Second-Hand Donating, Buying, Selling - What It Can Say About You

Second-Hand Donating, Buying, Selling - What It Can Say About You
Steve Debenport via Getty Images

When I saw my old clothes in the second-hand charity shop my heart cried. Old memories and feelings started flooding back, and I even felt disloyal.

You, like me, may buy, sell, donate second-hand clothes and stuff. We go to charity shops, online, car boot sales, garage sales etc.

Our reasons can vary from financial, to ethical, leisure, liking the thrill of a bargain and the unexpected surprise.

While prices in charity shops have also gone up, they are still cheaper than elsewhere, which makes it easier to take a chance on clothing and knick-knacks, which we would not spend more money on elsewhere.

I am happy to take a risk, when the financial penalty is not that high. Equally, it is easier to argue for the need of a treat or an impulse buy, when the financial cost is relatively low.

Now this all may sound self indulging, especially if we may shop second-hand because our budget does not allow for other kinds of shopping, that we would prefer to do.

Some people may find the idea of second-hand clothing unacceptable, dirty or demeaning.

Poverty is real, and it can hurt our pride having to buy second or third best.

I know. I tend to have a clear out at home every spring, summer and autumn.

I tend to accumulate too many things, which may "come in handy one day", and I cannot let go of things which may "come in handy again one day".

Sometimes, enough is enough and I can separate myself from clutter, stay strong and carry it all down to my local charity shop.

After a recent clear out, I started taking several bags of clothes, shoes and knick-knacks - one bag a day. Entering the shop with my last bag, I was welcomed by the sight of my blue striped scarf on the centre table display, to my right in the green section was my wool jacket, and a pair of my shoes near the till.

It rarely happens that I find my own clothes displayed. When I drop things off, I avoid browsing then or in the near future to avoid returning home with yet more stuff.

I was intrigued and went over to check out the price tags - reasonable, a bargain... I had bought the green jacket in 2008 from another charity shop for £15. Today it fetches £9, still in good condition, I hasten to add.

But the main point is the feeling of sadness that started to come over me. I started to feel disloyal towards the clothes I had 'chucked out'. Memories started filling my mind and heart: the times in my life when I had bought them, occasions when I had worn them.

Sadness, resignation and some acceptance of the fact, that I will never fit into some of the clothes ever again. I am done with dieting (I think...). I might lose weight again, if I fall ill again, if the cancer returns.

And perhaps it is because of the experience of a life changing and potentially life shortening illness and recent deaths in the family, that I am extra finely tuned to separations, transitions, letting go, endings and memories.

You might also wonder where the items and clothes we buy second hand come from; the stories, memories, feelings and energies they might carry. Just like the stories carried by our own donations to charity shops.

You might be inclined to dismiss that thought; then again you might not. You might agree or not, that such items need cleansing, physically and spiritually.

The more I think about it, the more I realise just how profound and complex buying, selling, donating second hand can be.

For now, I will wait a while before I return, and in the meantime hope that 'my' things will find a good home.

Karin Sieger is a psychotherapist and writer. Karin posts regularly on her blog Between Self and Doubt. To get updates and her newsletter sign up here. From more information visit