This is a blog all just for me. It has no purpose whatsoever except for me to share some of the random nonsense I happen to be thinking about in my day-to-day life. Sometimes it sure is nice not to have a purpose.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Somebody's Trash is My Treasure

Today my husband asked me as we were driving home if I wanted to stop to check in at our local thrift store. An offer to visit a thrift store is one that I never turn down. I love bargain hunting in general, but thrift stores also offer the experience of treasure hunting. While we may sometimes find items that are also available in stores but are just much cheaper at the thrift store, we love the fact that we often find items that we know we can't find at any other store in town. Whenever I go to a thrift store, I never know if I will find something cool or sometimes nothing at all that interests me. Today we just so happened to strike gold!

The whole idea of buying someone else's used items is one that may be foreign or a turnoff to some people. Our niece, for example, has a friend whose family thinks that the idea is completely disgusting. One time we went on a thrift store run with our niece and her friend in tow and the entire time, the girl just stood around looking afraid to touch the "contaminated" items.

On one level, there may be a fear that the items are dirty or full of germs. I can understand this feeling, because some of the items on display can be pretty darn grimey and disgusting. For this reason, I always make sure to wash items as soon as I bring them home, even when they look like they're in pretty good shape. At the same time, even if there is some grime, I think I've developed a pretty good eye to determine if an item is one that will clean up well or not. I've learned that one shouldn't always be deterred just by a little built up dust or splotches of dried up food!

I think that beyond actual physical cleanliness, a resistance to buying used goods probably ties in with a concept that my husband says he learned about when he was studying anthropology in college: the idea of "contagious magic." From what my huband has explained, this is the idea that we as humans attach meaning to objects depending on their "previous life" such as who has had contact with them in the past. He gave the example of how someone might like a sweater, but if they were told that it was one of "Hitler's sweaters," then they would suddenly never consider wearing the sweater because of the person who once filled it. On the flip side, this is what drives collectors to seek out items that once belonged to their favorite celebrities. Listen to the news and you're bound to run across the story of someone buying a dirty Kleenex on eBay just because someone famous used it.

Poking around for just a little bit online, I see that the term "contagious magic" is one that is also used in witchcraft-style magic circles. A spell, for instance, might require the use of an item that once belonged to the person of interest. This shares the idea that objects are "infected" by the people they once belonged to. The question to me, though, is whether one considers contagious magic to be just a construction of the human mind, or if instead objects truly can be imprinted with their prior experiences. On a larger scale, it's like the question of whether or not a house can be haunted. I am not one to completely rule out the idea of ghosts haunting houses and so maybe objects, too, can carry with them some contagious magic.

Whatever the case may be, I'm glad to report that we have had no ill occurrences with any used items we have ever bought from thrift stores. Maybe we've been lucky to only buy items that have come from goods homes, maybe contagious magic is all in our minds, or maybe anything we bring home is simply happy to have been given a second chance. I like to think that items are rejuvenated when they are in the hands of someone who appreciates them. I say this a bit tongue in cheek since I know that this is a major offense of anthropomorphism. Nevertheless, this is what has inspired my husband and me to regularly let go of items that we no longer use in our home. Thus, we not only buy items at our local thrift stores, but we also donate items that will eventually find their way into someone else's home. We like the idea that these items will find a second life as someone else's treasure and that they will shine in usage versus just languish on a shelf collecting dust.

1 comment:

  1. i love thrift stores!

    Very interesting with the contagious magic... there is something to it and a lot of people have (unfounded) fears about this kind of thing.

    The U-T recently ran a story about how some homes where tragedy took place are on the market for years and years because of the connection buyers make.

    i had a boyfriend whose roommate killed himself tragically in the bedroom... i won't get into the gory details, but it was not a good scene, and it was hard to get the place rented after my then-boyfriend moved out, i heard.