Although a successful thrift shopping trip depends a lot on luck, there are a few things you can do to better your chances of coming across some treasures. Here are ten thrifting tips to help you out.
1. Develop a system. Especially in larger thrift stores like Value Village and Talize, it’s helpful to map out a plan to determine an order of sections you will visit. This is important if you’re running on a tight schedule, since you can go through your favourite sections or the sections you need something specific from first.
2. Find a thrifting buddy. This is optional of course, some people like to thrift alone, but personally I think it’s more fun with a friend! I usually split up with my friend(s) when we’re doing the initial searching but we meet up occasionally to show each other some hilariously outdated/ugly/whatevenisthat pieces and then of course meet up to go to the dressing rooms together so we can get opinions if needed.
3. Wear a comfortable and functional outfit: slip on shoes, not too many layers, breathable materials (because sweat), bottoms and a top (rather than a one piece dress/romper/jumpsuit/etc) to make try-ons easy and efficient. Also prepare for your hair to get super messy if you’re trying on lots of tops… especially turtlenecks!
4. Prepare to be exhausted. This sounds really dramatic, but thrifting takes a lot out of you. Get a good sleep the night before and bring water and snacks to keep you going throughout the day. Also, carts will save you in big thrift stores. Weak arms, a pile of jeans and sweaters, hangers falling everywhere and a giant store that takes you at least three hours to get through is not a good combo, TRUST ME.
5. Take risks and question everything. My inner dialogue at the thrift store goes a little like this: “WHAT IS TRENDY WHAT IS GENDER WHAT IS SIZE WHAT IS APPROPRIATE FOR THE PUBLIC WHAT IS LIFE?!?!?!” I’m the kind of girl who will be in the little boys section one minute, then the lingerie section the next. Have the bravery and confidence to take risks because honestly anything goes and there is no need to limit yourself. Also remember that if YOU like it, you should get it regardless of what anyone else thinks.
6. Do your research. This includes finding out when the store’s sale days are, printing coupons, looking at their Instagram account to see if they have good pieces coming in, looking at a map to see if there’s multiple thrift stores you could hit up in the area at the same time, etc. This information can usually be found on the store’s website, but another great way to learn is by talking to other thrifters in your city. Some stores are so small and out of the way that I don’t hear about them until a friend tells me, or sometimes I just get stuck in my thrifting habits and my friends will encourage me to take more risks or look at things from a new perspective.
7. Come with an open mind and not with expectations. If you’re looking for something specific, it’s pretty likely that the store won’t have it. Not every thrifting trip will be successful, but don’t let the disappointment turn you off from it. It is the treasure hunt aspect that makes thrifting so fun and SO satisfying.
8. Do not buy any article of clothing or decor that appropriates a culture that is not your own. That means being careful in the costume section and steering clear of the traditional outfit section. It’s a major YIKES when I watch a thrift haul video and the person pulls out that “silk kimono” or “oriental top” that they just “had to get because it’s so cute and edgy!!!” Cultural appropriation continues to be a very controversial topic, but it’s something I feel is never talked about by thrift lovers and also something I feel very passionately about, which is why I’m bringing it up. If you are questioning why simply wearing a piece of clothing can be so harmful, this article may help to clear things up.
9. Bring a reusable bag. One of the main reasons why thrifting is so great is because it helps the environment by reducing carbon, waste and water footprints. Continue to help the environment by ditching the plastic bags and bringing your own.
10. Donate your old clothes and keep the system going! You might not like some of your pieces anymore, but that doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Cleaning out my closet can be such a positive experience and it’s really something I need to be better at. And an added bonus is that thrift stores will often give you a discount card to thank you for your donation!
In addition to these ten tips, I’ve also compiled a short YouTube playlist with some thrifting tips videos. The cool thing about thrifting is that everyone has their own way they like to do it and it’s great to be able to share all the knowledge and learn from each other. Lastly I want to remind you that thrifting is definitely something that takes practice and these tips will help you get the hang of it faster, but it also just takes time. So be patient and just have fun it. Good luck and happy thrifting!