My 1-Year Second-Hand Shopping Challenge


I would like to be the person who buys just 5 pieces a year. A well-made pair of shoes, an everyday dress, maybe even a pair of jeans tailored to fit me. Shopping done for the year. Wouldn’t that be lovely? They’d be handmade with the best materials, cost $200 each, but last a lifetime. Unfortunately, that’s not me. Not yet anyway.

Browse my closet and you’ll find well-worn Zara blouses with threads showing their age at the seams. Forever 21 dresses that made it through one wash, never to return to their original shape. H&M t-shirts with stretched necklines and warped hems. Anthropologie clearance items that were missing a button but were too cheap to pass up. “I’ll repair it myself… one day.”

Add to that shame my aspirations of being a minimalist, a bank account that’s suffering from holiday gift giving, and a dash of New Year’s earnestness and you have a perfect storm.

I’m ready to make a change.

But I’m not ready to pull the trigger on a $168 shirt from Reformation and then not buy anything else for 6 months (even if it is ethically made from sustainably sourced materials). Until then, it will just sit wistfully in my cart, waiting until I’m a more disciplined person.

In the interim, I have an idea that I want to try.

It’s not my idea actually, it’s Jesse Coulter’s. She briefly mentioned it in an Instagram caption, and at once I knew it was a possible solution to my problem.


Shop second hand only. For a year.

It’s perfect. Here’s why.

1. Better brands, for less

By shopping second hand, I can afford brands that would cost too much for me when they’re brand new and full priced in the store. Goodbye Zara skinny jeans that INEXPLICABLY ALWAYS GET A HOLE ON MY RIGHT INNER THIGH. Sorry, that’s a recurring problem of mine. Sore spot. But seriously, why my right inner thigh? Is it something about the way I walk? Sit? Is my left thigh sharp?

Anyway, goodbye thigh holes in all my jeans, hello Levi’s that survive generations.

2. It’s not a diet

This exercise does not put a limit on what or how much I can buy. If it did, it would make me feel like I was on a diet, which means I would be thinking about food and all of the food I’m not supposed to be eating all day every day, causing me to eat more than if I weren’t on a diet in the first place.

3. Pause button

It automatically creates a pause button on my shopping urges. If I want to buy a new pair of sunglasses, fine! Buy them! But first I’ll have to find them. Maybe in a thrift shop, a vintage store, Etsy, eBay, or Poshmark. There are plenty of options, it’s just that they all take time. Hours, maybe weeks. The time that it takes to search for them is like a pause, during which I may realize I don’t really need another pair of sunglasses just because they looked really good on that blogger.

4. It’s more sustainable

I have done a lot of purging this year, and it’s not a good feeling to fill garbage bags full of clothes that you spent good money on and are now worth nothing to you, or to the stuck up chick at Buffalo Exchange who turned her nose up at them. (Why do they have to be so mean? I know it’s not cute. I’m well aware… that’s why I’m getting rid of it). Yes, I donated most of it and recycled what couldn’t be used even by Goodwill, but it’s still wasteful. It’s a waste of my money, a waste of the earth’s resources to make, and for the things that couldn’t be a recycled, it’s a waste of the earth’s landfills to store for the next 100 years while they biodegrade. I haven’t even watched the documentaries on Netflix that I know are going to make me feel even worse about this.

5. I might fail

A year is a long time. But this year I want to challenge myself even when it means I might fail. You and I both know that retailers are going to do their very best to break me with their catchy email subject lines, eye catching store window displays, and sneaky sponsored ads in my Instagram feed. I’ll face temptation hundreds of times a day, and I may fail, but when I do I hope I’ll bolster my will power and try again. That’s daily self discipline training, and that can’t hurt.

6. Spark creativity

Placing this limitation on myself may actually foster more creativity in the way I shop, spend and dress. Vintage and thrift shops are full of one of a kind pieces that many would consider ugly, and it will be up to my creativity to make beauty out of second hand finds.

So that’s my plan. I’ll be sharing how it unfolds here with you. Do you ever self impose shopping bans? And have you ever actually stuck to them?


Photos by Modern Legacy

Cristina V. Cleveland

Cristina V. Cleveland is a senior beauty editor based in Austin, TX. She has been exploring personal style and decor on Fuji Files since 2009. Her work as a writer and editor has appeared in publications like Refinery29, Birchbox, TradHome Magazine, To&From Magazine, Coco+Kelley, CamilleStyles and ads in Glamour, InStyle and Lucky.

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Rather than pushing up-to-the-minute trends and products, Fuji Files is about discovering a lasting, personal aesthetic and the journey to feeling your personal best. 

Fuji Files was started by Cristina Cleveland, the Managing Editor of NaturallyCurly, the largest hair and beauty content platform. Her work as a writer and editor has appeared in publications like Refinery29, Teen Vogue, CamilleStyles, Blavity, Birchbox, TradHome Magazine, Coco+Kelley, and ads in Glamour, InStyle and Lucky.