As part of the movement to creating less waste, as well as saving some cash, more people are now recognising you can find quality items and do something good for other people and the world, by shopping vintage. This is especially true for clothing, furniture and homewares. I remember when I was little, my parents would take me around op shops and secondhand stores. I used to wander deep into the depths of the shop, my eyes wide open looking for treasures I could afford with the spending money thrust into my hand. It was probably no more than a few dollars but to me it was gold. Often, I was drawn to green coloured glass and I am still a lover of glass and old china today, and most of my clothing is bought in op shops.
Far from all being dusty, pokey little places (although I do love those!), lots of op shops have gone more upmarket and they sell everyday and luxury items at a reasonable price, ranging from homewares, to clothes and jewellery, books, art and furniture. Many of the large charities have numerous regional and city stores, including the Salvation Army, St.Vincent De Paul and Save the Children.
If you are a seasoned op shopper like me, you will know that second hand stores, op shops, markets and garage sales can be full of absolute gems! If not, it may be hard to know how to start, where to look and what to buy. There are plenty of things to be found for decorating your home. Lots of people are now turning to using pre-loved items in their home, with the win of these being a bargain as well as supporting charities.
Here are 10 tips for op shopping
- Locate the good ones: The first thing you need to do is find them and work out where the really good ones are. You can usually find quite a lot by a Google search and there are some websites that pull the links together such as the Op Shop.org site but some are small (and can be the best ones) so asking around and keeping your eyes peeled for them is also a good idea. I tend to stay within my own area and pretty much know all of the good ones within a 20 minute drive from home but be prepared to go further.
- Visit often: especially if you are on the hunt for a particular item or if you are really keen to find treasure, as stock tends to turn over quickly, well the good stuff! And it is one off in most cases.
- Think outside the square: as some items may be used in different ways, re-purposed, or look fantastic with a coat of paint, new fabric, or just a clean up. Consider the shape and line, as well as quality of a piece of furniture, not the finish.
- Don’t just shop locally: When travelling I always Google search for op shops in the local area to see what is around, and go hunting – it is nice to find things in other towns and cities and country towns can have AMAZING op shops!
- Vintage Fashion: Shopping in the op shops situated in the more affluent suburbs often scores you lots of designer clothes and quality antique pieces. Recently in one of Adelaide’s upmarket suburbs, I picked up a DKNY gold cardigan, a soft plum Table Eight Sweater and a pair of Country Road Jeans for a total of $30! And some great original art and a 1970’s Danish style side table.
- Pre-plan your visit: There are some important things to consider when looking for fashion. Most op shops will have a range of clothes and usually somewhere to try them on. Some are specialty fashion shops with a focus on clothes, while others are more into the collectibles and furniture. Often you will find clothing that is from well known designers, hardly used, or even brand new with tags on. Read sizes carefully – as sometimes very vintage and retro sizing is different to what you may be used to, and be sure you try before you buy – don’t assume it is the same as your usual sizing.
- Carefully check stuff! It is important that you check everything you buy. You may find a little crack, a missing piece, a rickety leg, or a pulled thread later and you will not notice it unless you look. Some charity store items are non-returnable and unless you are willing to fix any flaws, you may want to avoid buying things that you will end up throwing away.
- Inspect furniture and electrical items: A lot of charity stores have certain regulations when accepting donations. Some will refuse mattresses or electrical goods for example. You should feel comfortable with the items you buy and if you buy responsibly, inspect items yourself and purchase from a trustworthy store with a safe donation process, you should be fine.
- Be prepared to think outside the square : You might find an old chair you can upcycle, a box or shelf that can be used in a different way, or some fabric you can turn into something beautiful. Also you will have to go with an open mind as you can not look through a catalogue and pick your cushion, it is all about going along to see what you can find and that has a lot of benefits and is fun! Finding a piece you really love may then send you on a theme you want to work on and can look for other pieces to finish your room. I also find a lot of linen which is simply gorgeous.
- It is a cycle – donate too!: We always donate items that are not able to be used by us anymore. This keeps the charity stores alive. Stuff that you no longer want does not need to be thrown away and could be of use to someone else. For more information about donating, go to your local or chosen charity’s website and find out whether they have a store near you.
Do you have any favourite op shops to share?
*Update of a post originally shared in 2016