21 October, 2009


I should probably preface this by saying that I'm not worried or stressed about what I'm going to confess - I think I must come across as more angsty than I really am sometimes!

So what I'm going to say is that I am really quite hopeless at thrift stores. I'm good at antique shops, or even 'collectables' (unless they're those awful ones that have fake antiques and other twee dross), but I just don't seem to be able to get it together for the thrift shops. I think it started in Uni when I'd go with friends and I'd go along the racks thinking "no, no, you must be kidding, no, wrong size, no, no" and so on, and the friend would come behind and pull out something I'd already looked at and rejected, hold it up and say "hey look at this!" and suddenly I'd realise it was a gem. "Why didn't I see that?" I'd think and feel thriftily inadequate. I still have this problem. I go into a charity shop or the Salvation Army and all I see are tired, unfashionable clothes that aren't my size. When everyone else seems to score gorgeous vintage sheets the only sheets I see are just old and horrible and made of polyester. The cute glasses or the neat vase are either not there or they're $45 because the old ladies know what stuff's worth. I'm actually genuinely curious as to why I have this problem - is it all in my head? Am I a snob? Do I have a mental block as a result of a suppressed bad thrifting experience at Uni? Am I really looking past the gems or am I in the wrong shops? Do I need to go every week? Or is on a random and infrequent basis ok? Is it better to go to them in posh neighbourhoods or ones where there might be a real turn-over of stock? I want to be good at this. I want to thrift and repurpose and come up with real bargains. I want to be cool internets, I want to be in with the crafty elite and do the thrifty vintage fabric thing, or the cool retro housewares thing. Anything really!


  1. Oh! The horror of uneventful opshop visits!

    There really aren't any hard & fast rules to opping I think - you just have to do what works... but it seems that nothing has worked for you so far! You must try & try again! ;)

    What works for me;

    Go often & stay long....! I probably visit my local oppies at least twice a week and stay until I've rummaged around in all the nooks & crannies. It helps that I sometimes use it as "me" time too & enjoy the entire process immensly, even if I don't find anything.

    If you go in often enough, or *shock* ask, you'll find out when "new" stock comes in so you can be there for all the good pickings...!

    I hardly ever go looking for something in particular, I go in with no expectations & am usually pleasantly suprised. If I am looking for something in particular not only amy I dissappointed when I don't find it, but I skim over other goodies because they're not my "focus".

    I think you really need to approach the whole thing with a new mindset, just see a trip to the oppy as a pleasant distraction instead of a desperate shopping expidition & enjoy browsing through everything, racks you would normally breeze by, boxes you would usually ignore, could hold a gem that has been waiting for you!

    As for where to go... that too is trial & error unfortunately! City stores vary from full of retro goodness priced sky high to sparcely stocked monoliths with things even the needy would reject. Country stores are generally cheaper, but you'll find some crazy pricing wherever you go - there is a set of old (...and grotty) kitchen canisters in an oppy here that are priced at $50 - you could get some in the same condition cheaper at a secondhand dealer, and anyone who would even consider paying that much for a set would know that, so they have been sitting there for MONTHS. I hear voulouneers pricing things sometimes & the mind boogles at their reasoning sometimes...!

    I have found however, after years of opping with great success, that the "weird" little oppies are often filled to the brim with treasures, if you're just willing to unearth them! You know the ones, "The Cat Society Thift Shop" or the "Christian Mission Opportunity Shop" or something, I think it has something to do with how they are run, the bigger ones like vinnies have a distribution centre that, well, distributes the goodies amongst it's stores, whereas those ones almost hoarde their donations, wich is good news for us!

    Good luck!!!

  2. I am on the other side of the fence from Vic - I am not good at thrift (op) shopping. In fact, I find the whole thing depressing. But, there are people who are very determined and gifted and so I buy from them - sometimes at shops but mostly on Etsy - and I like the fact that I can buy something that already existed and pay someone who did the hard work a profit margin

  3. when i go thrifting, i go with no expectations. & a determination not to buy toys! :) i go every once in awhile to look for decent bookcases (harder to find than vintage anything) or everyday shirts. i don't go that often as i don't really *need* much!

  4. i used to find gems at the local thrift store -things that were different than everythign else in the stores- and quite liked shopping there. however, lately its been a crap shoot. The stuff is junk and way over priced - at all our thrift shops. it took me quite a while to figure out why... i think its because people bring in what they have (when they're tired of it). and that now is all the cheap crap made in china that falls apart after 2 washes, fades and stretches into shapeless blobs.. and the teeny tiny jeans that all the women tried to squeeze their muffin tops into and finally figured out were made for little boys :)

  5. tell me about it! I think personally I don't have the skills to see something and revamp it, but I have been able to pick up things like fabric that I think I can use for later. Only, I haven't found anything to use it for yet.
    But I wouldn't say you can't hold your own to the crafty elitists. They don't always have great ideas.

  6. I know what you mean. I think actually its a gamble! You just have to play the game fairly often but there are no guarantees. I have a few shops that I visit regularly. Often there is nothing but occasionally there is a gem. I think that's why we get so excited because we know its a real find!

    It's not for everyone though. My husband and eldest daughter HATE it, but James and I really love hunting a bargain. It's obviously genetic!
    I tell David I'm cheap to keep but he actually would rather I brought one REALLY EXPENSIVE thing (lol) than 50 x $1 things.

  7. I know what you mean. I think its just being in the right place at the right time. I find if I'm not rushed for time I can think about what I am looking at more.

  8. I go because I'm trying to collect fabrics for a quilt I'm planning and like the idea of 2nd hand fabric it will add to the story. I also look around to see if anything stands out but not much does.

    At home, when we have things we no longer need I take them to the women's refuge. I remember talking to a woman there that said they work with the red cross and put a lot of things onto Trademe to raise money that way. So I guess from that all the best things get sorted out. Eliz.

  9. PS just realised the last comment I tried to post didn't because I didn't add the word verification!!

  10. Good tips guys! Thanks and I'll try and put them into action next time I go past the local opshop - which is a hospice one so I'll feel good supporting it too. I take all my donations there, guess I should do my bit to keep things turning over there too :)

  11. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only hopelessy one at op-shopping. I occassionally find something, but very rarely. Of course, I never have "me" time - so the kids dragging off me doesn't help; they're better than me at it, and normally come out happy with some plastic pink necklace (which we really need more of in this house, don't we!).
    Some great comments here, I'll try and remember next time I'm step foot in an op-shop.



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