Why Vintage Shopping Makes You Happier

In today’s fast busy world, people are used to getting what they want, where they want, however they want, and whenever they want. You are told to change your clothing, your home, your life; on a dizzying cycle of seasons and pushes to get “on trend”. Media, television shows, music, film, celebrities and social media, all give the same message – if you are not up with the latest on everything you are missing out……our beautiful young people are bombarded with the idea of perfection and fitting in – already a huge part of every teenager’s passage into adulthood.

I remember wanting to fit in ever so much. Feeling like a fish out of water living with type 1 diabetes, in a small country town, with parents who were bohemian and forward thinking, and who also taught at our local area school. I was constantly pushing against being myself, on a never ending quest to be like “them”. As I grew older I realised that in fact who I am is exactly who I want to be. And that the “them” I had so wanted to be like, were never even close to my idea ofย what it means to live a valuable life, one that considers others and the planet, and one which strives to be yourself.

Shifting away from your parents and towards your peers is a natural part of growing. You define yourself based on the way your peers dress, eat, socialise, the latest music and fashion.ย Each generation has their own mark in the sand of the things they have chosen to make their own. But is it really chosen? Or is it fed to them via popular culture? Or maybe it is a bit of a two way thing – the market drives taste and the consumer drives the market back.

When we were kids, our parents always had secondhand and vintage furniture, collectibles, books and clothing. We had new too, but going to the big smoke to visit Target and stock up on clothes, or Mary Martin’s bookstore in the city to find the latest treasures to read, as well as an Indian skirt and some incense, were special treats indeed. To me, having vintage in my life was just normal. When I moved out to the city and met my new circle of friends, I realised that it was more normal to go shopping in new stores, and as we shifted into the excess of the 90’s, the consumption of stuff reached peak.

Now, you are constantly reminded to change your sofa, update your living room, shift to the latest seasonal trends, throw out anything you no longer love, check out the latest catalogue and shop shop shop. On the other side of this we see fast fashion filling the world with unwanted clothing, furniture and homewares, often made with less than quality materials and under unethical conditions. Much of this ends up tossed away by people eager to fit in…those who have never gotten over the idea that to be who you are means being the same as everyone else; and a false idea that having all of this shiny new stuff will make them happy. On the flipside, some of the stuff that ends up tossed out, ends up in the op shops and comes home with someone like me! I delight in finding perfectly good designer clothing and taking it home to give it another life.

However, there are those of us who do not buy into the idea of trends, and the tide is turning with more and more of us rejecting the idea that a shopping trip to Westfield is a family outing, or a day out with the girls. More and more of us are realising that what makes us happy is time.

Time with those you love. Time to do the things you want to do. Time to make your own things. Time to scour through an op shop or vintage store to find something you need, or bring a treasure back to life. Time to grow things and wait until they flourish. Time to care for things. Time to enjoy living, rather than shopping. I am not saying I don’t love the thrill of the hunt when it comes to shopping. I totally do and have lived with an addiction to shopping in the past. Even buying too much in an op shop is a problem, or picking up roadside finds that you will never use – because ultimately, you will throw it out or back onto the roadside. Even shopping vintage comes with the important responsibility of not buying too much.

The other day at school, the teacher told me that he had spoken to Maxwell (who is 8 yrs old and lives with high functioning Autism and therefore quite a lot of worries and anxiety), about the “school uniform policy”…here we go I thought…he is going to challenge me on his light blue shirt (once an ok part of the uniform but now they want us to buy their special tops with the logo on). “Yes he said, it is his shoelaces”….”His what?” I said…”Yes we have to make sure all of the children have white, blue or black shoelaces, and his bright yellow ones are no good”. I was gobsmacked….he is wearing school shorts handed down over the years from his 2 much older brothers. He has 2 shirts I did buy in the school uniform shop, as he wanted to have some the same as the other children, and he has some other blue tops we bought a while back when they were part of the uniform that fit him fine. His shoes are quality sports shoes that fit well and happened to come with yellow laces. I looked around the school and noted that half the school had coloured laces. The theory is that the older children get into comparing their latest fashions and so all children must be dressed exactly the same (my case in point). Whilst I do get this argument on some levels, on others I can not bear the idea that the colour of my son’s shoelaces is one of the most important issues of the day and so we must toss them and get the same as everyone else. And my son does not CARE! He is the boy who puts his tops on inside out or back to front and when I tell him, he says “I don’t care”. On one occasion he said, “oh goodness, I will turn it the right way so everyone doesn’t keep bothering me about my tag!”. None of my children have ever been slaves to fashion and I hope this stays with them always. Suffice to say we will not be changing laces until we change shoes!

