So, as my about me blurb succinctly states, I am a self-proclaimed thrift store aficionado.
What it doesn't say is how this came to be and how I keep it up. So, I wanted to share a few tips I use every time I walk into my favorite thrift stores on how to find the best clothes, make the most out of repurposing something, etc.
1. Branch out and secure favorites: When my mom, grandma, and I go out thrifting, it takes all day long. Why? Because we've amassed a ridiculous list of thrift stores we frequent that pretty much spans the city we live in. To give yourself both variety and opportunity to find the best deals/treasures, visit a handful of stores instead of sticking to one or two. That being said, I do have my favorites. Goodwill will always be in my #1 spot, however this is due to regional backing. All Goodwill's are not created equal! The size, quality, and content can change from state to state all the way down to neighborhood to neighborhood. More affluent areas will have higher prices (sometimes even a different pricing system such as price per clothing item instead of general pricing) and better quality while older neighborhoods might have better pricing and greater variety. Also, I've been to a Goodwill store in the following states: Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and California. It appears that the southern states have bigger stores whereas the 4 (yes FOUR) Goodwill's I went to in California were just...awful. So small. So expensive. Ugh.
2. Know your stores: Different thrift stores will be notable for different things. I'll give you a rundown of the stores I go to and what I go to them for specifically.
Goodwill - Everything but especially clothes
Humane Society Thrift Store - Furniture
Helping Hands - Arts & Crafts/Picture Frames
ABBA House - Furniture
The Place - Various tchotchkes
No Longer Bound - Books/tchotchkes
The Pier - Furniture/Home Décor
Home Ministries - Christmas décor
The key here is to find out what each store carries the best of so, in the future, you'll know which stores to hit up when you're looking for something specific.
3. Keep an open mind: The whole crux of thrift stores is that, even if you're looking for something specific, the entire inventory is comprised of things someone else decided to buy. This means you have to be flexible in what you're looking for, which is the fun part! If you're venturing to find craft materials, slowly browse through every aisle. Pick things up, compare similar items. Take an item you like and carry it over to a different section of the store to see if a match can spark your creativity. Repurposing is one of my favorite reasons to go thrifting.
4. Clothes: So, a lot of people I know are hesitant (or are openly repulsed) about buying clothes/shoes from thrift stores. My answer (aside from a dubious eye roll) is you have to know where to go. As I stated in tip 2, you have to scope out which stores carry the best quality of clothing. Start there. Now, whether I'm looking for something specific (pants for work) or looking to needlessly expand my overfull closet, my rule of thumb is the same. Color and quality. Bigger thrift stores have racks upon racks of garments and can take hours to go through. If you don't have that kind of stamina, simply scan the racks for items with rich color (not colorful, just non-faded color) and good quality. Good quality meaning it hasn't been worn to death (pilling/holes/picked/stained/etc). This should narrow your search down quite a bit and from there, you can assess further quality as well as size and style. This may seem common sensical or unimportant, but I've gone shopping with people who wander aimlessly or get overwhelmed and give up but then ask me later however did I find such a cute top? You gotta work for it. : P
5. Name Brands: This goes for clothes too but is worth mentioning separately. Thrift stores, especially those in affluent areas, will likely contain name brand items. Name brand clothing, shoes, purses (very common), housewares, etc. can all be bought in good shape, secondhand. In the stores around here, I find a lot of Vera Bradley bags and purses, some that retired back in the early 2000's and some that came out last spring. Examples of other brands I frequently find are Columbia, The Loft, EXPRESS, Levi's, Fossil. Almost all of my closet is name brand items that I've never paid full price for.
It might not be much, but these tips are always in my mind when I go thrift shopping and they always helps me dictate what is really worth buying. I'm a person that would rather spend money on experiences than things, so when I can get the things I want for cheap and still look good, you better believe that's the way I'm gonna go. No shame. :)