books, clothes, school uniforms, crockery, furniture, bikes, garden stuff- an abyss of guilt-free treasure, all clickable from the palm of my tired hand.
Digging for gold
As soon as I was old enough to shop, finally cut loose from the 90s department store shopping circuit, I headed for the charity shops: that absent minded rummage became digging for gold, chancing upon a cashmere jumper, silk dress or pure linen sun-dress. I’ve inherited my mum’s excellent taste for high quality natural fabrics, but with my dad’s secret love of a bargain.
A few years later, in a bigger town, I remember my first Vintage shop moment, feeling an excitement so overwhelming, I had to sit down in the corner by a reclaimed organic cotton ra-ra skirt, imagining the ghosts of its former owner dancing a rhumba round my giddy head. It was as though my own fairy godmother had rummaged through all the local charity shops and found all my favourite items and rehung them together, paired perfectly with my dream DMs.
From mannequins to wedding dresses
And that was how I’ve always liked to shop. I even bought a preloved mannequin torso whilst on a school trip to France, took her home on the coach, spray painted her gold and called her Jocasta: the perfect place to store all my lovely (second-hand) beads, hats and scarves.
Twenty years later, even my evening wedding dress- a pure silk burnt orange one-off- was magically sourced in a Hampstead charity shop (top tip- go to the fancy neighbourhoods for fancy bargain finds): a perfect fit, confident of joining me for another glam night under the stars. One day.
Online marketplaces are THE place for secondhand
Since Covid-19 entered the scene, my second-hand habit is still happily fuelled by the online marketplace for those necessary family purchases. That magical moment when you’re lethargically scrolling and then BAM, your eyes lock and focus: a bigger bike, more uniform needed and a solid wood bookcase for the out-of-control pile of (mostly passed on) children’s books (currently balancing in a makeshift tower on the floor by the (secondhand) loft bed).
The joy of secondhand as a parent
Parenthood has thrust me deeper into the second hand ocean than I’ve ever been before. My four year old has just started Reception and all his uniform is second hand- all excellent worn condition. Our children’s bicycles are all pre-loved. Our local friends with older children gift us bags of clothing no longer worn, or toys no longer wanted. Our family and colleagues pass on their older children’s swim kit and the neighbourhood WhatsApp group regularly announces a clear out of books and baby toys. My in-laws have even heroically kept my husband’s baby clothes and Lego sets, all amazingly preserved in vacuum-packed bags and storage boxes. We wash everything we get and keep what we want and pass on anything we don’t.
There’s now even an unspoken understanding between some select friends/family whereby we even gift second-hand items for each other’s birthdays/Christmases, (NB: not regifting tat, but especially selected items) the last taboo of the pre-loved world?
We pass on the secondhand love too…
When you benefit from the secondhand bounty of generous locals, it feels right to pass everything onto a new home too. I am a terrible hoarder (is this really my last child?!) but we’re beginning to find willing beneficiaries of the stuff which is still good to wear, especially Maternity clothing and children’s clothes: my beloved denim dungarees have been passed around to at least 5 lovely mamas-to-be, along with the hardly-worn children’s coats and all the baby paraphernalia, now we’re finally emerging from our nest.
However, every now again, I do like to buy the odd new thing so #seondhandseptember is still a big challenge for me, especially as all the shops are in SALE mode right now. But, it’s always good to be challenged and to be made to realise the consequences of that tempting new haul.
The Oxfam campaign #secondhandSeptember highlights some shocking stats that we really have to listen to:
‘Every week, the UK sends 11 million of items of clothing to landfill’
‘It would take 13 years to drink all the water needed to make ONE t-shirt and ONE pair of jeans!’
‘UK clothes sent to landfill in one year weighs the same as the Empire State Building!’Oxfam
So, whether you are already a pre-loved champion, or you wouldn’t touch a pre-worn item to save your life; I challenge you to see what more you can do to avoid the buy-new fast fashion lifestyle which is suffocating our closets, overwhelming our landfill and damaging our planet. Perhaps you’ll acquire something preloved, maybe a beautifully silky soft pure woollen wrap, and when the doorbell goes, you’ll feel warm and fuzzy, inside and out. Let us know how you get on…