donate buttonThis is Alden’s seventh entry in the series “Grist dared me to make a change.” Read the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth here. And support her dare with a gift to Grist!

Secondhand outfitWhite ribbed tank, Goodwill Greenwich Village, $9.99; yellow lacrosse shorts, Goodwill Annapolis, $3.50; Chucks (or knockoffs, I’m not sure), Salvation Army, $3.99. Total for outfit: $17.48.Photo: Alden WickerTwo things I learned about the Salvation Army by Union Square:

1.      It does not have air conditioning.
2.      It does not have dressing rooms.

Can we say miserable? It was 103 degrees in Manhattan when I found myself gathering what looked to be unwashed clothing off the racks in the depressingly dingy Salvation Army. When the sales lady told me I could “go to that corner to try it on there,” I stared at her for a moment, feeling first disgust at the visual of my crouching behind a rack, getting nekkid for used clothing. Then I felt guilty for being so snobby. Finally I settled on just being exhausted. At this point I was wandering around the store in the same pair of black heels I had worn all week, fantasizing about my Rainbow flip-flops and an air-conditioned department store with three-way mirrors.

It is impossible to find a matching bottom and top to a bikini at Salvation Army. All of them are missing the bottoms! Why? Actually, don’t answer that question. I don’t want to know. As my friend kindly pointed out this weekend, despite all my hand wringing about buying used underwear, buying a used bikini is about as bad. Oh, couldn’t she have left me ignorant on this fact?

I took my finds home (seven items for $35!) to my apartment to pack for my weekend away in Vermont, and realized I didn’t have time to do any wash. I peered at everything, looking for bedbugs, and then — resigned to my fate — stuffed it all in my duffel.

I also stuffed in my duffel a few items from the Goodwill Annapolis. When I was visiting last weekend, I made my sister drive me there for a shopping trip. She was absolutely no help at all. She spent the whole shopping trip picking out the ugliest atrocities she could find and running up to me saying, “YOU HAVE TO BUY THIS.” Then, she made fun of what I actually bought. Thanks, sis.

Secondhand outfitGrey striped Forever21 T-shirt, Salvation Army, $2.99; jeans repurposed into shorts, Beacon’s Closet, $20; bra top, mine; TOM shoes, mine. Total for outfit: $22.99, not including my own items.Photo: Alden WickerSo this outfit to the left is what I changed into for the ride up to Vermont on Friday. When I told my friend Liz that I had just gone shopping today at the Salvation Army, and no, I did not wash most of the clothing, she said, “Ewww! We are washing everything as soon as we arrive.” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the shirt I was wearing at the very moment, rubbing shoulders with her, was unwashed as well.

But it wasn’t all bad. Once I told my decidedly un-green friends about the challenge, they wanted to hear about the other challenges too. Their reactions ranged from, “That is impossible,” (purging plastic) to “Gross, really?” (carrying around one’s trash). It sparked a whole conversation about composting, waste reduction, etc. By the end of the weekend, half of our inside jokes involved environmental issues. “Fracking” became the term for anything we didn’t like. As in, “Dude, don’t frack it, OK?” I feel like a scored a point for Mama Earth this weekend.

We did, in fact, put all of my clothing straight in the wash when we arrived, including the Chuck Taylors that had the inside soles inexplicably ripped out. Actually, when it came to the Chucks, I scrubbed them out with soap and water, dumped hand sanitizer inside, and then put them in the washing machine. No athlete’s foot for me, thanks!

I’m happy to report that I made it through the weekend just fine. I went tramping through the woods, sported two different bikinis in the hot tub, went to a civilized brunch, and even had separate sleepwear for bed. In fact, one purple dress is a new favorite. But I cheated for shoes and my purse. It is just impossible to find anything presentable or non-blister-inducing when it comes to accessories.

I would like to end with a message for Salvation Army: I will pay a few more dollars for clothing. Just please, get some air conditioning. And a changing room. Even a curtain would be a nice start. Please?

And here’s a message for you: Donate to Grist!