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Secondhand Style: Three Things I Learned From Thrifting With My Mom

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Published February 22, 2022 at 10:00 a.m.


Maria Munroe and her daughter, Malia, shopping at Boho Baby in Williston - FILE: CAT CUTILLO
  • File: Cat Cutillo
  • Maria Munroe and her daughter, Malia, shopping at Boho Baby in Williston

My daughter has officially entered toddlerhood. She's no longer content to play with a toy while I work; she wants to be involved. It's made me excited to have her participate in all my favorite things, including thrifting.

Any time I'm chasing my girl down a thrift store aisle, I remember visiting similar stores with my mother when I was a kid. It's a hobby my mom loves, and she shared it with me. It became our thing.

Looking back now, I realize that our outings didn't just teach me to love secondhand shopping. Thrifting with my mom taught me lessons that I've carried into every area of my life, lessons that I hope my daughter absorbs, as well. Here are three of them.

Creativity is a skill

Before - MARIA MUNROE
  • Maria Munroe
  • Before

When you're staring at what is literally a pile of other people's junk, it can be hard at first to see anything worth saving. But I watched my mom pick through those piles, select seemingly random things, bring them home and blend them beautifully into her décor. She taught me that creativity can be developed with practice. Thrift stores are where I got my practice. And in a thrift store, you can afford to practice a lot. Over the years I've gotten better at it. Now my own home is furnished with things I envisioned a new life for: old baskets turned into planters, two sets of dishes blended into one, an old cabinet with a fresh coat of paint (pictured). Creating a home this way is one of the things I'm most proud of.

Persistence pays off

After - MARIA MUNROE
  • Maria Munroe
  • After

This was probably the first lesson thrifting taught me. Leaving a secondhand store empty-handed is just part of the process. Even if it was an hourlong hunt with no treasure to be found, my mom never left disappointed. She wasn't ecstatic, but she was never upset. She taught me that not every attempt will yield the desired results, but if you keep hunting, keep trying, eventually the treasures do come. When people ask me for the secret to finding things secondhand, my answer is simple: It takes time and effort. That same "secret" is true for so many other parts of life.

Have confidence in yourself

My mom is a serial hobbyist, and many of her projects start with thrift finds. In order to turn her visions for old junk into reality, she quilts, sews and solders. She once bought a tile cutter at a garage sale, and a few YouTube tutorials later, she was retiling our bathroom floor. Thanks to her example, I've never really questioned my abilities. I truly believe I can do — or learn to do — anything I want. That belief has empowered me to push through my graduate program, my first year as a young professional and now motherhood. I know my daughter will face challenges that will make her feel like she isn't enough. I hope she can center herself on this idea: I know what I'm doing; if not, I can learn. My mom taught me well. I hope I can do the same for my daughter.