REVIVAL: Too much choice

Can a Brotherhood be too big? Maybe not a Brotherhood of Man, but a Brotherhood of St Laurence can. I recently visited the BSL store in Brunswick. It’s a cavernous place with racks and racks of clothing, a dozen tightly-packed shelves of CDs, and a large section of floor space devoted to furniture. I could have spent hours in there, but I didn’t. It was all too much.

When faced with a single shelf of CDs, I can flick through the lot in under a minute and maybe come away with something. Faced with a dozen shelves, I started to get a sore neck and mild nausea from squinting at all those spines. And my enthusiasm for working my way through the racks of clothing started to wane after one or two racks. I felt I couldn’t do the store justice, so I barely did the store at all.

There are a number of independently-owned bric-a-brac stores located throughout Melbourne that seem, from the outside, to be endless treasure troves. But at some point the endlessness of it starts to feel like a sort of sickness, possibly even evidence of compulsive hoarding behaviour.

I like small to medium-sized op shops best, the kind where you can take in most of what is on offer from the doorway, with only one or two sections that have to be rummaged through in a fastidious fashion.

The idea of choice is often presented to us as one of the boons of modern life, but there is such a thing as too much choice. Being “spoilt for choice” in a typical suburban shopping centre is one of the reasons I turned to op shops. I found I was never satisfied after being “spoilt for choice”. I would buy something, but then the next shop along would have something better, something cheaper, something more.

But I rarely leave an op shop feeling unsatisfied with what I bought. Instead, I feel fortunate to have found it.

Amy Choi grew up in the family business (a Chinese take-away) and is a three-time university dropout. She was once a finalist in the Vogue Talent Contest and flew all the way to London for lunch at Vogue House. She has worked in customer service, as an usher, foster carer, freelance writer and columnist, most recently for The Age. Her first book will be published next year. She's still dating her first boyfriend and they live in country Victoria with their two daughters. Keep track of Amy's op-shopping adventures at her Revival blog... and at GWAS each fortnight.