Thrift shopping is like looking for buried treasure. The deeper you look, the more treasure you find. By treasure, I mean pieces that are unique, rare and beloved. And, probably, at bargain prices too!
The world today is saturated with television, social media and trends, which after a while can all look the same. We crave something that is both unique yet appealing, different yet beautiful. This is where thrift shopping comes in.
I’ll never forget the $6 silk dress I picked up from a coastal op shop a few years ago. It was vintage but in perfect condition and with a cute frill neck, flattering swing skirt and waist belt… like nothing I’d ever seen. It’s a dress I’ve worn season after season, because I can. Unique pieces don’t date.
Then there was the handbag I nabbed at a Geelong thrift shop quite a while ago. It was only $5 and brand new. With its leather strap, durable cloth material and little gold zipper, I liked the cut of its jibe. I didn’t quite expect it to be a designer brand (YSL) and contain a certificate of authentication inside it. I’ve used it day after day for years and am amazed at how great it still looks.
And I could never forget the dark red leather vintage boots I found for $20. I haven’t been able to find a new pair quite like it anywhere and the closest I’ve come across cost a week’s wage.
I’ve also bought many furniture pieces from thrift shops, which have been lovingly repurposed for my home. My white, beside tables were once scuffed drawers at the Salvos that had frankly, seen better days. A little gold and white paint with some pretty new knobs, breathed new life into them.
The gold frame I have hanging in my studio, which I can see right now as I write, was a thrift shop find. I wasn’t a fan of the print inside but the large frame… that was a different story. For $15, I bought the gilded, oversize gold frame that would go for much, more at the framing shop.
Also on my desk is a pair of wooden bookends. Handcrafted, earthy and something I love, these cost me all of $2.
The possibilities are endless with thrift shopping and loads of treasures are waiting to be uncovered. With that in mind, here are some tips on thrift shopping which might help you to uncover some treasures of your own.…
Go in with an open mind and expect to uncover a bargain.
Thrift shopping is like keeping a gratitude diary. The more you ponder, the more things you have to be grateful for. It’s the same principle with thrift shopping, the more you fossick, the more bargains you will uncover.
You don’t have to love a piece; you just need to see its potential.
Could that timber chest of drawers be varnished and the drawers updated with new knobs. Or you could paint, spray paint or even collage it to make it your own.
Get off the beaten track i.e. go somewhere different.
For the best bargains, step away from the hot spots. Drive down to coast, Geelong, Ballarat, Daylesford and beyond for some less ruffled bargains. Go with some girlfriends and make a day of it.
The price is what it is.
Haggling over price is better saved for open-air markets rather than charity shops. Unlike many other shopping experiences, your money is directly going to a worthy cause. Granted though some op shops are hiking their prices beyond what’s reasonable but at the end of the day it’s for a good cause. If you’re not happy with the prices, shop somewhere else rather than bartering with the op shop volunteer.
Plan your journey before you go.
Perhaps there’s another op shop nearby worth visiting or a café to relax in post-shopping. Take a lunch break, take a coffee break and also know where your nearest public toilet it. Never in my time as a thrift shopper have I seen public toilets in an op shop. Bargain shopping takes patience and let’s be honest; it’s hard to feel patient and rosy-eyed about finding a bargain if you need the loo or desperately need a coffee.
You can narrow down your search for op shops if there are particular things you are looking for. Whether it’s books, furniture, leather coats, vintage clothes, hats, knick knacks, old materials, children’s toys, hat racks, a wingback chair for a DIY project or anything else you can save yourself some trouble by phoning ahead to enquire whether they have what you want there before heading out.
Prepare for the dust.
It sounds silly but consider taking tissues, water and even allergy tablets with you if you are allergic to dust, as some of the items in op shops can be really quite old. If you’re highly allergic to dust, wear a scarf over your face around any particularly dusty spots or items e.g. old books.
Some other Tips…
Shopping For Yourself
For clothes, look at the front label of the garment and most importantly, find the material description/washing instructions. This is usually a separate tag to the front label tag and is generally found inside the item on the bottom right hand corner. This is where you’ll discover whether the item is made of silk, polyester, wool, cotton, cashmere or anything else.
Inspect the item carefully and hold it up in the light. Are there any stains, tears or faded spots on it?
Your nose is a telltale sign. As a general rule, wash anything second hand that doesn’t still have the tags on it. In saying that, trust your nose and let it lead you away from anything with particularly dubious smells.
Shopping for Your House
Candles, knick-knacks, kitchenware, tableware, books and furniture are just some of the things you can find for your home when thrift shopping.
If you love old things and are a bit of a book lover, you’ll be gravitating towards the book section, where there are likely to be some great books to be found. Always open the book to a couple of pages in where the publishing details are. This is where you’ll be able to find out when (and where) the book was printed. For book lovers, it’s an amazing thing to find a really old book. There’s just a certain je ne sais quoi allure about it.
For those who love up cycling and sewing, consider thrift shop clothes to use as material as well. The material on a $5 dress may be just what you need for that patchwork quilt. Once you get into the creative mindset for up cycling, the options are endless.
And my final tip of all is simple… have fun!