Introducing Resplendent Repurposing: How you can save money but still live like a princess (or prince)

By Mary Elizabeth Williams-Villano, LuxEco Editorial Assistant

Times are hard. Jobs are scarce. Money is tight, and not for just for the downsized and outsourced. Unless you’re a real-life prince or princess — or are about to marry one — money is a precious resource that we all have to conserve. Students, single Moms, people with big families and small incomes, seniors, people on disability — all people who have limited discretionary incomes need to get the most out of every dollar they spend. And if you’re in the arts, until you make it big, it’s always a recession, no matter what the job market may be like for “normal” people.

So, how can we save money but still live in a fun,  beautiful, even glamorous way — like a princess? And save the Earth while we’re doing it?

I have the surprising answer: Thrift store shopping. I can’t begin to list for you in this short article, all the luxurious, pricey home items I’ve been able to buy at thrift stores at a fraction of their original cost. (My home may not be Buckingham Palace, but it get better all the time.) Those, along with the plush designer clothes and accessories I’ve been able to find have made me feel like a princess indeed.

Thrift store shopping is a calling, a creative exercise, a family bonding activity, a way to decrease one’s carbon footprint and most of all, a fun thing to do. More importantly, thrift store shopping can be a lifestyle — an eco-friendly, money-saving lifestyle. I want to introduce you to this lifestyle. It can change your life. It has the potential to change the world.

First, we have to deal with semantics. There’s a problem with the root word itself. “Thrift” is not a word that makes us smile. It evokes Grant Wood’s stern-faced farm couple, the Waltons, the Amish, and the sort of no-fun penny-pinching that our grandparents and great-grandparents grew up with during the Great Depression. It’s anti-Lux. And when you hear that someone is a “thrifter,” you might be picturing someone pushing a shopping cart down the street, wearing ragged clothes and talking to people that aren’t there, not someone who’s trying to live Green or save money.

I’ve been a thrift store shopper for thirty years, and a very active one for the last fifteen or so. I wear beautiful, expensive clothes (that were very inexpensive to me!) and shoes and carry unique handbags. I live in a lovely, colorful home filled with interesting objects, nice furniture and expensive, name-brand appliances. (Some of the objects and furniture were repurposed from their original uses.) I’ve given gifts to friends and family targeted to their tastes and interests that have surprised and delighted them.

While not all of these items were found at thrift stores, a great many of them were. I’ve always loved beautiful things and needed to have them around me. In my life, I’ve had a low income, a high income and everything in-between. Through it all, I’ve managed to live an elegant, stylish life while saving money and remaining debt-free. I seldom hallucinate and only push shopping carts at the grocery store.

So let’s do some renaming. Instead of a “thrifter” or “thrift store shopper,” I’m going to call myself an Urban Consumer Archeologist. Instead of “thrifting,” let’s use the term Resplendent Repurposing. And let’s call a “thrift store” a Second Life Center. This is not simply substituting pleasant euphemisms to cover up something nasty, like renaming garbage pickup “Sanitation Engineering.” We’re doing this to convey a different attitude toward what we’re doing.

When we buy something at a thrift store/Second Life Center, we’re recycling the castoff items of our consumer culture and keeping them out of landfills. We’re helping charities provide needed services. We’re not contributing to the depletion of natural resources. We’re not supporting the sweatshop economy nor encouraging China to crank out more junk for the bottomless, ravenous maw that is America. And unlike the mindless, wasteful consumerism that our culture celebrates, it’s a conscious, conscientious, sustainable lifestyle that is eco-friendly. If you’ve been looking for a way to live your Green values, here’s a rebellious, joyous way to do just that — and save money while doing it. It’s no less than revolutionary and a great way to fight back. This is what I mean by the potential to change the world.

In coming articles, I’ll elaborate more on how the Replendent Repurposing lifestyle works. I’ll give you tips, share some of my finds and bust some myths you may have about it. And I’ll do it in a fun way that I hope will entice you into your local thrift store — er, Second Life center — perhaps for the first time. Becoming an Urban Consumer Archeologist doesn’t mean that you’ll never set foot in a retail store again, but it may take some of the joy out of spending top dollar there. However, you’ll get something that’s far more rewarding in return. Maybe even getting to live like a princess.

See you at Goodwill!


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