The short, two word answer to this is my Nan. I’m writing this at the one year anniversary of losing her and publishing close to what would have been her 92nd birthday because I didn’t want the day to go by as though it was now any other. Of all the losses I’ve encountered to date, this one has been the hardest. She was the most incredible, selfless person and I almost feel a little sorry for anyone that didn’t know her. So whilst this is hard for me to write I love to share stories of her because it means in a way that she’s still with me.
Growing up I gave her the nickname of The Charity Shop Queen. If it hadn’t been for her I’m confident that I would never have entertained second hand shopping. My parents weren’t fans of the charity shop concept or preloved purchases as, like many of that generation, they imagined the shops to be fusty, unpleasant and a means to an end if you were financially struggling. My Nan loved them. Nine times out of ten every time we spoke she’d tell me excitedly about a shopping trip, window browse or second hand bargain of which she got many. She described virtually everything as “unusual” which always made me chuckle as it was often the reason she couldn’t leave things behind.
The area I grew up had an excellent selection of charity shops and whenever she would come to stay within minutes of arriving she’d be scheduling her first trip and plan of attack with where to start, loop by and end. This was always met with groans from everyone in the house except me. When I was much younger I was indifferent to charity shopping, I just wanted to spend time with my Nan, so I always sided with her and off we’d go. Her enthusiasm was infectious and, because of her, the older I got the more I fell in love with charity shopping too.
I’d often try persuading my parents to take me before I was old enough to go alone. I succeeded rarely but remember on one occasion in my early teens buying a shirt for £5 from an expensive brand that the girls at school were all obsessed with as it was the “in” thing to have. I remember feeling very smug when fielding questions like where I got it and wasn’t it expensive which definitely helped fuel a love for thrifting even more. I cottoned on just how much further I could make my money go. At this age I kept the preloved purchases a secret.
Nowadays, particularly as I’m conscious about reducing my environmental impact, buying second hand is my go-to. If anyone compliments me on what I’m wearing my default response now is “thanks, it’s second hand”. It’s the first place I look when I need something new be that either physically in stores or via sites like eBay. It saves me a fortune and lines up beautifully with my efforts to be more eco friendly as it means I’ve turned my back on almost all fast fashion. It may sound silly to some but on the day I was told we wouldn’t have my Nan with us for much longer I picked myself up and went to my local charity shops. It made me feel closer to her as I knew she wouldn’t want to think of me sat at home feeling sad, so I did what she used to do best. It goes without saying that I wore preloved to her funeral because it felt wrong not to. I know she’d have approved of little black Ted Baker dress bargain which I gave a debut to.
This year I’ve been filling an unfurnished home for the first time and every bit of furniture I’ve bought bar one is second hand. I’ve scored some absolute beauties for pennies, and in some cases, even free thanks to Facebook Marketplace. I’ve met some wonderfully kind individuals giving things away because they wanted to help someone and I’m so grateful. Even now with each new item I get it still hits me that I can’t share all of this with her and tell her the stories of each piece of furniture I add to my gradually growing collection. Stories like the corner unit that we struggled to fit through the front door and ended up in frustrated hysterics at the bottom of a flight of stairs, leaping out of the house to not miss a newly placed advert or the 3 pieces that belonged to a girl’s grandparents that were given away for free because she wanted them to do someone a good turn and told me to give them a good life when I offered to pay her. I know she’d love every second it.
Happy Birthday The Charity Shop Queen.