I’ve always loved thrifting. From the vintage dresses I wore to my homeschooler proms to the over sized sweaters that were already worn in from decades of wear and tear. Even the smell of the old clothes that’ve been sitting in the back of a closet for years brings a little flutter to my stomach because it’s the smell that say, “There’s a gem in here somewhere.”
WHY CHOOSE SECOND HAND?
It’s budget friendly
It’s eco friendly
Your style will be more unique
People give away some nice stuff
As I’ve learned more about the world and life and where my values really lie, I’ve found the value in thrifting more than ever. I’ve struggled with the balance between quality goods vs budget, my impact on the world and the people around me, and finding a way to be a more responsible consumer. That’s why my love for thrifting has surfaced now more than ever.
The more research I do on the world of sustainable and ethical fashion, the more I realize new is not always better. Even new from high quality, sustainable, and ethical brands is not always the way to go.
No matter what, it’s still adding more stuff to a world that is already full of perfectly fine clothing, if you know how to find it.
When you shop second hand, it’s simply recycling goods that are already in existence. It’s not giving anyone a reason to make more. You’re not promoting fast changing trends or poorly made clothing. You’re simply promoting the reuse of products that were made, used, and put back into the world to be used again.
It’s not always easy. The good stuff isn’t always on display or on it’s own special rack. Most of the time, it’s hiding away. Waiting patiently for someone to find it and appreciate it for all it’s worth.
When you take the time to look through the packed racks, there’s no telling what you may find.
HOW TO SHOP AT THRIFT STORES
KNOW WHERE TO GO
Beyond just the shop itself, knowing the areas in your town can affect the quality and style of the goods in the shop. Going to second hand shops in nicer areas, while maybe effecting the price by a few dollars, is usually a good way to find newer and high quality items.
Definitely look for second hand shops in swanky areas to really hit the goldmines!
DON’T FOCUS ON LABELS
This one gets me every time. I’ll be browsing the isles and see something that I know was once an expensive, quality item and I’ll think, I have to get this. Whether I need it or not, I’ll put it in the cart and never wear it. It’ll sit in my closet and eventually find it’s way back to the racks of a thrift store.
Whether you’re avoiding clothes because it doesn’t have the right label or you’re buying clothes just for the label, you’re really limiting yourself. Unless you are a buying specific finds to resell in a store, the labels don’t matter. Whether you like the item or not should be the only thing you focus on. If you happen to like something with a nice label, that’s awesome! But it shouldn’t be a make or break.
DON’T GET STUCK ON SIZES
There are so many reasons why. To start, older clothing sizes are different than modern sizes. Different brands have different size standards. Older clothes can get stretched out or shrink. Sometimes bigger sizes are just more cozy. Plus, the racks aren’t always organized very well so smaller sizes may make their way to larger size sections.
I don’t like to limit myself to just one size section. It really makes your selection slim and you may miss out on a goldmine. Look through all the sizes and if you’re not sure about something, try it on.
KEEP A FRUGAL MENTALITY
It’s so easy to get carried away. When everything is $5 or less, it’s easy to say, “eh, if I don’t like it I’ll just give it back.”
Overtime, $5 really adds up and if you’re not a little stingy, you may wind up coming home with a pile of clothes that you really don’t like just because price wasn’t a big issue. If you’re not sure about something, try it on. If you don’t need it, don’t get it. If it’s not your style, leave it at the store.
Thrift stores shouldn’t be treated as a free for all just because it’s cheaper. Sure, you may not be adding waste into the world as long as you bring it back.. but why waste your money, even just $5 of it, on something you don’t love?
GIVE YOURSELF TIME
This is the golden rule of thrifting. It takes time. Sometimes a lot of it. When I go thrifting, I leave my kid at home with dad to avoid distractions and an impatient baby clock. I make sure I don’t have a ton to do. I go during nap time so I don’t feel like I have to rush back to help.
I do whatever I need to do to avoid feeling rushed.
The racks of thrift stores are full, and often a little all over the place. There’s stuff hiding behind other stuff, things aren’t always organized neatly, and you really just don’t know what is there unless you give yourself the time to try and take note of each item.
GO WITH A PLAN
Along with your frugal mentality, it’s important to have a plan. Going thrifting just for the sake of thrifting is better than shopping for the sake of shopping, but it’s still not going to do you any favors. Taking stuff home just because it’s cheap and doesn’t break the bank isn’t a great reason to take something home.
Before thrifting, I like to know what I need. I like to have an idea of items and colors I’m looking for. It not only saves money, but it’ll save you time in the long run.
If I know I need sweaters, then I can just look at the sweaters. If I need a few different types of items, I can at least know colors to avoid. Bright colors and really any shade of red are not for me, so I know I don’t need to look at anything in those colors.
Knowing the gaps in your wardrobe you’re trying to fill will be helpful in keeping you on track with what you need.
WHERE TO SHOP
A lot of towns will have local second hand shops. Looking out for those will hit the mark of second hand, reused, shopping small, and shopping local. Definitely a good choice if you have the option!
Goodwill is one that I like. There are some questions surrounding their operations and wages, but from what I’ve found, they really make a point to hire people who would otherwise struggle to find jobs and while their hourly wages may be less sometimes, they get compensated in a lot of benefits that cater to their specific health and wellness needs.
Facebook marketplace, craigslist, and eBay are good options! You have to be a little more careful about who you’re trusting, but you can find some really good stuff for a discount.
Apps like poshmark and thredup are good online sources as well. I like stuff like this because you’re directly helping an individual and these two are a little more heavily vetted so you can trust you’ll get what you’re paying for.
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler