Charity shops are definitley having their moment right now. After the long lockdowns and people cleaning out attics, garages and sheds, charity shops are inundated with contributions. Not only that but more and more people are on the hunt for pre-loved clothing as fashions are repeated and being part of the circular economy is finally becoming a worthy trend to follow.
Thrifted basket from charity shop €3.50
For me it’s something I’ve known all my life, much to my younger self’s mortification. My mum and my aunt are, as far as I’m concerned, the best thrift shoppers around. Not only have they bagged plenty of bargains, but plenty of vintage gems too. It all started in Wallys in Catford. There my mum and aunt purchased fabric and all sorts while my cousin and I played in our prams. Then they would take us, and said fabric home, and the next day they would be wearing their new dresses or admiring new curtains or whatever creation they came up with. They bought furniture and upcycled it, redecorated rooms and would totally have killed it on Instagram in their time. It’s not off the ground I got my love of thrifiting and being creative.
So what’s all the fuss about? The thrill of a bargain, the excitement of finding something worth a lot of money, the joy of finding something no-one else will have … It totally depends. Everyone is different. For me, it’s often that I’m looking for soemthing to upcycle or, most likely, more “stuff” to add to my rather large collection of, what I like to call trinkets, for my tablescapes and vignettes.
It’s a shame that there is still such a stigma and embarassment for so many people about buying in a charity shop or market or second hand store. I know lots of my friends wouldn’t be seen dead in them but yet they are amazed at the things I tell them I’ve bought. I know a lot of people are put off by them, they don’t know what to look for or how to shop in them. That might sound silly but a lot of peopel are just programmed into shopping where things are organised into categories, sizes etc whereas charity shops can be a bit of a jumble. With that in mind here are my top tips for charity shop shopping or thrifting as it’s often referred to.
Thrifted curtain, used as tablecloth, from charity shop €3
1. Write a List
If you don’t write a shopping list when you go food shopping you end up buying all sorts of junk. It’s the same with thrifting. You need to have an idea of what you want, or else you could end up with all sorts. Although sometimes that can be good too. I keep a list on my phone of things I want. Sometimes I could see something on instagram, or in a magazine or pinterest and know that I could buy sometthing similar in a charity shop so I add it to the list.
2. Take your measurements and bring a measuring tape
This rule goes for your body measurements but also house measuremenets such as windows (for curtains) room measurements (if you’re buying furniture) body measurements if you’re buying clothes. The latter is important as fitting rooms are often very small, and some don’t even have any. If you have your measurements and a measuring tape it can save a lot of unnesseary waste as you often cannot return items.Also know the dimensions of your boot. This can save a lot of time lugging things to and from the shop.
Give yourself a budget and bring cash as most shops don’t have credit card facitiies. Have plenty of change and small denominations.
Plan what day your are going to go. Generally a Tuesday and Wednesday are good as the weekend contributions will have been sorted and out on the shop floor by then. However get to know your local charity shop staff and find out what days they put out new stock. Better still, if you are looking for something in particular let them know and ask them to contact you or put aside for you.
If you are shopping for clothes look in your wardrobe before you go to see if there is anthing you can get rid of. Likewise look at what outfits you have to see if you need a matching top/ jacket etc. If you are looking for something to match an outfit take a photo to bring with you to match colours.
Look on the main fashion sites to see what’s in fashion now. Fashion gets repeated on average every 8 years. Currently big collars and 80s fashion are in so keep an eye out for that. You will find that many of the people who wore these things the first time round will have sent them to charity shops.
Bring your own shopping bags and clear the boot of your car in case you end up with furniture. Also have a bag of old newspapers in your car, useful if you buy china or glass and some baby wipes.
8. Pay Attention
Sometimes you find that perfect piece and in your excitement you buy it without properly examining it. Rememenr it’s a charity shop, sometimes there is damage, a tear, a stain etc so thoroughly examing what you are buying. If it’s clothes check for missing buttons, broken zips, tears, moth holes, stains, discolouration. If its furniture check for wood worm, wobbly legs, cracks, stains, bad paintwork, missing hardware.
9. Think outside the box
This is my favourite thing about thrifting. Don’t look at things just as they are. A suitcase could be turned into a table, a cat bed, a small cupboard. An old book could be carved out and used to hide valuables, the pages torn out and used to create artwork or just painted to create a book stack. A cot can be taken apart and used in so many ways, made into a table, the springs used as a peg board, the sides used to display artwork.
10. Don’t haggle. Charity shops are raising money for charities. If anything I would encourage you to give a little extra.
Have you any tips on thrifting? I’d love to hear them. What’s been your best charity shop find?
You’ll find me most days over on my Instagram and sometimes I’ll bring you thrifting too.