It’s a known fact that I enjoy op-shopping (thrifting) just a wee little bit. If by a “wee little bit” you mean “more than ANYTHING IN THE WORLD!!!!”
If op-shopping was an actual job, I would be quitting the one I already have and preparing to have an awesome, joy-filled career.
In the meantime, here are a few tips and tricks if you are a newbie to op-shopping, or just one of those people who doesn’t really understand it and thinks everything will be stinky and gross and smell like old people :
- Be Prepared to Rummage : Op shops are not like regular stores – everything isn’t always neatly set out in sizes and colours with multiples of everything. This is half the fun – you never know what you are going to find. I know some people hate that. They want to walk in and walk out with the item they wanted within minutes. They do not enjoy the chase. They are missing out on so much. You have to be prepared to rummage and look through lots of racks and explore. I personally think it is best to not go in with an exact “want” list in your head because, chances are, you won’t find what you’re looking for. Just enjoy the search and see what treasures you can unearth.
- Wear sensible stuff : What I mean by this is you should wear easy-to-remove clothing items so that, when trying things on, it doesn’t take you forever and you don’t get hot and gross or annoyed. Don’t wear button-up things (unless they are also easy to just pull off over your head) or pants that need belts. In fact, avoid trousers if you can. A skirt is a better option because you can pull things on underneath them. That way, you don’t even have to get undressed or risk the dreaded op-shop curtain fling (that scary moment when someone yanks open your changing room curtain to “see if anyone is in here” – happens all the time, makes me want to punch people) when you’re sans clothing. Ideally, a skirt and loose-fitting top works best – then you only have to get half-undressed at any given moment. Wearing a dress means you have to take it all off if you’re trying on another dress. But, then, I have been known to try things on over or under whatever I’m wearing. It’s up to you. Just go for simple and comfortable and easy to pull on and off. Same goes for shoes, obviously – don’t wear things that have straps or buckles that need undoing. It just makes the whole process more laborious.
- Where to go : When you’ve been op-shopping for most of your life, you learn the best places to go, and the places to avoid. I have certain shops that I always frequent because they are cheap, clean and always have great stuff. In WA, I really like Good Sammy’s. They have the best prices (which are generally consistent across all of their stores) and they are organised well. They have regular sales too – 50% off days which apply to all recycled clothing (as opposed to particular colour-tagged items). I live in hope of those 50% off signs – they make me so happy 🙂 I find Good Sammy’s to be excellent for dresses, shoes and handbags, as well as for books, knick-knacks and other household items.
- Don’t Haggle : Op Shops are usually run by charities, who have to make a certain amount of money each week in order to remain viable. Their stock is already very cheap so please don’t ask for a discount of any kind, or haggle, or ask for the price to be reduced if you have bulk items. Just don’t. It’s rude. If you don’t want to pay $3 for that cute little top (that is probably worth $25 new), don’t. Walk away from it and look for something else. I am the biggest cheapskate out, but even I won’t ask for a price to be reduced, regardless of condition of the item.
- What to buy : Obviously, buy what you like but don’t get caught up in the :Ooooh, it’s so cheap!” frenzy that sometimes affects us all. Yes, you may be able to buy 15 black t-shirts for under $30, but do you really need to? Find the one you like best and buy that one. Just because something is cheap, doesn’t mean you need it. It’s not a bargain if you don’t wear it. Keep a look out for designer items you might be able to sell on Ebay, if that’s your thing. Don’t buy items that require something else in order for you to wear them eg a sheer dress that needs a slip underneath it. Sure, if you have a slip that would go perfectly underneath, then cool, but if not, put the dress back on the rack and keep looking. It’s not very clever to buy something that costs you $5, if you then have to go and buy something to go with it that costs $25. It’s false economy, and the chances of you ACTUALLY going out and buying the extra item are pretty slim. Trust me, I know this. I have learnt my lesson.
- Don’t shop hungry : As I said before, op-shopping is generally not a quick expedition, where you’re in and out in two minutes. It takes time to rummage and try things on plus, if you’re lucky, you will have several op-shops in a row in one place, so you’ll be there a while. Make sure you take some water with you so you don’t get dehydrated (shopping is thirsty work!) and it’s a good idea to have a little snack with you too – some muesli bars or a handful of nuts or whatever. You make better decisions when you’re not hungry or thirsty. You don’t want to go home with a pair of lime green stretch pants just because your bloody sugar was low and you momentarily lost your brain.
- Know your colours : It makes life easier if you know what suits you and what colours look best with your complexion. You can scan past a whole rack of stuff and dismiss what doesn’t fit in with your ideal. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new colours once in a while but, generally, you should stick to what works for you and makes you feel good about yourself. For instance, I love yellow and mustardy colours, but I know I look like death-warmed-up in them. They make me look like I am about to be violently ill or have some sort of plague. I avoid them.
- Donate : There is a universal law that what you give out, you get back. So donate your unwanted clothes often. Have a good sort out and drop stuff off at the op-shop. While you’re there, you might as well have a look round, right?
- Don’t discriminate : Go thrifting in lots of different places. I know one particular op-shop that is situated in a less than salubrious suburb that has the BEST stuff. Sometimes the “posh” towns have crappy op-shops. There’s no guarantee that postcode equals quality – not in this case anyway. Some of the smaller, slightly dingy shops in out of the way places have really neat stuff and, because it hasn’t been picked over by all and sundry, you can often find a bargain on some quality items.
- Don’t be snooty : Within reason, everything can be washed and disinfected. I draw the line at buying underpants, but everything else is fair game. I’ve bought some lovely kitchenware and mugs, Tupperware and cutlery from op-shops. It just needs a good scrub and some hot soapy water. A lot of the stuff hasn’t even been used – you can tell by looking at something if it’s lived a hard life. Use your discretion.
- Take a buddy : I personally am happy to shop on my own, but there is something to be said for taking a like-minded friend along. My cousin and I thrift together often, and we have a pretty good system. Usually this system consists of me finding awesome things for HER to try on (because she is super skinny and fit and can wear anything) but we always have fun. It’s good to have a second opinion on items you’re not sure of. Someone who can shake their head and say “Um, no….” when you try to squeeze into that crushed velvet boob-tube. If the other person knows your size, they can be on the lookout for things you may not have spotted as you trawl the racks. A buddy can also guard your changing room for you and stop people barging in, or hold the curtain closed for you if it’s a tad on the not-wide-enough side.
- They have new stuff too! Thrift shops sometimes also stock brand new items. They get bulk amounts of “reject” products, ie things that haven’t sold somewhere else. There’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just excess stock. You can get undies and socks, clothing, and other items brand new, but at a fraction of the normal cost. I must admit to buying my undies from my local op-shop quite often. They’re $2.25. I refuse to pay $10 or $12 for a pair of undies. They’re a nice fit (I hate undies that ride up your butt!!!) and they are good quality and long-wearing. I’ve also bought one of those new-fangled bamboo pillows at the thrift shop for about half the price of one in the regular stores.
So, there’s nothing to it, really. Just go in with an open mind and find some treasures. And be prepared to walk away with nothing and be ok with that. The hunt is half the fun.
Happy thrifting everyone 🙂