Tips on how to thrift shop like a pro

To thrift shop is a sport, it takes time to find a good store, your niche, and time to perfect it. Here are some tips!

Thrift shopping is a sport, it takes time to find a good store, your niche, and to perfect it.

Having a successful thrift trip, can be challenging but this guide should help you with your perfect start.

1. Location matters

There are a lot of different kind of resale shops that sell different things. Goodwill, The Salvation Army, mom and pop vintage shops, Value World, Plato’s Closet are just a few to name. Typically some shops are more expensive and cheaper due to areas they are in. The quality of clothes will play into consideration as well, suburban, well to do areas tend to have more name brand clothes while ares with low income typically will not. It can be a hit or miss.

While living in Michigan, I tend to go to Value World located in Oak Park and Southfield. Those stores often have 50% off sales on everything.

2. Prepare to shop alone

Sometimes I do bring a friend or two but the best experience is by myself. Reason being, I like to throughly look around the store a couple times. I don’t like feeling rushed or pressured.

To fully get the experience of the thrift shop, it’s best to shop around for at-least an hour.

3. Wear plain leggings and tees

Back before COVID-19 it was easier to just go in a store and try on clothes.

Thrift stores, unless you are going to a highly acclaimed one do not have fitting rooms.

On occasions, you may have to slide a skirt or dress on top of your clothes to see if the pieces fit. I typically do not try on clothes at the thrift shop because I rather wash the clothes beforehand.

If I do try on something its typically a jacket. If you are comfortable trying on the clothes wear least as possible and solid colors to avoid clashing of colors.

4. Thrift shop on sale days

Thrifted clothes are already worn and should not cost you an arm and a leg. As mentioned before, Value World and The Salvation Army both have days when things are half off.

I have scored some pretty cool things while shopping on sale days. It’s nothing like seeing your bill for $30 bucks get brought down to $15. Be mindful as well that sale days also means long lines. If you have the time it is worth it.

Value World and The Salvation Army both as well have daily sales of certain tag items in their store that are typically 50% off the colored price tag.

5. Not everything should be thrifted

There are a few things that I think you should not buy second hand only because of sanitation regards.

1. Undergarments

Bras, and panties are just things I feel should be bought first hand because you just never know what someone else may of had going on. I suggest not donating those items as well, its best to just throw them out or find alternative for them.

Avoid buying someone’s used swim suits as well, due to the closeness of it on one’s previous body.

2. Beauty products

Not only do I see lotions, makeup and beauty items in the stores but also on the online thrift shop app Depop. The difference in buying it on Depop and in store is sometimes small business owners are using Depop as the platform to sell their homemade products.

3. Hats

Hats are complicated because there sometimes can be some really trendy hats at the thrift store. I think the issue comes with cleaning them.

Some hats can be thrown inside the washer and others can not. Plus with lice and other diseases it might be best to leave the hats at the store.

4. Shoes are iffy

I did buy a pair of Dr. Martens boots before at the thrift store BUT they came with issues. The zipper often got jammed or scraped my leg. Obviously they were at the thrift store for a reason. Meaning every pair of shoe is there for a reason and 9/10 probably not a good one.

Yes, people do outgrow shoes and get new ones but that doesn’t mean you need to get their thrown away shoe.

5. Kid toys, cribs, etc

Buy puzzles new to avoid missing pieces. Photo: Chandra Fleming

You shouldn’t get things like kid toys from the thrift shop because they may be impossible to fully clean. Plus kids always put toys in their mouths and other places. Some baby cribs and furniture have recalls which means you never know if the one you are buying are on recall unless you search online to see.

Avoid buying baby bottles because they can easily hold mold and other bacteria. Stuffed animals as well are not ordeal because they can be a nest for bed bugs and other germs like mildew.

6. Upholstered furniture

Cushioned furniture is a tricky thing because you never truly know why did the previous owner get rid of it. Could they have been in a flood? Or a infestation of bed bugs took over their home? Did their pet destroy the bottom of the furniture or pee all over it?

You truly don’t know so it’s best to buy fresh. Another item to avoid for the same reasons is mattresses.

7. Certain kitchen appliances

Blenders, coffee machines, and hand mixers all seem like good things to invest in since they typically will be half off the original price.

The issue is overtime items like that lose power in their motors. You may be catching a $5 blender that only has three more uses.

6. Don’t buy damaged clothes

Often times I find the perfect t-shirt or skirt that has the right pattern, right color. As I examine the piece, I notice a slight hole. Hmm, what I do?

I put it right back, because no matter how much I like the piece it has a problem. Some people can overlook it, up-cycle the piece but to avoid that hassle just leave it at the store.

Always examine your pieces by looking at collars for neck stains, tiny holes, bleached stains and overall just structure. If the piece looks overly dingy, then that means it has been worn too many times.

7. Look for things with new tags

If you want to avoid the scare of wondering if some clothes have been worn 100 times. It’s best to search for pieces with the original tags still on.

I say out of every five pieces of clothes, one piece may have the tag still on it. That can make your searching job harder but at-least you won’t have to worry too much if the item has been through one too many washes.

8. Be optimistic on your thrift shop journey

If you want to get into thrift shopping, you have to ignore what others say and go for you. I use the thrift shop for sustainability purposes, finding self style, and just to save money. Shopping second hand is a science in itself and you have to have an open mind in order to succeed. It’s not something you master in one visit.

Try different locations, shopping techniques, and game plans on how to tackle it.

I hope this guide was pretty useful and gives an idea on how to thrift shop. For more of my fashion content, check out my recent Spring Fashion Outfit Guide 2021.

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