Almost everything I wear and everything I have in my home is vintage. I buy most of my clothes in op shops. I buy furniture rarely, and when I do it is a roadside find, a vintage or op shop buy, or on some occasions a piece by an Australian maker. I do collect things, but they are all secondhand. I rarely buy new linen, cushions and so on and when I need to I go for eco friendly, locally made and fairtrade. These are the kinds of things I carefully curate for our own Recycled Interiors store – plastic bag alternatives, eco cleaning items, handmade bedding and upcycled homewares, fairtrade – things that if you are in the market for something you need, you can find it. In fact I find it hard to push the retail message when my heart says stop the shop! But at the same time we always have a need for things, and to be able to find things that are recycled, sustainable, eco friendly, vintage, handmade and fairtrade, is the best way to shop.

The other day Mr Recycled and I were looking for rain jackets for our walks. We walk every day and with winter coming, needed something to keep us dry. We looked in a few op shops and Mr Recycled found a designer label jacket and was stoked. However it took me another couple of weeks to find what I needed. It took a bit of extra legwork and some exploring. In the end I found 2 fabulous rain jackets in my size AND my favourite colours! All it took really was a little bit of patience and flexibility.

The thing with shopping vintage is that you can not go with a preconceived idea of what you want, whether that be for your home or your clothing. You can know you want “a couch”, or “a jacket”, but the colour, style and so on, will be a mystery until you find it, which is really part of the joy of it all. Unlike shopping from a big brand store where their latest ranges are saturating your television set, newspaper and magazines, social media, interior design instagram pages and blogs; and even your letterbox; and you can walk in store and grab one in each colour – shopping vintage means you have to wait to see what you find. What does that mean? ย It means you are slowing down your shopping. It means you are giving something another life. It means you have something unique and often better quality. It means you save cash! It means you appreciate history, you engage with stories of the past, and you save something going into landfill.ย It means you are patient, you learn to wait and. most importantly you learn that being “on trend” and having “the latest” is not something that will make your life better or ultimately make you happy. However time and love really will. And that’s what matters most.

Helen xx



  1. huntingforvintage on May 26, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Love the way you think Helen! We have a beautiful shopping center nearby with high-end stores (Macys, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, JCrew, etc.) and I never go there unless it’s to a restaurant. New stuff bores me and it’s usually expensive and slip-shod. My favorite shopping is done at thrift stores, yard sales, antique stores and estate sales. ๐Ÿ™‚ – Karen

    P.S. The shoelace color “problem” is hilarious.

    • Helen Edwards on May 27, 2017 at 5:56 pm

      totally agree and love your approach!!! My goodness a lot of the same same stuff just makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a fork!! I know the shoelaces right?!! Thanks for sharing

  2. Trudie Bristow on May 27, 2017 at 5:54 am

    Beautiful words lovely and precisely my thoughts exactly.

    • Helen Edwards on May 27, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      you are totally on the same page my dear – this is such an important message we are sharing x

  3. Mauzie & Frank Vintage Luxe on May 28, 2017 at 4:56 pm

    Oh my!

    Helen, you have put a lot of thought into this very articulate, well-worded piece..

    As I have a small Vintage clothing shop, may I have permission to take the final paragraph (with a few small alterations) and include it on my Facebook page please?

    Best regards,

    • Helen Edwards on May 29, 2017 at 7:13 am

      thank you Mauzie! I am more than happy for you to share my post – please link back to the original post ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for reading

  4. Samantha on November 12, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Helen, I too have fought a shopping addiction, but since starting a serious declutter journey have learned the joy of a calm mind brought by having less stuff, and no longer have the need to spend to fill an emotional void. Iโ€™m also moving away from buying new and looking more frequently at secondhand or up-cycling when I need something.
    Yesterday I came home to a pile of foam on the floor… my puppy had chewed off the corner of the couch! Previously I would have gone straight to looking at new couches, but I remember seeing a post somewhere ages ago about people using embroidery to fix holes in couches, so I think Iโ€™m going to give that a try, and make something beautiful out of the missing chunk!
    Anyway, thanks for your post and inspiration.

    • helene on November 13, 2017 at 10:17 am

      oh my goodness that naughty puppy!!!! I love this, I would love to see what you come up with ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Marg on November 12, 2017 at 8:43 am

    Hi Helen
    That is a great post and so very true Thank you for sharing all you do with us
    I love reading everything you write
    Thanks Marg

    • helene on November 13, 2017 at 10:15 am

      thank you lovely Marg x

  6. Gill Hall on January 24, 2018 at 6:58 am

    Helen, what a wonderful article. Although my story is different my ethos is the same. I truly believe we can live a happier existence surrounded by beautiful things by using vintage in every way possible. I try to promote these values through my Facebook page Style on a Shoestring by Gill. I would love to print this article on my page if you would agree to it. I feel it would speak to many of my followers. All kudos to you of course.

    Thanks again for your words, Gill

    • helene on February 6, 2018 at 9:09 am

      Hi Gill – thanks for reading and sharing! Feel free to share a link to the article on your page ๐Ÿ™‚

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