10 Tips for Op Shopping

10 tips for op shopping

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.

10 tips for op shoppingHere are 10 tips for op shopping

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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


  1. Sam Grace on June 17, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Oh, I had wondered that about the more affluent neighbourhoods!
    I have this wonderful recurring dream you might relate to. In the dream I always find myself in an elderly woman’s home – one of those ones that has a lifetime of treasures and trinkets spilling out of every cupboard – and I am free to wander and explore. I always wake regretting the dream ended. I love old lady stuff lol. I wish I could do that for real one day!!!

  2. Helen Edwards on June 17, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    thanks for reading and commenting Sam! 🙂 I LOVE your dream!! You should sooo do it! I am sure there is a little old lady somewhere in the world who would open her doors for you. Have a read of this post https://www.sustainablehomehub.com/2013/05/18/memories-of-houses/ as I have a lot of dreams (at night and during the day!) and homes and houses feature in them too! Happy Op Shopping!

  3. Simon on February 1, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I love op shops too, especially the smaller hidden op shops – they tend to be a lot cheaper than the bigger op stores and have some special treasures. My favourite is Another Chance Op Shop in Canberra – little hidden gem in Scullin shops.

  4. Recycled_Interiors on March 18, 2016 at 8:13 am

    @Simon love the little ones!

  5. Kaye Woods on March 18, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Apologies if I’ve posted this before—–
    What’s In A Name?
    My Facebook friend JunkroomGypsy has used the term ” junking ” on more than one occasion to describe her Op Shop jaunts and, although I’m familiar with the practice, that word is not in common use around here. Is it just a Queensland thing I wonder? I did some research ( resulting in discovering some other surprising meanings that were also quite foreign to me! ) but couldn’t find out about its origins but it is a very apt description, don’t you think? We probably say Op Shop touring, trawling or maybe even scavenging. Anyway it is a very satisfying pastime because I always imagine that, as I step over the threshold, I will discover lots of treasures- ( once I overcome the smell of mothballs! ) Could there be a mirror ship, a moon vase or coloured glassware that needs a new home? Speaking of mirrors, did you know that you shouldn’t have them in the bedroom because, when your spirit leaves your body whilst you sleep, it gets a fright when it sees its reflection and this causes you to wake up with a start! ( Please feel free to contradict this if you have another explanation.)
    On occasion valuable items can be picked up for just a couple of dollars and I always feel a little guilty as I hand over this pittance to the sweet little old lady volunteers behind the counter. Actually that’s not true as I can barely contain my excitement but I do keep the high fives until after I leave the premises.
    On the back seat or in the boot
    Ample space for Op Shop loot
    Perhaps a battered old tin trunk
    A real “find” my friends- never “junk!”
    Sometimes surprises lurk on dusty shelves
    All ready for us to help ourselves
    Nothing better to keep you snug
    Than a brightly crocheted rug.
    Often items which are bought
    Can be ” repurposed ” with a bit of thought
    It is a satisfying pleasure
    To turn this stuff from trash to treasure.
    Approach this activity with an open mind
    Never knowing what you might find
    That could become a work of art
    And bring much happiness to your heart.
    Do not listen to negative voices
    Who express dismay at your junking choices
    They say- ” Don’t bring anything back!”
    As you’re about to hit the track.
    It may be something you really adore
    And to hear ” What’s that ugly thing for?”
    Does tend to dampen your day
    So don’t show them is what I say!
    Now I know this doesn’t appeal to some
    Not at all your idea of fun
    In junking shops you don’t belong
    So I won’t ask you to come along!

    • Helen Edwards on March 20, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      brilliant as usual!

  6. Melissa Chambers on March 18, 2016 at 8:32 am

    I did some Op shopping yesterday…comfy travel pants for me and school drama costume for my son all for $20!

  7. Sandy Parker on March 18, 2016 at 9:09 am

    there is NO op-shops whin-in an 80km radius from me 🙁 🙁 🙁 i love them with a passion!

  8. Anne Pollock on March 18, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Me too love em……feel amazing cruising around all of them….when the time is right….even brought back a cardigan I’d given to the op shop as I HADN’T worn it for ages…seen it and had a little think….yep back home it came…nuts I know BUT

  9. Tracey Douglas Rämä on March 18, 2016 at 9:46 am

    We recently moved and I told my husband that we should go for a drive to see if we can find any op shops. I thought it was christmas when I found one.

    • Helen Edwards on March 20, 2016 at 4:53 pm

      it is just like that when you come across a new one!

  10. Trish Farrell on March 18, 2016 at 10:12 am

    I’ve loved op shops all my life too,and even worked in them. Still do to this day at least once a week,and just love finding a treasure. I also have a good clean out once a month and donate too.

