One unusual sign of the status-striving climate is the boom in the thrift store sector. Shouldn't their success be interpreted as a signal of, well, thriftiness and preserving traditions, rather than going into debt up to your eyeballs to afford showy new stuff?
But all that stuff on the shelves of thrift stores came from somewhere. Someone decided to throw out a bunch of old stuff, and left it out for a charity group to collect, instead of the garbage truck. Why throw it out? Because they were upgrading to something newer and showier. That the new stuff doesn't function as well as the old stuff, and breaks down faster, doesn't matter -- the point is to stay on the fashion treadmill, so you trade off quality for novelty.
Why not pass it on to someone in your family? Possibly they're strivers as well, and wouldn't welcome a gift of old stuff. But your average thrift store shopper isn't wealthy enough to look a gift horse in the mouth. They may want a brand new microwave, but getting a free one from a family member beats paying retail, and it even beats buying second-hand since the used item comes free from family.
It seems like the root cause has more to do with the abandonment of stewardship in status-striving times. No time to take care of people, places, and things when we're each super busy advancing our position on the totem pole. Just drop off any unwanted stuff at a third party, and let them deal with it. Commercial interests will find a more efficient way to collect your stuff than a church or school, but again what do you care if some company makes money off of your old stuff?
The libertarian, laissez-faire norms that undergird the status-striving climate also make it awkward to redistribute things among family members. Notions about the highest bidder, the price that the market will bear, and so on, are foreign to family relationships. So, just donate them to a commercial enterprise, and let them allocate your things to unseen and unknown buyers according to the market rate.
Weird as it may seem, perhaps the only way a person today could come into possession of the things that their parents owned is by scouring the thrift stores to see if someone their parents' age has recently donated such things, and make a payment.
Most of those things won't even be very expensive, so it's not as though the major weirdness comes down to paying an arm and a leg vs. getting it for free. Thrift store finds might as well be free. It's that you have to navigate a cryptic web of donors and re-allocators in a commercial setting, rather than interact with folks you know, likely face to face, as part of the gift culture, where receiving a gift puts you in the donor's debt somehow.
Relationship duties are a drag on uber-efficient status-striving, though, so forget giving and receiving gifts. We'll just pay a nominal finder's fee and come away with not only the item, but a completely blank slate of obligations afterward. Your only obligation is to pay the thrift store the stated amount; after that, you're in the clear, and they expect nothing further from you.
This parallels the lack of indebtedness that the charity owes you after giving them your second-hand stuff. You don't have to monitor them and see if they're behaving like a gracious gift recipient. They give you a voucher to get a tax write-off, and that's the end of it.
However much we may appreciate the kind of stuff that we can easily and cheaply score at the thrift store, we should bear in mind how symptomatic they are of the frayed social fabric, and try to go through family relationships before commercial transactions.