I belive that the thing that I love the most about living in England is charity shops. Charity shops are essentially second-hand shops, but they support a particular cause, meaning that all the earnings go the charitable association or private institution they support. Shopping in these is like visiting someone else’s home. There are so many different shops for all sorts of causes, the biggest and most well know ones being British Heart Foundation, supporting scientific research about heart deaseases, Cancer Research, that provides funding to cancer related healtcare, and Oxfam, which fights poverty. There are many others, and some are dedicated to animal care rather than people.
Charity shops make me feel at ease. First great thing about them is that they are run by volunteers. People decide to spend their time there because they are interested in the cause they are volunteering for, which means you can talk to them about it and they will happily chat for hours. The atmosphere is quite relaxed because it is not a work environment, in which your perfomance is evaluated and thus the staff might at times be under pressure, rather, it is the way people choose to spend their spare time. As they volunteer in retail they meet people every day so you will find out they are quite interested in your story too. I had a conversation that lasted about 15 minutes around where I am from why I live abroad and why I decided to go donate to a charity that supports education with a volunteer who also told me about her story.
I said donations, and that is why you can actually pack the stuff you do not need anymore and isntead of throwing them away you can donate them to those shops. In fact, they rely on donations. It is a great way to avoid waste and give a chance to other people to buy them at a cheap price. Yes, because everything is cheap in charities. I have never seen anything over 20£. That does not mean that the quality is bad. Donations go through checks and repairs before they are put on sale, and when something is damaged it is reduced and clearly indicated on a label. This is particularly useful for electronics, for example. The other day I donate my ancient iPad 3 to Cancer Research. As soon as I handed it in a customer asked to buy it, but they said they needed to check it to make sure it was in a good state. This also means that if they find some articles unsuitable for sale, they will then throw them in the right waste section, which people might not be able to because they do not have the means or the time to reach the right collection point. Unfit clothes also can get recycled or thorn and repached for other purposes.
Buying clothes in a charity shop is a joy, bacause that is the main article they sell, together with books. You can find branded garments for cheap prices, but what really makes my anxiety levels go down is the variety of sizes you find within the same size number. In the past I have always struggled with my body image, so always hated to go shopping with my friends because I could never find my fit and I constantly compared myself to them. Well, charity shops show you that size measure varies greatly from brand to brand. You can pick uo a size L pair of trousers that is massive in comparison to another size L pair of trousers. Also, charity shops are well stocked with bigger sizes, while other fast fashion shops are not, and this promotes a distorted body image. Fast fashion is a problem for the planet (see https://www.thegoodtrade.com/features/what-is-fast-fashion for an insight), and often does not respect workers rights. Surely a good amount of clothes come from those fast fashion shops, but buying those clothes second-hand means to an extent to stop controbuting to the creation of new clothes. Another feeling connected to the variety of clothes found is that you might be buying something that is not sold anymore, or not sold in your country, which makes it unique. Going into a normal clothing shop gives me some anxiety because every piece has a thousands clones, and even some pieces are the same but coloured differently. I have never been comfortable with blending in and thinking that what I am wearing is work by billions other people makes me feel uneasy. Charity shops changed this perpective, and now when I receive compliments I can proudly say that “I bought it in a charity shop!”. Since I stopped going to clothes shops, from about two years now, my anxiety has dimished.
Also, because charity shops receive donations every day, the offer proposed varies quite quickly, and this gives you the opportunity to never change location but always find new goods, bringing back the joy of going in without knowing what you will find. You actually browse thorugh shelves and racks, while in a clothes store you can simply give a glance and identify in a minute the content of the entire shop. The imprevedibility of charity shops leads you to go in looking for a pair of torusers and going out with the trousers plus three books, a fidged cube and some stickers (yes, that actually happened to me), all for 5£ which went to help a cause. Charity shops also sell handmade items made by local communities to raise awarness about them. For Christmas I bought lovely handmade present tags made by the local hospice and they were praised back home by friedns and families. This helped my anxiety because I felt like I looked for something meaningful for my friends, and for a good cause. I am always anxious about getting the perfect present, but with charity shops at least I know that if it’s not appreciated at least it is for a good cause.
With their homey feeling, relaxed and friendly environment and uniqueness, charity shops conquered my heart and made me feel mentally better, so much that I decided to pursue a career in the charity sector.
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