  11. Vivienne Flanagan on March 18, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    Find a group of like minded shoppers. When you are on the hunt for a particular item or look it helps to have a team looking. With modern phones you can take a photo, send it to your pal and get the okay to purchase on their behalf.

    • Helen Edwards on March 20, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      fantastic tip!

  12. Recycled Interiors on March 18, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    how funny it that!!

  13. Recycled Interiors on March 18, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    that is so funny!!

  14. Recycled Interiors on March 18, 2016 at 12:34 pm

    great stuff Trish Farrell

  15. Recycled Interiors on March 18, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    those are some great tips!

  16. Sandy Parker on March 18, 2016 at 12:50 pm

    I know U0001f622

  17. Ronhhda Potter on March 18, 2016 at 6:28 pm

    Denise Russell you could write a book on this

  18. Recycled Interiors on March 18, 2016 at 6:45 pm

    you must travel!

  19. Lisa Larson on March 18, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    Have been an op shopper all my life, and don’t even get me started on my awesome ( to me) china and glass finds, sourced many costumes for plays and drama class as well, so much fun

    • Helen Edwards on March 20, 2016 at 4:52 pm

      totally! Fun and money saving as well as being good for the planet – that is an all round win!

  20. Denise Cottrill on March 18, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    My Christmas party outfits have cost me $5 total and $11 total and been asked where I have shopped as they looked awesome. Love finding treasures at op shops.

    • Helen Edwards on March 20, 2016 at 4:51 pm

      brilliant work!

  21. Recycled Interiors on March 19, 2016 at 9:27 am

    wonderful! love it U0001f600

  22. Recycled Interiors on March 19, 2016 at 9:27 am

    Isn’t it the best!

  23. Emily Jayne Brown on March 20, 2016 at 6:39 am

    I did a very very simple repurpose years ago. I found a beautiful wrought iron 2 wine bottle holder and an old tall crackled glass decanter from an op shop that went into the wine rack and then I gor a 50c small round ceramic plant pot from Bunnings…I painted that my favorite shade of deep purple and placed my favorite mulled wine and spice candle into it and put that into the other side of the wine rack. It now sits on the fire place. Flowers can go into the decanter and I light the candle…all in all icost just under $10 and years later I still have it. Yes Think outside the Square (or round U0001f609)

    • Helen Edwards on March 20, 2016 at 4:50 pm

      Oh that sounds gorgeous! Yes it is a matter of looking at stuff from a different angle – both in real time and in your mind in terms of what is ok to have in your home. There is really no need to be continually buying new stuff for your home. Thanks for sharing

  24. Recycled_Interiors on March 20, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    oh that sounds amazing!!

  25. Recycled_Interiors on March 20, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    brilliant as usual!

  26. Helen Wilde on September 24, 2018 at 11:27 am

    Fabulous as always Helen. Your number one ti would be mine, too. So a couple of suggestions from me:
    1. Take cash with you: this is a great way to use your small change, stick to a budget, & not feel guilty.
    2.Get to know the Volunteers & find out what day they get their stock in. That way you can get in early.
    3. Check the ‘specials’ bins. My favourite Op Shop has a wire basket with 50 cent ‘oddbits’ in, another basket tucked under a shelf with oddments of cooking implements & cutlery in. I have scored tea strainers, eggslicers, vegetable peelers, & some silver plated spoons that I was able to repurpose as charming caddy spoons. Their special with this basket is 5 for $1, so well worth a look. They also put out baskets on the footpath, 50 cents for a framed picture, or a lovely biscuit tin, a big glass jar with a lid, or vintage glass bowls; and another rack with reduced price clothing, often around $3 a piece.
    4.Check out their stock of scarves. I have bought these very cheaply & used them to wrap gifts, more useful and often cheaper than gift paper.
    5.Look for handcrafted items. My local Op Shop receives donations from demon knitters and crocheters. They are presented for sale as pet rugs, and are not full size blankets, but perfect for knee rugs on a cold night. Or as pet rugs!
    6.Widen your range of donations: my favourite Op Shop has plants, and fruit, quite regularly. If you have a green thumb, drop off a few potplants or some lemons. They will be grateful & this will make you a Giver and a friend.

    • helene on September 24, 2018 at 11:54 am

      AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!! thanks so much for all of those tips! xx

      • Helen on September 24, 2018 at 12:21 pm

        aw..you are the best.

  27. Glenda on October 19, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    A great place to start for those new to the op shop/garage sale scene. Every year there is the national Garage Sale Trail. Some great bargains to be had. Its on this weekend.

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