What to Do When Your Town Has No Thrift Stores? A Reader Question

by Katy on December 28, 2009 · 12 comments

I received this question from Magdalena in the comments section today, and thought I would let you, the readers, weigh in with your ideas:

We now live in a small town in Ontario, without our own vehicle – and there’s no thrift store! We definitely need new clothes, and I may have to either buy jeans and skirts at a local firsthand shop, or plan to hit the big thrift stores on a trip to a nearby city later in the month. I did get new pajamas for Christmas, since pjs, like underwear, are a little on the personal side.

Does anyone else have this problem – living in a place where secondhand is almost impossible? (Rummage sales take place here about twice a year, not often enough to replace worn items.)

I am lucky, as Portland, Oregon is home to a number of fantastic thrift stores, and finding secondhand goods is a cinch. So this is an issue I have not needed to address in my personal life.

My suggestion would be for Magdelena to reach out within her community and organize a clothing/household/stuff swap. Perhaps even help to start a free shop at her church. Perhaps start small with inviting some friends to her house for a clothing swap.

What do you suggest for Magdelena? Have you been challenged to find second hand goods within a small community? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Elsie December 29, 2009 at 6:27 am

Ebay! There are some good deals if you look carefully.


WilliamB December 29, 2009 at 6:30 am

There are a number of freecycle groups for communities near Ontario Canada, see freecycle.org to search for the list. If these aren’t where she lives, maybe she can start one.


NMPatricia December 29, 2009 at 6:32 am

I live in a slightly different place – Santa Fe, NM. With it being upscale, the thrift stores tend to be priced on the high side. Thrifty Chicks say that her flinch point if $5. At our Goodwill, nothing is less than $5 for clothing – $6.99 and up. There is a Hospice thrift store which has some pretty good deals. So I will be looking at the suggestions for Magdalena.


Lisa December 29, 2009 at 10:44 am

All the ideas mentioned are great! With transportation an issue, attaining mending skills and / or sewing skills can also be helpful. It also makes it easier to make any necessary alterations to clothing you have received through a swap.


Eleanor December 29, 2009 at 11:31 am

I agree with Elsie- eBay can be a great source! Yes, I do have a wonderful goodwill within walking distance of my house. However, I also use eBay. Here are my favorite two strategies:
1. Know what you want and search for it. Some sellers will start items for a low as a penny. I look for .01 to .99 as a starting point for the item in question. I bid $1. I have actually won blouses for which the final cost, including shipping, was cheaper than my local goodwill. KNOW YOUR MEASUREMENTS and check them against the measurements listed. If a measurement is missing, request from seller. I have never had an item not fit.
2. There are some items which to find them at Goodwill would be like winning the lottery, statistically. I have finally identified three brands of jeans that consistently fit me well. The most expensive retails for $40. When I need jeans, I search for these brands in my size. I can typically get them for $7-10, sometimes a bit more, depending upon shipping.
Hope this helps!


Non Consumer Girl December 29, 2009 at 1:15 pm

As others have mentioned above, Ebay is great.

My best buys of clothing on ebay have been for quality brands that you already know your size. However, always ask for the measurements of bust, waist, hips and length eg shoulder to hem, or inside leg to hem.

Always ask if there are any imperfections, holes, stains etc.

Quite often the ebay seller is selling a number of items in the same size, so you can save on postage.


Melissa December 29, 2009 at 2:21 pm

I have been to one clothing swap (with coworkers) and it was really fun! With drinks and munchies, it can be a party. Just make sure to invite people with compatible sizes (at least two people for each size – it’s no fun being the “odd” woman out!).


magdalena December 29, 2009 at 4:07 pm

These are great suggestions. I’ve looked at eBay, but the types of clothing I wear are considered collectibles (Amish-style Plain, but I wear jumpers as well, so will look in other categories.) I am a champion mender, but some of our clothes are past presentable. I think the clothing swap would be the best idea, and I will check out freecycle. I used to live in Santa Fe fifteen years ago, and the thrift stores weren’t as expensive then. I got good stuff for mere dollars. The biggest advantage was that wealthy women donated clothes every season to Goodwill, and I could get things that were still in excellent shape for work.


Raffaella December 30, 2009 at 5:28 am

I hace the same problem ’cause I live in Italy, where everything “has” to be new, possibly designer and expensive. 🙁
In my town there’s just a vintage store, with nice items but not super-cheap. Sometimes there’s used stuff at the market but it’s horrible.


Raffaella December 30, 2009 at 5:29 am

haVe, not haCe 😉


Kris-ND December 30, 2009 at 9:27 am

Oh my, do I feel for you. I live in an geographically isolated area in North Dakota. The nearest town with any kind of thrift store is about 30 miles from me, and the nearest city that has multiple or decent sized thrift stores is 120 miles from me.

The two thrift stores I have available in my town are tiny, and I do mean tiny. I have never found clothing to purchase. My daughter is the only one who occasionally finds something.

I keep a list of everything I am looking for, sizes and colors, etc. When I go to the city, I stop at those thrift stores, or at least some of them, and see if I can find what I need.

Otherwise it is Freecycle(which is a very small group for my area), EBAY, or, occasionally, our free weekly shopper paper has an ad for clothing or other items(i.e., “box of women’ s clothing for sale)

I really do understand your predicament, and I sometimes get jealous of all the places Katy can shop, but the trade-off for living here is worth it by a factor of 10 😉


dlm December 31, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Have you checked churches for thrift sales? In Victoria, churches have thrift sales for a couple hours a week. I think hospitals run charity sales too.


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