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Take Your Mother to Work Day: Episode Two

My mother and I tried one second-hand store in the 1960’s. It was dark, the clothing was not attractively presented, and we weren’t sure we wanted anyone to see us go in or out. Second-hand shopping simply meant you couldn’t afford new clothes. There was a stigma attached.

Enter 2022. Every town has at least one thrift store. Many of them are as big, well-organized, and airy as a major retailer. People of all ages and backgrounds shop there. If you “snag” a “find,” you don’t pretend you bought it at a department store, you brag that you “thrifted” it. Your personal style might include vintage clothing from many previous decades.

Kate shopping at Community Aid in Lancaster, PA.

Kate shopping at Community Aid in Lancaster, PA.

As you know from the first post in this series, I was an early thrift enthusiast. In the 70s and 80s I bought many clothes for myself and my family at thrift stores while our children were growing up and we were living on a limited budget. As the amount of clothing produced increased, the number of resale options increased also.

What has changed in the world of fashion in those 40 years? This graph says it best.

EPA Clothing Tonnage Growth Chart

https://qz.com/quartzy/1670729/the-importance-of-clothing-resale-to-sustainable-fashion-in-2019/

From: https://qz.com/quartzy/1670729/the-importance-of-clothing-resale-to-sustainable-fashion-in-2019/

Now you know what the term “fast fashion” means — buying often but only keeping a short time. At the end of this massive overproduction of clothing in the U.S. and other “developed” countries, lies a billion pounds of clothing every year that ends up in land fills like this one in Ghana where your donated clothes may have gone to die.

This overproduction, an environmental disaster, has created new markets and new careers. “Resellers” now purchase the excess. They buy items at the local thrift or consignment store or garage sales or their clients’ closets and then sell on their own social media accounts (Instagram and TikTok) or on resale sites such as Poshmark, RealReal, and Depop, ThredUp, and Tradesy. When this process works well, it is circular — a little like an organic farm where waste compost and manure transform into next year’s fruits and vegetables.

Kate’s new reselling business is located both on Instagram and Poshmark and in her own home and the home of her clients. Her favorite way to sell is to get to know her clients and find things they might never locate on their own but that delight them. As she develops her in-home “store,” she hopes to listen and learn from her clients.

Kate named her new business Kind You Find, tipping her hat to a popular Prince song:

Shirley Showalter

11 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan on January 12, 2022 at 11:02 am

    Shirley — I just started following Kate at @KindYouFind on Instagram. It’s going to be fun watching her knock it outta the park!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2022 at 12:51 pm

      Laurie, I hope Kate follows you back. She could learn a lot from you about how to keep in contact with followers, inspiring and enlightening them, and helping them to learn more about your books and the characters who inhabit them.

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 12, 2022 at 11:03 am

    Love Kate’s outfit and the matching title to her business! So good that the younger generation is working hard at conservation and that we are all becoming more aware of how messed up our world has become. One of my daughters does almost all her shopping at thrift stores.
    Your poem at the end says it all!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2022 at 12:53 pm

      Thanks, Elfrieda. I hope you clicked on the link to get the entire poem. I am sure you will love it from beginning to end. We come from a tradition of people who worked, and expressed love, with their hands, and it is so lovely to have a poet who understands and celebrates that tradition.

  3. Marian Beaman on January 12, 2022 at 3:16 pm

    Kate’s jaunty hat and new enterprise are so heart-warming. You have every right to be proud of her. By the way, RED is my favorite color.

    I have heard of reselling but was appalled to hear about perfectly good clothing going to landfills in Ghana. (I always wondered what happened to unsold/non-trendy fashion wear. Now I know the hideous truth.)

    Not only is reselling a creative expression for Kate. It’s a noble act of conservation. May her tribe increase!

    About the poem. Yes, I am familiar with it. In fact, I used these lines to describe farmer Barney in my memoir Mennonite Daughter: “People who submerge in the task/who go into the fields to harvest/and work in a row and pass the bags along.”

    It’s all about building community—wholeheartedly!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2022 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks, Marian. I am partial to red myself. And yes, that article about the unused clothing going into landfills, both here and in the third world, is very depressing. Very few of our modern fabrics are biodegradable, so that’s another terrible aspect of overproduction.

      Yes, community!. I don’t think I’ve seen exactly how many possibilities there are to interface with other sellers and clients. There are all kinds of online websites and YouTube tutorials that hold the prospect of community.

      Glad you are another fan of “To Be of Use.” That poem has so many images that have stayed with me. Obviously, with you also.

  4. Melodie M Davis on January 12, 2022 at 8:36 pm

    I’ve worked at our church’s Clothes Closet (free items) for many years and have always been appalled at the amount of women’s clothing, especially, that passes through our doors. Not so much for men’s clothing. We have to take down and repackage for other outlets when no one has chosen the clothing for 6 months. I love Kate’s business, how very helpful and resourceful. I like your reminder of how longer ago we would never admit to going to Salvation Army or other thrift stores. When I was in VS in Kentucky, our unit (6 people) lived above a local thrift/grocery store. We would occasionally visit the thrift part and I think I picked out a few items that year. When you’re on a $10-20 monthly budget (if I recall correctly) the thrift store came in handy.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2022 at 9:49 pm

      What a great service for a church to have, a free Clothes Closet. And yes, after six months even free clothes are not taken. That happens at Goodwill and all the other thrift stores too. When items have been through all other stages, they end up in land fill.

      How helpful to have a thrift store above your unit when you are on such a strict budget. I wonder how that year seems to you now. I imagine that you remember community more than privation. At least that’s what I hope you remember. Thanks for sharing these memories, Melodie.

      • Melodie M Davis on January 13, 2022 at 6:58 am

        That year ended up being the subject of my first book, On Troublesome Creek–a memoir of sorts before folks talked much about memoir. It sold very well for Herald Press, with the United Methodist Women put it on their “reading list” a few years later. It still hangs around on Amazon and places like Thrift Books! 🙂

  5. Maren C. Tirabassi on January 13, 2022 at 6:33 am

    First the Marge Piercy poem (including the earlier stanza) was given to me at my ordination more than 40 years ago and has remained precious. When I quote it few people have heard it.

    I do like thrift store shopping though I am afraid I wear things until family tell me I must throw them away, so I only occasionally donate. I’ve also watched the way clothing lasts less time. I have two sweaters I bought from Kohls 16 years ago that are going to outlast one I bought 2 years ago.

    And I rejoice in Kate’s business — a joy for her and for others.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 13, 2022 at 7:47 am

      Ha, Maren. I chuckled when I read “I am afraid I wear things until family tell me I must throw them away.” I know that I’ve had more than one item like that, and my husband has many more! I have stooped to surreptitious operations a few times. And I have one cotton sweater in my closet that I bought at a thrift store 25 years ago! Or else Kate bought it for me when she worked there. If I could have one of several colors of that sweater, I would be so happy. And it made the cut to come with us when we moved to Lititz. I could do a whole blog post just about it. And, you’re right, I can’t find a sweater made like that anywhere today.

      There are old order Mennonites in Virginia who take donated clothes and make rag rugs out of them. We used to have a collection bag of our worn out clothes to take to them. I may search to see if anyone in this area is doing this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could devise a completely circular system and have only a small percentage of clothes (now usually unbiodegradable due to fabrics made with plastics)?

      Thanks for rejoicing with Kate and me.

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