I love buying from charity shops – in fact, I haven’t bought clothes anywhere else in years. But charity shopping does have some differences compared to buying from high street stores. I thought I’d write a post with some tips for finding things you love second-hand.
I’ve previously written about the reasons for buying second-hand, but here’s a quick recap:
Sustainability: fast fashion is a huge waste of resources. Cheap, poor quality clothing often falls apart and ends up in landfill, or languishes in the back of wardrobes after only being worn a few times. And nowadays, clothing is often made of artificial fibres which fail to biodegrade when thrown away.
Ethics: most clothes are made by underpaid, overworked garment workers, often in dangerous conditions. I have a post about this here.
Cost: finding affordable clothes which are also high quality can be tricky. Charity shops often sell things for a fraction of their original price.
Now onto the tips! My first would be…
Be patient and persevere
If you’re hunting for something specific – size 6 walking boots, for example – you’re unlikely to find them straight away. You may have to go into several stores on several different days to find what you’re looking for. To me, that’s part of the fun – it’s so satisfying when what you’re looking for finally turns up! It’s a nice antidote to our culture of instant gratification.
At times, however, it can be frustrating if you need something immediately and can’t find it – if your shoes are leaking whenever it rains, for example. That’s why I recommend planning ahead – start looking for new shoes the instant your old ones start wearing out, and look for summer clothes before the weather gets hot.
Go to an area with lots of charity shops
Since you’re likely to have to go into a few shops to find what you’re looking for, it makes sense to go somewhere with lots of them. Areas which are less well off or have a lot of students are usually a good bet! I really enjoy doing the rounds of all my local ones, sometimes just for the sake of browsing and fantasising about what I could buy for my future home.
Make sure you’re buying the right thing
I avoid buying clothes from charity shops which don’t have a changing room (though these are few and far between). The only exception is for things like jumpers and coats, which you don’t need a changing room to try on.
Don’t be tempted to buy things which aren’t quite right just because they’re so cheap! You’ll probably end up redonating them further down the line.
If something does fit well, think what you’re going to wear it with. It’s no use buying bright patterned leggings if all your shirts are also bright and patterned and will clash with them! Imagine the item as part of an outfit.
Since you’re buying second-hand, always check things all over for defects – make sure zips work and there are no holes, for example. Keep your receipts if you’re worried – most shops do accept returns.
Don’t be squeamish!
The vast majority of people wash clothes before donating them, and charity shops will usually dry-clean them before hanging them out to make sure. If you’re squeamish about wearing other people’s castoffs, you may want to wash things again before wearing them. Buying second-hand is no grosser than borrowing clothes from a friend, as far as I’m concerned! I even get my earrings second-hand, but I sterilise them in boiling water before wearing them just in case.
Not all charity shops are created equal
Some charity shops have better quality stock than others, as they’re just pickier about what they accept. It’s worth finding out which ones they are.
Certain charity shops are particularly good for specific things, like men’s shirts, books or electronics. It can be useful to make a mental note when you notice things like this, so you know where to go if you need those things in future.
Some shops also tend to be a lot cheaper than others – in general, I find small local charities price things lower. Some will also have a £1 rail, which is fun to browse through. I found a really pretty skirt on one a couple of months back.
Certain things may seem to be priced too high, but check the brand – they may be very good quality. It could be worth paying a little extra for things which will last longer.
It’s not just clothes!
I’ve focused on clothes so far, but charity shops are also amazing for other things such as homeware, books, and electronics. Good quality cutlery, for example, is expensive to buy new, but many charity shops sell it for 10p an item or £1 a bundle.
I’ve bought crockery, DVDs, duvet sets, jewellery and more from charity shops. If something has no price label, don’t be scared to take it up to the counter. Usually whoever’s at the till will come up with a very reasonable price. I once got a pair of pretty curtains for £1 and two lampshades for 50p each that way – I thought I’d misheard the lady when she told me the prices!
When you buy second-hand, there isn’t so much of a moral issue with leather, wool and other animal-derived textiles. Personally, I still prefer to avoid them as I’m uncomfortable with wearing them (and I don’t want to be accused of hypocrisy!). If this applies to you too, check labels to look for wool, leather and silk, and learn how to recognise fur, which usually isn’t marked as genuine even if it is.
Remember you’re supporting the charity
Charity shopping is essentially donating to charity and getting something in return. This is great, and a win-win situation. But you may want to check the charity aligns with your values. For example, I don’t buy from charities which carry out animal testing – you can find a list of those here.
Many charities won’t let you use a credit or debit card if you spend under £5 – I prefer to use cash even if they don’t have a card limit, as processing card payments costs the charity money.
Lastly, try to give back by donating some stuff yourself. I like to have a clearout every so often and give things I’m not using or wearing to charity. It helps to keep my space clutter-free without throwing things in the bin.
Do you use charity shops? What’s the best thing you’ve ever found? Let me know below!