3 TIPS FOR OP SHOP NOVICES - BECOMING SUSTAINABLY SAVVY

I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift

DISCOVERING THE ALLURE OF OP SHOPS

Today I'm talking about Op Shopping (or Thrift Shopping if you're not Australian). I've arrived late to the Op Shopping party, but I'm hoping to make up for lost time now that I've finally figured out the appeal of buying secondhand. I'm still not ready for fossicking through all the bric-a-brac to find a treasure in amongst the trash, and I haven't bought any shoes yet, but I've picked up a few clothing gems recently and now understand the attraction these shops hold.

FAMILY INSPIRATION

My daughter and DIL are huge advocates of Op shopping for clothes and shoes. They often talk about the bargains they've picked up and how many great finds they've made that cost very little in comparison to buying brand new. I've listened and doubted because over the years I've walked into many Op shops, looked around at the huge amount of "stuff", been overwhelmed by the strange musty smells and dingy decor, and subsequently turned around and walked back out again.

Apparently I've been doing it all wrong. For many years I've been avoiding Op shops and have missed seeing them evolve into their new format - where they actually look appealing and present their stock in a more user-friendly style. I also didn't realize that Op shopping takes time and perserverence - you can't walk in, spot what you want and be out again in a few minutes - it's a much longer process, but a rewarding one if you put in the effort.

I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift

I'm still a newbie to all this, but here's my three tips for Op Shop Novices:

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

If you're an Op Shop Novice the first thing you need to do is find a good Op Shop. There can be lots of stores in your general area, but not all stores are the same and they may not offer what you're looking for. Some focus on second hand "stuff" (a technical word for all the household palaver that people donate) and if you want to ferret out a treasure - glassware, ornaments, old records, kids' toys etc then this is the place for you. I'm not a fossicker and I don't have a lot of clutter in my home, so I do a quick scan but usually walk on by. Although I did pick up a vase once that I still love and have on display.

I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift

Often the Op Shops that have a lot of bric-a-brac are large and a little overwhelming. You walk into a huge space and some people go "Wow!!" and other people (like me) go into stunned-mullet-mode where you don't know where to start and feel defeated before you even begin. So, you need to find a store that feels comfortable to shop in - I prefer the smaller stores - they have less "stuff" but they often have more of the type of clothing etc that I'm interested in because they've had to be more selective. Remember larger may  not be better.

2. TAKE YOUR TIME

I used to find Op shopping tiring and overwhelming. There was just SO MUCH stuff and everything seemed a bit grey and dingy, and there was an overlying smell of mustiness that just turned me off. I couldn't understand how friends could enjoy them so much when I found them so difficult to navigate. Enormous amounts of clothing on dozens and dozens (and dozens) of racks - where do you start?

I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift

I also found that those racks of clothing were jammed together and there was SO MUCH choice but not much that appealed. Everything seemed worn out and weary - nothing jumped out and looked like it was worth the effort of the searching process. What I hadn't realized is that you need to go Op shopping without a timeframe. Both my daughter and DIL say it can take an hour or more of wandering and sifting and sorting to find a few gems. Previously I'd have thought that it was a waste of time, but now time is my friend and if I go with no deadlline, then a browse without pressure becomes a successful hunt.

3. A NEEDLE IN THE HAYSTACK

So many clothes, so much that's not suitable, so much that's not my size or taste, so why bother? Because there is often a gem just waiting to be discovered. If you go with a plan, and know your size, and what you need, you just might get lucky. I've been looking for a particular colour and style of pants for months - they're just not available in the stores atm and I was resigned to never finding a replacement pair. Then I walked into a little Op Shop, rifled through the pants section and pulled out EXACTLY the right size, colour and leg length that I'd given up on ever finding again - WINNING!

Another little secret is to try something on - it might not be something that you were looking for, but if it caught your eye it's worth slipping it on because you might be surprised. I found a lovely little skirt at a bargain price (it still had its original shop tags on it, so it had never been worn) that has been a great little addition to my wardrobe this Summer - and I nearly passed it by. Sometimes you get a little bonus like that and when things are so cheap, if it turns out to not be a success you can donate it back again and someone else might pick it up down the track.

SUSTAINABLY SAVVY

Now that I'm not working, I don't need to buy many clothes, and I'm also trying to keep my spending to a minimum. I've always been a frugal shopper, so finally figuring out how to do Op shopping well is another arrow in my quiver of living a simple and sustainable retirement. It's also a fun way to spend a little time, help a charity make some money, and to contribute to reducing landfill. I like the idea of being sustainably savvy - it has a nice ring to it. 

On a final note, we were invited to a wedding recently and I didn't really have a suitable dress to wear. I zipped down to the Op Shop and as I walked in the door, on the mannequin was a nice little dress for $11 - I checked it out and it was in my size, and still had it's original tags on (never been worn)! The helpful assistant told me that it was a half price tag so it was only $5.50 (bonus!), so I tried it on, and it was perfect for what I needed. Then when I got to the cash register the assistant said "let's just make it $3.50" - best day ever!

