If you've followed us for awhile, you'll know that some of our furniture (like our dining room table) also came from the thrift store, and so did many of our books, records, baskets, craft supplies, toys (when the Squirrelings were younger), homeschool materials (ditto), and small appliances. It's also, sometimes, a source of items for Mr. Fixit to repair and restore.
These are the things we know about thrift stores: You can get nice things, sometimes unique or scarce things. You can pay less than retail. (Hopefully always, but even thrift stores do get mixed up or carried away on prices.) You can find wool sweaters when everything in the regular store is acrylic, and mixers with glass bowls when everything else is plastic. You can find the exact not-made-now model of bread machine that matches the previous one that conked out.
However, the benefits of thrift stores go beyond what you take home yourself.
Sales at our local MCC store benefit Mennonite Central Committee projects around the world, including disaster relief. The store is also a great volunteering opportunity for many people (Lydia's experiences volunteering at a thrift store may have just helped get her a part-time job.) Shops representing other non-profit organizations will have similar goals and benefits. When you donate items, you're helping. When you shop, you're helping.
Would it work just as well to close down all the stores, have people just donate money instead, and send all the old stuff to the landfill?
Maybe. But it wouldn't be half as much fun.
Bead necklace, found at the MCC store today