Secrets To Being A Great Thrifter


Secrets To Being A Great Thrifter

In my household, we love to go thrifting at second-hand or consignment stores. My daughter and I have a weekly Saturday tradition of going out for coffee, then “thrifting.” Often, stores are cluttered, but we find ourselves drawn to things with a past. Clothes that may look dated on the hanger, jump to life with new styling or a youthful eye. Dishes or little figurines that collected dust for years may simply be overlooked. I like to think about the origin and life these items had before they arrived at the second-hand store. Did the baby outgrow these shoes before they were ever worn? Was that figurine gifted to a mother? We love to wander and wonder.

Still, shopping at a thrift store can be overwhelming, so there are a few things that help us identify where to look, what to bring home and how to determine value.

  • Begin with a quick scan, then go deep in the areas where you know you have a need. Do you have an upcoming event for which you need a dress? Review all the dresses on the rack in your size range. Are you looking for a coat, blazer or athletic equipment? Go directly to those areas to see what is available. Unlike a department store, if you don’t see what you are seeking, then you are out of luck.
  • Embrace classics and neutrals. Shop for traditional over trendy. While you’re looking, keep an eye out for wardrobe basics. A well made white button-down or designer blazer will never go out of style. If you find one, it’s worth it! Exception: go for a trend if the price point is right, low ‘cost per wear.’
  • Skip something you don’t love. Too often, I have tried to make something work that wasn’t exactly right for me. Predictably, I regret the purchase. If the size or color aren’t quite right, then pass. Anything damaged is likely to remain in your project-pile, so save your sanity and your dollars by leaving those things behind.
  • A question I ask before purchasing items for the home (like decor or seasonal purchases) is, “Where will I put this right now? Again, if the item requires a project or adjustment, I’m unlikely to follow through and I’m adding to the clutter in my own home.
  • Do you collect anything? I’m not a big collector, but I love to decorate with specific colors, so if I see something in that pallet, I’ll consider whether I have a place for it.
  • Another thing to look for are whimsical items you might use just for fun. I like to put tea cups in the garden or a seasonal figurine on my coffee table. If you love corgis or tea cups, you will find treasures to bring home. Become more environmentally friendly and consider gifting curated finds. Often, the time and thought, along with the treasure-hunting story, are meaningful to the recipient.

Here are five things I suggest one always buy used:

1. Quality cookware that remains in good condition. Stainless steel, Le Creuset or barely used dishes for your college kid can all be cleaned and look like new.

2. Designer accessories. Name brand handbags, scarves or jewelry are hot items!

3. New with tag basics. Occasionally, you will come across brand new items and if you will use it, it’s hard to go wrong. 

4. Additions to a personal collection. This is for those who enjoy items like Fiestaware or Precious Moments. 

5. Whatever brings joy. Does it conjure a memory? Remind you of a special time? Inspire you?

Like people, everything found in a thrift store has a back story and a future. Every item we encounter has past experiences and unknown potential. Grab a friend and spend some time this week at a thrift store — you may find it’s something you love!


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