My bargain Op Shop purchase - $3.50!
My bargain Op Shop purchase - $3.50!

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Have you discovered the allure of Op/Thrift Shops? Do you use them for clothes or are you a bric-a-brac treasure hunter? Any tips that I've missed? Any bargains you want to share?

RELATED ARTICLES


I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift
I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift
I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift
I used to find Thrift Stores dull, dingy, musty and overwhelming. Now I'm discovering they've changed and have a lot to offer the frugal shopper. #sustainable #thrift

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38 comments

  1. That dress looks great! My husband volunteers for a chain of ops shops and my daughter works part-time behind the scenes in their admin. I love looking for china - vintage English china...I love it, although suspect that is the main thing my daughter will be cursing me for one day. Thankfully for her I rarely find exactly what I'm after.

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    1. I like that it gives me such a blast when I find just the right thing Jo. It may not happen every time, and it may take some fossicking, but a unearthing a hidden gem is so much more rewarding than walking into KMart and choosing from hundreds of the same thing.

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  2. Go favourite MIL! So glad you've discovered the joy of op shopping �� xox

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    1. You inspired me and it paid off - win/win! Op shopping has come a long way over the years and I just needed to catch up!

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  3. I'm just starting to discover the joy of op shopping!! (We call them Charity Shops here in the UK - or chazzers). I found a yellow handbag the other day - I don't think it had ever been used. I wear a lot of grey, and I have a black handbag for 'normal' use - but yellow just lifts everything and looks fab. A ray of sunshine on a cold dark winters day. And all for £3.99!!!

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    1. I love that! It's such a joy to find a little gem and to know that you're giving it a good home. I think your yellow handbag is going to give you a great deal of joy - and knowing that it was a bargain is the icing on the cake :)

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  4. Hi Leanne, I discovered op shopping in the mid 1980s when I was a poor, single mother. Back then I bought most of what I needed from op shops. I've shopped there on and off over the years, and some of my most favourite clothes are second hand. Second hand shops aren't really popular here in Russia, but there are a few and I've shopped in them when I've needed something specific. Of course I also shop for new things, especially winter boots (and underwear, but I think that goes without saying ;-) ). Now that we're minimalising our stuff ready to move from Russia I won't be op shopping for a while, but I do love looking around from time to time even if I don't intend to buy something. I also locate second hand and charity shops in other cities/countries when we travel! I don't really like shopping, especially for clothes, but spending a little time in op shops can be fun! :-)

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    1. Hi Cheryl - so much information here! I didn't know you'd been a "poor single mother" and I'd love to know more about that part of your life. Also where are you heading off to? Any reason for leaving Russia and that part of your life? Are you coming home or are you journeying to new horizons??

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    2. Oh, Leanne, there's so much to tell you! But I'm not going to hijack your post, I'll find another way to fill you in on my news, and my history! I promise I'll get you up to date very soon. :-) x

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    3. Yes! Email me because I'm dying to know all the details xx leanne.lecras@gmail.com xx

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  5. With all the environmental issues associated with the fashion industry, Op Shopping is the way to go. And as you pointed out, there are fabulous finds if you take your time.

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    1. I like the idea of contributing to less landfill and for the added benefit of finding something nice. I'm also deeply in love with the fact that the shops themselves have improved so much over the years.

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    1. Thanks Deb - it was so nice to have a win and for it to be so cheap.

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  7. My neighbourhood second hand stores tend to be a little dingy (with that moldy smell you talk about) but you have inspired me to look up other options close by. You can't beat that $3.50 dress...its less than a cup of fancy coffee.

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    1. That's what I thought Christine (and a cup of coffee here is $4.80 so I definitely scored). There seems to be more of these stores springing up and some are better than others - two of my local ones are definitely on my list to check on regularly now.

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  8. Hi, Leanne - I hadn't heard the term "Op Shops" before. I have been a long time fan of second hand stores of all kinds. They have always made so much sense to me environmentally, practically and financially. I'm also a vintage gal at heart, so second-hand treasures appeal to me. I also love now that it is so easy and affordabale to purchase second-hand books online. Super win-win! #MLSTL

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    1. Hi Donna - I wondered when I wrote the post if people would understand what I was referring to - I think you guys call them Thrift Stores and apparently in the UK they're charity shops - isn't it funny how things get different names? I think a secondhand store is still called that everywhere and I love it when you snap up a little bargain occasionally - I bought a $1 book the other day - in perfect condition.

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  9. Hi Leanne, I have to admit I’m not an op shopper, mainly due to the time issue. I have a group of friends who are much younger than me and they love op shopping. Your gorgeous dress has convinced me to give it a go. It fits in perfectly with the sustainable life I’m trying to live #MLSTL Shared

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    1. I didn't know that you had to give it a bit of time Jennifer - I'm a great one for popping into a shop (or looking online first) so I don't have to be in there too long. I've since been told that this doesn't work for Op shops - you have to look at it like deep sea diving - plunge in and swim around. At least they're nicer to browse in these days than in the good old days.

