Have you ever walked into a giant thrift store and felt overwhelmed? Do you feel like you never find anything good? Do you know someone who is always showing off items they found at a thrift store? Here are my best tips from my 18 years of thrifting.
Go through your house first. Gather up a donation pile. Go into your closet with a trash bag in hand. Snatch up those old toys your kids never play with. Get rid of the things that are cluttering up your space. Out with the old, in with the new-to-you.
Look for thrift stores in nicer areas. It just makes sense that the higher-income areas will have nicer merchandise and generally less customers.
Shop in the opposite season. Spring cleaning time is the best time to find a great winter coat. Summer is great for buying jeans. Back-to-school time is best for kid’s clothing.
Know what you’re looking for. And be specific. Example: I need a retro house dress in a casual print with large front pockets. Or, I need a pair of dark straight-leg jeans that fit. I want to redecorate the wall in the entry hall. I need funky fabric for a quilt. Don’t go shopping without a plan. You’ll end up with a bunch of cute junk you can’t use, it will clutter up your house, and you’ll end up donating it.
Pick through the rack one piece at a time. Go to the section you need (ex. jeans). Start at one end of the rack in your size. Slide each hanger across the bar as you work your way down the rack. If you don’t do this, you will miss something great. There’s always that one “score!” piece hiding between two ugly pieces; hanging halfway off the hanger.
Know your size. Your real size, not the size you want to be. Don’t waste time with pieces that are sooo cute but in your heart of hearts you know: that ain’t gonna fit. It’s also handy to keep a list on your phone’s notepad of your measurements and your family’s sizes.
Try it on. The return policy: No returns. Don’t just eyeball it and think it will fit. Some clothes are wonky, some look bad on a hanger but look great when you put it on. This is most important for jeans. It’s easier to spot holes, rips, tears, and stains when you have it on.
- As you try them on, separate the items that don’t work from the ones that do. Put all clothes back on the hanger as you take it off. When you’re finished, you can walk out of the dressing room with two sets of clothes and easily deposit the unwanted items to the reject rack.
Know what items are must buys and which ones are never buys.
- Must buys: stainless steel briefcases, treasure chests, serving trays, candlestick holders, picture frames, framed mirrors, lace tablecloths, lace doilies, good quality wicker baskets, awesome lamps, bookends, candlesticks, framed art, sturdy cardigan sweaters, well-fitting blazer, anything clothing made with corduroy material (for sewing).
- Never buys: athletic shoes, hats, wigs, sheets, bedding, pillows, mattresses, pet beds, or underwear. Most thrift stores wash clothing as it’s donated, but that doesn’t kill the bad stuff. Think athlete’s foot, toe fungus, fleas, bedbugs, and lice.
Know that your donation and patronage is helping someone else. Whether it’s a charity or the thrift store is a small local business, it’s beneficial to your community. AND it’s recycling.