Learning to thrift shop like a pro isn’t something that comes easily. I spend a lot of time at thrift stores and perusing websites that sell pre-owned clothing. Mainly because it’s part of my job as a reseller, but also because I am obsessed with finding quality clothes for my own closet at an affordable price. The excitement that I feel when I stumble across a truly amazing piece of clothing, and it’s less than $5, is borderline inappropriate!
But I haven’t always been good at thrift shopping. In fact, growing up I would detest even the thought of having to thumb through racks at clothing stores. I had to see an entire outfit on the mannequin in order to be interested. My love for thrifting took time to develop and I’ve honed my skill like an emerging artist over the past two years.
Before I get into how to thrift shop like a pro, let’s talk about why it’s important to shop secondhand.
- It’s good for the environment.
- Fast fashion is on the rise, but people are not keeping their clothing as long as they used to.
- “People bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, they only kept the clothes for half as long.” (source)
- It’s a fun way for you to find your own style without being influenced by the trends and advertising.
- Shopping at secondhand stores and websites allows you to buy better quality items at better prices so that you can stick to your budget!
Over the past few years I have been working towards being a better consumer, especially when it comes to clothing/fashion.
How to Thrift Shop Like a Pro
Keep an open mind
You never know what you will find when you step into a secondhand store. My biggest piece of advice is to not have an agenda. If you are only thinking about finding the perfect black tee or looking for a certain brand, you can miss all of the amazing items you’re skimming over. My process is to find my sizes and look at every piece in those sections.
This is also a great time to step out of your comfort zone. Trying a trend or a pattern you normally wouldn’t wear is easier to swallow when you’re only paying a couple of bucks for the item. This is the time to be adventurous!
Always inspect your items
This is one that I have learned the hard way time and time again. Thrift stores are notorious for having bad lighting, so it might not be until you get home that you see that giant stain on the back or the tear in the seam. Always inspect your items carefully before you buy them, most thrift stores do not allow returns.
On average I spend over an hour in a thrift store before I’m finished. It takes me at least two hours to go through every section front to back in a thrift store. So be patient, they don’t put the good stuff out for everyone to find! If you’re in a hurry, find the section that you’re looking for and hit it hard. But remember that most thrift stores restock inventory multiple times every single day. Just because one day was a dud, doesn’t mean the next day will be. You have to be patient when shopping secondhand.
Not all thrift stores are created equal
I’ve shopped at thrift stores all over the country and there is definitely a difference in atmosphere and clothing depending on where you’re at. Even different areas of town have varying qualities of items. You might have to visit a few thrift stores before you find the ones that speak to your style.
Don’t forget to check the home goods sections
Some of my favorite pieces in my home have come from Goodwill. Once, I found 4 dining chairs for $.50 a piece! Can you believe that! There was on time that I found a replica Renoir painting that now hangs in my kitchen, two ceramic candlestick holders that are displayed on my new living room shelves, a wooden lamp in the shape of a monkey reading a book while sitting on an elephant…. I mean I couldn’t even make this stuff up! These are some of the pieces that I enjoy showing off the most, and they’ve all been under $5.
The best place to buy books
I love to read! Goodwill is the best place to find books that are dirt cheap. I would say that 75% of my book collection comes from thrift stores like Goodwill. Because I don’t take the time to read as often as I used to, I feel less guilty for buying a book that I know will probably sit on my shelf for a few months before I get to it.
If all else fails and you’re not willing to rifle through racks and racks of used clothing and home goods, you can always shop secondhand online. There is a whole industry out there called reselling that does all of the hard work for you. These people scour the thrift stores and then resell the items on platforms such as eBay, Poshmark, Mercari, Tradesy, ThredUp, TheRealReal and so many more. These websites are an excellent way to find exactly what you’re looking for, all while staying in the comfort of your home.
Thrifting really does take time and practice to get it right. But the reward of learning to thrift shop like a pro is so much greater when you know you have found quality items at a great price, all while saving a piece of clothing from going into the landfill!