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  10. The other day I came across a gorgeous velvet silk lined evening bag for $8, I am just waiting to go somewhere nice to use it. I must admit that I am a bit tentative looking through the clothes at Op shops, the racks are usually bursting with goods.

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    1. That evening bag sounds gorgeous and I was tentative about the clothes too. Now days they hang them in size (and often colour) so I can skip over the majority and hone in on one small section. When you find something with the cardboard shop tags still attached and it's in your size and style, then it's definitely a win/win.

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  11. You look lovely in that dress, Leanne. We don't have Op shops in India and I'm not sure how well they would do. I remember wearing good hand me downs from uncles, aunts and cousins was a done thing in our family when we were growing up though.

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    1. There seems to be less hand me downs these days Corinne - people do it for children, but rarely from other adults - I just wish my Mum and I were the same size - her closet is packed with clothes she's never worn and I'm sure I'd wear some of them if she was a size or two smaller!

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  12. I've never been a fan of the second hand stores, probably because my shopping style is a "hunter" in the old hunter/gatherer mentality. Go in, find it, bag it, and get out is my shopping approach. I'm not sure even the hope of finding some gems could make me enjoy sorting through things for an hour!

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    1. I've always been the same Pat - check it out online first, dive into the shop and be out as quickly as possible. I think the benefit of Op shopping is that you find clothes that aren't the same as everyone else's - but it needs to be something you go to with time and an unstressed attitude - or take a friend to cheer you on!

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  13. This is a great idea! I know we have some good shops in my city but I haven't really given them a try yet. Thanks for the inspiration. #MLSTL

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    1. I hadn't either Sara - past experience from years ago had turned me off. They seem to have lifted their game and are trying to be more customer friendly these days so it's always worth a second look - especially if the shop looks pleasant (not dark and dingy).

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  14. Hi Leanne, the dress looks great on you and well done for finding a bargain. I actually hate shopping and the thought of browsing makes my skin crawl LOL:) These days I'm more comfortable in my active wear and I don't need as many 'good' clothes as when I was working. I know many people are advocates of Op Shopping and it is a great way to save money if you have the patience to look. Thanks for co-hosting #MLSTL and I'm sharing on SM. xx

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    1. Hi Sue - I was exactly the same, but now I have more time on my hands (and going with my DIL as my cheer squad definitely helped). I think it's something you get more proficient at with time and it's so much nicer than a giant department store like KMart. I don't buy much in the way of clothes and it's nice to not have to go into Millers!

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  15. What a find you had. I admit I am a looker but not a shopper except for a scarf one time and some jewellery. I sure am a donor and those who take our clothes and others up here are very appreciative. We live in a generally low socio economic area and there are many bargains but not anything I want. I know my granddaughters have made some finds in their suburban area of Sydney. A great way to look at saving for sure. Denyse #mlstl

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    1. Hi Denyse - I was much the same (other than the vase I found that time) until I went with my daughter-in-law and took the time to wander around while she browsed. I think when you find a good shop and have some spare time it's a great bonding experience. I'm hoping to do it with our daughter when she comes to visit sometime soon - practice makes perfect!

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  16. Thank you for making the world a better place with your focus on sustainability.

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    1. Thanks Luna - it's nice if we all find little ways to make our world a better and happier place x

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  17. What a deal Leanne! That dress is darling on you--only $3.50 and never been worn. That's amazing. I haven't been in a thrift shop in ages, but my experience was much as you described your past experiences. The smell...ugh...and so much "junk" to wade through. I've reached a point where I really dislike shopping, even in the nicest stores. Don't get me wrong, I like new clothes...I just hate the shopping process. Maybe that will change when I retire and have more free time. #MLSTL

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    1. I feel the same way Christie - I get quite daunted with all the fashion stores and seeing so many things that are "in fashion" but don't necessarily suit me. I buy very little, but when a dress was less than $5 (rather than at least $50 that I expected to have to spend) then I couldn't resist - and I'll donate it back again if I don't find another place to wear it in the next 12 months - all part of my wardrobe management plan!

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  18. Leanne, My daughters really love shopping at Thrift shops, especially for clothes and toys for their young children. I have started popping in and I have found some gems. We also ‘shop in each other’s closets’ and trade clothes between family and friends. The other word we use around here is we are “recycling” clothing and stuff. I LOVE your dress. Great find!

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    1. Hi Erica - I found it really strange that both my daughter and DIL were avid Op shoppers - I thought they'd turn their noses up at the idea of second hand clothes, but apparently not! I'm so glad I got to go with my DIL and get past my initial "overwhelm" to find some gems - it left me with a really positive experience and the desire to give it a go more regularly - and I can drop off my donatables at the same time! win/win!

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