You’re scrolling through Instagram in bed, which you swore you’d stop doing. You’re desperately trying to get past your friend’s “take-me-back” vacation photos, and all of a sudden you see some outfit inspiration. It’s the most gorgeous white linen top and matching culottes. Right when you tap the tags to see where you can get that gorgeous-yet-slightly-vintage outfit, you see that it’s from the thrift store. You’re likely amazed since the best thing that you’ve ever found was that bulky sweater that screams “I’m secondhand!” and can’t seem to figure out how this whole thrifting thing really works. Well, this post is for you.
Thrifting is not as easy as walking through a department store, finding the item you love, and choosing your own style. But the benefits of thrifting are better for the planet, your wallet, and the landfill. As someone that’s been in the thrift-game for years now, I’m here to take my knowledge and pass it on. Here, take the baton. I want to make your trip a little easier, so you can see just how much fun thrifting can be. There are four foolproof tips that will get any beginner — or someone that’s been thrifting for a while — an easier thrift store trip.
First off, I applaud you just reading this. It means that you’re ready to make the switch to a more sustainable wardrobe, which means you deserve a big pat on the back. Now, with that out of the way, here are four tips to make your next thrift trip that much easier.
1. Make a list.
Going to the thrift shop with a list is one of the best things that you can do to make your thrift trip a little more organized. The thrift store has everything you can possibly imagine. There are hats and dresses and skirts and blazers and everything in between. If you have a list of items or outfit inspiration that you’re going off of, you’ll know exactly which color and item sections to hit when you walk in the door. Of course, you don’t have to stick to this list, but it will give you someplace to start. It will also help with the overwhelm of so many sections, not enough time.
Personally, I have two ways of making a list. While a lot of people like Pinterest, I tend to get most of my outfit inspiration from Instagram. I have a saved collection titled “Outfit Inspo” on the ‘gram. I pull it up when I’m at the thrift shop to see which colors and items that I’ve been loving lately. That’s where I start.
My other tactic is to have a running list on my phone of items that I can’t seem to get off of my brain. For example, I have been all about straw hats and bags lately. I kept thinking about the items over and over, so I added them to my phone list. I actually found both of them within the month, too. (You can see them both on my Instagram page.) The only rule for the list is that I have to think about the item three times before it’s added. That way I know that it will work well in my wardrobe and not sit in the corner of my closet.
2. Bring cash.
When the possibilities are endless and the prices are low, the thrift store can seem overwhelming. Sometimes the hardest part of thrifting is deciding what you will or won’t get. Especially if you have the privilege of being able to afford the prices. Next time you go to the thrift store, try taking a set amount of money with you next time you go instead. Yes, actual paper money. You’ll be forced to look at price tags and buy only the items that you’ll actually use or wear.
3. Get a cart.
Just do it, okay? Even if you think you’re only there to get one thing. Just grab a cart when you go through the door. When both hands are free, you’re more likely to check price tags and labels. You’ll make more strategic purchases and be able to see all of your item laid out in front of you. That way it’s a win-win for everyone involved — you, the planet, and your wallet.
Seeing everything in front of you will make it clear that you have four skirts and maybe don’t need all of them. Or that you found three mugs and should possibly put a few back on the shelf. I can’t tell you how many times that I’ve seen friends head to the checkout and forget that they held that item that they only-sort-of-liked. They end up putting it on the counter with everything else and creating more clutter in their life. Grabbing a cart is an easy way to skip that and buy the items that you truly want in your life.
4. Don’t scan every aisle.
The sections at the thrift store are pretty much endless. There’s everything from sweaters and hats to homeware and books. Heck, some stores even keep winter jackets out year-round for the people looking to shop early. It can easily feel overwhelming. Just know that you don’t have to scan every single aisle. Maybe you’re only looking for the perfect pair of shorts one day. Maybe the next you only want to see if there’s a good deal on picture frames. Don’t think you have to do it all.
It can be hard to feel like you might miss out on the perfect item at the thrift store. Especially since items are all one-of-a-kind and not guaranteed to be there next time around. But that doesn’t mean that you should spend hours in the thrift store. Stick to the aisles that interest you and your wallet will thank you.
Remember that you will find the items that you are meant to. You don’t need to buy everything from home goods to accessories all in the same trip. Thrift shopping is all about the hunt, but you should only be hunting the items that you truly need in your life. You get to decide what that is, and I hope that these tips make your job secondhand shopping a little bit easier.