Minimalist in DC

The Quest for Less "Stuff" & More Time

Tag: shopping

Why (and Why Not To) Shop at a Thrift Shop?

Halloween is here and this holiday is generally the only time I set foot inside a thrift shop to buy something. Despite my minimalism project, this past year was no different. I dropped stuff off at Good Will many times, but I wasn’t shopping there. However, my team at Opower decided to dress up as Minions for Halloween and I needed a pair of overalls to complete the ensemble.

Minion Costume

Minion Costume (w/o Overalls)

There is a thrift store near my house (Treasure Trove) that benefits the local INOVA Hospitals and my search for overalls was the perfect excuse to try it.

For being a place that sells random, unused items, Treasure Trove was refreshingly clean and organized. I quickly discovered that they didn’t have any overalls, but by that point I didn’t care anymore because I’d found the rack with my shirt size and was having a good time perusing it.

What’s so great about a thrift shop?


This store had some really good brands. People in DC spend a lot on clothing, but it’s nice to see their lightly used items being recycled! The shelves were filled with everything from Banana Republic to Calvin Klein to Loft (one of my favorite stores). Not everything was a gem, but there was enough for me to find about eight items to try on.


Everything was in really good shape. I found nothing that had stains, holes, or anything else that would suggest someone else once owned and wore these clothes. Some items were wrinkled, that’s about it.


Everything I took into the dressing room was between $7-$13, even the two sport jackets (Banana Republic & Ann Taylor). Not too shabby.

When not to shop at a thrift shop?

Don’t buy something at a thrift shop if you answer “no” to any of these questions:

  1. Is this versatile and well-made?
  2. Do you love it? Does it look great on you?
  3. Is this something you’ve been thinking about getting for a while?
  4. Do you have the money?

Even though the stuff is cheap, you still shouldn’t buy something you don’t need!

I got two shifts for $18.

Thrift Shop Finds

Thrift Shop Finds

I could potentially be hooked. Next time I need something, I know where I’m going first.

Have you found a good thrift store? Where is your favorite place to buy used?

How Minimalism Ruined Shopping for Clothes

MinimalismLast weekend, for the first time since I started my minimalism project in the fall, I realized that I had a legitimate reason to go shopping for clothes. After months of de-owning the items I don’t wear, like, or fit into and with the weather heating up, I was left with less than a week’s worth of short-sleeved shirts I could wear to work. I also had about $36 left on a Loft gift card that my brother-in-law had given me over a year ago. So, with a real need and some money, I gave myself a license to go shopping.

I went to the new Springfield Town Center mall to see what I could find. At several stores, I tried on shirt after shirt, a couple of capris and a couple of sweaters and I found nothing! Why is this so hard?

I’ll tell you! I have a new voice inside of my head that asks me really annoying questions:

  1. Does this look amazing on me? Do you absolutely love it? This gets rid of most items I tried on.
  2. Is this something you really need? Is this what you came here to buy? This got rid of more items.
  3. Is this significantly different from everything else that you have so as to justify buying it (when you could just wear what you have)?
  4. How often can you really wear this? How long will it last? If it’s something that I could wear every week or layer in every season and it’s good quality, it’s probably a good purchase.

That’s how minimalism ruined shopping for clothes and that is how I walked out of the mall on Saturday with just two items: a blue, plain tank top (which is great for wearing or layering) and a black cardigan to replace one of the most versatile and often-used shirts in my closet (the old one was missing several buttons and fraying along the sleeve edges).

I honestly wonder if I need to find a new set of stores. Most women’s fashion comes with an expiration date and to help you buy more clothing, stores make everything really thin and cheaply.

Any suggestions? Where do you shop for your clothes?

Black Friday Online (Quick Tip)

If I had to choose one cultural aspect of America that shows just how backwards we’ve become, it might just be Black Friday. Luckily, many (dare I say the majority?) of us don’t ever set foot in a store on Black Friday.  Many people simply choose to opt out of Black Friday and, sometimes, material gifts altogether. Our family is greatly cutting back on material gifts this year, but the kids will still get something they need and/or love.

Black Friday Online

Why buy presents when boxes and gift wrap are usually the biggest holiday hits?

When Nathan and I spent the winters in Medora, ND while he worked at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, we were 1.5 hours away from the nearest Target.  With temperatures plunging well under 0 degrees and roads covered in ice and snow, I was forced to find a new way to shop for Christmas presents that didn’t involved physically slogging through Christmas specials at the store.

It turns out that you can get free shipping and many of the same deals ONLINE on Black Friday (and throughout the holiday season) that you get in the stores. Plus, you get to sit around in your pajamas drinking hot chocolate and enjoying turkey leftovers.

I shop ahead of Black Friday and jot down the prices so I have a price baseline and don’t get distracted by the store’s specials online. I find that for specific items, some of them get cheaper on Black Friday – probably fewer than half.

Of course, the best deal is opting out and finding something truly meaningful to get your family, but if you must get a traditional present, I recommend skipping the stores and thoughtfully choosing a gift online!

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