National Old Stuff Day, on March 2, is the day when people across the country clean out their closets and garages, rediscover old treasures, and declutter their lives. Just in time for spring cleaning, National Old Stuff Day is a great opportunity to devote a day to tend to your closet, garage, attic, and other cluttered spaces that don’t get a lot of attention. But you don’t have to stop at things — maybe you want to change an old habit or try a new activity. Get creative with new ways to organize, appreciate, or get rid of ‘old stuff’ in your life!
History of National Old Stuff Day
Second-hand shopping was popular in Elizabethan England, where desirable upper-class clothing could be purchased at one of hundreds of London’s resale shops. Fashion changed quickly, and those with means purchased tailor-made garments or hired servants to make clothes for them. Most Britons, however, couldn’t afford the luxury of new clothing. Because clothing was meant to last, purchasing an outfit was a big investment. Second-hand shops served the majority of Londoners, who could buy up the clothes cast off by the upper classes. Clothing was sometimes sold multiple times, with garments getting cheaper as they became more patched and ratty. Nevertheless, having ready-made clothing available for a few pennies was a vast improvement over having to sew everything yourself.
Beginning in the early 20th century, Christian nonprofits and charity organizations essentially invented a new business sector by linking charity to capitalism and commerce. Seeing the need for second-hand clothing and household items among the urban poor, progressive reformers used this as an opportunity to link used goods to charity and use sales to raise money for various causes.
Thrift stores quickly wised up to consumer tastes, using department-store-like displays to reduce the stigma around used goods and encourage middle-class shoppers to patronize the stores. Slowly, thrift stores became a fixture of American culture. As Americans gained increased access to mass-produced, disposable goods, thrift stores offered a way to assuage consumers’ guilt by justifying their purchases as charitable and frugal. Thanks to the environmental movement, increased awareness of mass consumption, and the elevated popularity of thrift store shopping in pop culture, thrifting has become a fashionable hobby. The stigma around used goods has largely dissolved as ‘vintage’ replaced ‘secondhand’ and shoppers increasingly seek to reduce their consumption of new goods. Today, there are over 25,000 second-hand stores in the United States.
National Old Stuff Day timeline
Charity fairs, often hosted by churches or ladies’ charity groups, begin to rebrand secondhand shopping as a charitable act.
Reverend Edgar J. Helms, a Methodist minister, starts Goodwill by collecting used goods and training his employees to repair them for sale.
The first recorded use of the term ‘thrift shop’ occurs in 1919 — just a decade later, the Great Depression would lead Goodwill to open over 200 stores nationwide.
Both popular online marketplaces launch, revolutionizing online shopping for secondhand items.
National Old Stuff Day FAQs
What items should I donate to thrift stores?
Just because you’re ready to donate an item doesn’t mean a thrift store necessarily wants it. Don’t donate items that are too damaged, dirty, or out of date. Some useful donations are high-quality cookware, dishes, children’s books, and clothing in good condition without stains or rips.
Is thrifting sanitary?
Most thrift stores take care to sort through items and remove any that are damaged or stained. Many also don’t accept items like mattresses or baby toys that could breed germs or bugs. However, you should still wash thrift store clothing before wearing it and use your judgment when buying things like upholstered furniture that might be difficult to clean.
How do I find the best thrift stores near me?
Check internet message boards for your community, ask your friends, and search websites like Yelp to find the most popular thrift stores in your area. You can also seek out swap meets and seasonal vintage markets.
National Old Stuff Day Activities
Clean out your space
Even the most minimalist among us can benefit from taking a good look at our space. Start with the small things: Do all your pens work? Give them a try and throw out the ones that don't.
When you're ready to donate your old stuff, do it with purpose. Donating to specific causes — for example, Dress for Success collects suits for job interviews — can help reduce waste and ensure clothing actually reaches those who need it.
Change an old habit
Do you have an unhealthy habit you'd like to change or a new habit you want to take up? Maybe it's a dietary change, a new hobby, or a new way of thinking. Use today to set an intention and commit yourself to altering one habit over the next year.
5 Interesting Facts About Thrift Stores
Thrifting is popular
Around one in five Americans regularly shop at thrift stores, and many pride themselves on buying used and finding secondhand treasures.
Most secondhand clothes never get sold
Your donated clothing may not always see a second life — in fact, over 80% of second-hand clothing eventually ends up in landfills or incinerators.
Thrift stores as consumer educators
Although many people now shop at thrift stores to reduce their consumption and avoid sending items to landfills, thrift stores also had an early role in shaping American consumer behavior and essentially training the American shopper.
Resale brings in billions
The thrift store industry makes a lot of money — in 2014, Goodwill Industries alone made more than $5 billion in sales.
Beanie Babies and the rise of eBay
eBay executives have cited the Beanie Baby craze as a major factor in the early growth of the company.
Why We Love National Old Stuff Day
It saves you money
Buying used helps you spend less and acquire interesting items you may not find elsewhere. You can get great deals on clothing and housewares at your local thrift stores.
It helps conserve resources
Giving an old item a second (or third) life is a great way to avoid producing new things and using up precious resources. When you buy a thrift store item, you reduce, reuse, and recycle all at the same time!
Finding the perfect stuff at a thrift store can be extremely rewarding. Bring a friend and see what treasures you can discover at your local resale shops.
National Old Stuff Day dates