Confession: I have spent more than my fair share of time this last term in secondhand stores.
Really the only response to your look filled with disbelief and derision, is: I know, right? I honestly can't even defend myself here.
That being said, it's one thing to buy an item here or there--practical jokes, white elephants, oddly-themed costume parties, (and some normal-themed costume parties)--but what's the deal with actually shopping there? I know; budgets, blah blah blah. But really? Other than being used and smelly, the only thing that all the non-clothing merchandise has in common is that they're basically knick-knacks.
Knick-knacks (kk) have to be one of the more curious of human inventions. With the exception of very few items, they serve no real function. Have you ever seen anyone actually use a decorative spoon? Answer=no. So what's the point? On the surface their sole purpose seems to be reminders of past experience. But really, they mostly exist to prove to other people who hold stock in such things that the person who owns the kks is traveled, cultured... or at least has a lot of money. All things we tend to respect as a society. Seriously, the person who came up with the idea of selling commemorative junk... I don't know if they should be congratulated for their entrepreneurial spirit, or shot for their disservice to humanity.
Regardless, we all seem to have them (myself included)
Visted Yellowstone? Bought a t-shirt.
Washington D.C.? WA Monument Spoon
Rushmore? Mini ceramic replica
With every vacation your house fills with them. As you slowly drown in your "collectibles" eventually everyone (with the exception of class 5 hoarders) will reach a point where they finally convince themselves they aren't betraying someone's memory by getting rid of the kks.
Unfortunately, at this point in the knick-knack life cycle, there aren't a lot of options. Some people feel the need to share their old junk with people they don't know. This is where garage sales came from. There are not enough "why's" in the world to express my horror at this activity. Its bad enough to buy your kks first hand on location, but to buy someone else's? There is no nice way to say this. Buying someone's knick-knacks is buying their old discarded junk. It's meaningless, often broken, and usually not very attractive. It was literally one foot in the garbage can before you decided to step in and rescue it. Please note: items not purchased get donated, or sent to the landfill. Which leads me to other kk relocation options.
Donations? Isn't this how I started the whole rant? And it has the same problem as garage sales. No one should want to buy other people's kks. I just don't understand why this ever seems like a good idea.
Landfills? For the less environmentally inclined. Yeah--like we need more things in there. Did you know that the State of Michigan gets paid to have other place's trash sit in their landfills? Including places like New Jersey (The dirtiest state--which is ironic considering it's garden status). And Canada. Yes, for years Ontario cities have been trucking their trash to Michigan, causing the unfortunate nick-name "the Great Waste State".
World... enough is enough. It's time for an intervention.
Enter the Knick-Knack Rehabilitation Program. Take your used knick-knacks to a rehabilitation center. The kind people there will restore the knick-knacks to their former glory (cough) and send those magnets and mini ceramic replicas back to whence they came. Where they can be resold at gift shops for a whole new group of suckers to buy into. So, although homes will continue to be plagued by the stuff, at least the landfills will be emptier. Plus you get the green credit of actually doing the whole reduce-re-use-recycle thing. Repurposing and renovating is way more points on the social green hierarchy than donating. (If you don't think there is a social green hierarchy... welcome to the bottom of the food chain)
Caveat: People with no money and college students (not necessarily mutually exclusive), have free-reign to buy things at second-hand stores, just not knick-knacks... there's no reason for it. Small children who have not reached the age of accountability are allowed to want knick-knacks, both new and used. They don't know the difference.