A Guide to Thrifting

Okay, grab a cuppa, settle in. Let’s talk thrifting; scouting for little treasures, vintage gems, and old things that make a house more homey, unique and a little more charming.

I love thrift shopping but I know it’s not for everyone — the dust, the piles of stuff, the fact that it’s been used before. If you find op shops overwhelming or unappealing, here’s a little guide I’ve put together on how to get the best stuff, what to look for, and how to bring it cleanly into your home.

First of all, why thrift?

  1. Charm: It’s easy to go to Freedom or Ikea and outfit your home, but what you’ll end up with is a look that is just like everyone else’s, and one which has been “sold” to you, so to speak. Buying eclectic, vintage or handmade pieces that can’t be bought elsewhere adds something special to your home. I enjoy mixing both new and old when it comes to decorating our home, depending on the pieces (e.g. second hand couches, ew. But vintage mirrors, mis-matched dinner plates or crochet blankets? Yes please). Mixing new and old can create so much depth and character while giving your home that extra bit of warmth and coziness, creating a stamp that is uniquely yours.
  2. Save Money: If you don’t want to spend thirty dollars on a cute water pitcher, go thrifting. If you want a vintage, handmade piece of children’s clothing but don’t want the Etsy price, go thrifting. If you want a one-off piece of art but don’t want to hand over your credit card to pay for it, go thrifting. If you want some fun but inexpensive seasonal decor, like brass candle holders or weaved baskets, go thrifting. Basically, if you want to save money, learn to go thrifting.
  3. Consumerism Break: Sometimes when I shop at Target for clothing or Kmart for home decor, it doesn’t feel good as I think about the process it took for those items to make it to my house – the severely underpaid workers who made them, the environmental impact, the cycle of waste. When I op-shop, it feels good to know I am part of the recycle process, using what already exists instead of tapping into the Make, Buy, Discard culture.
  4. Quality: There’s a reason parents and grandparents still own a good majority of the things they bought years or even decades ago. With all of the mass-produced factory-made things floating around, most of which ends up breaking and being tossed, we could all use a few old-fashioned, high quality items in our homes.
  5. Quantity: Because things bought at a thrift shop are less expensive than if you purchased them new, you can afford to get things you really like in greater quantities. Example of this for me would be: baskets for storage, kitchenware, vintage skirts, quilts, jugs and vases, kid’s clothing, and pretty linens. I always stock up on these things if I come across them.

 So, what’s worth thrifting?

Well, this is of course hugely personal, but I’ve put together a little guide on how to get the best stuff, general things to look for and some tips to maximise your thrift shopping experience.

  1. Go Solo, Be Thorough: If you can, go without kids or a nagging partner. I’ve thrifted for years and years and find it fun and successful to thrift either as a quick whip around with kids in tow, or by myself taking my time going through it all. HOWEVER, if it’s new to you or you find it overwhelming, pick up a takeaway coffee, go alone and really take your time digging through clothes racks, sorting through piles and finding hidden gems. Most people think you just walk into an op shop and these little treasures are just right there in front of you, waiting to be snapped up. Sometimes they are, but more often than not, you have to be a little more thorough, keep an open mind, and have some idea of what to look for.
  2. Season Change: When it comes to clothing, op-shopping on the cusp of a season change is a great time to snap up some real gems. People tend to clean out their closets or go through kid’s cupboards when the weather starts cooling down or heating up again, preparing for the coming season. Don’t expect to find some great knits when you are halfway through winter already. Start looking at the start of autumn, when you notice the temperatures shifting enough for people to be reconsidering their wardrobes or those of their children.
  3. Know What to Look For: This is personal, but having some idea of what you love, what you collect, or what you need helps with the process. Areas I always make a beeline for and have a look through are: blankets, quilts and linens, kids clothing, baskets, vintage suitcases, mirrors and frames, kitchenware (jugs, serving platters, vintage dinner plates, tins) and women’s skirts. 
  4. Branch Out: The great thing about thrift shopping is that you can be adventurous and spontaneous. If something only costs $2, it’s easy to be daring and try it out, even if it’s not something you’d usually go for. For example, this embroided knit jumper?I found it yesterday for our new baby girl and couldn’t decide if it was really tacky, or if it would look super adorable paired with a floral skirt and boots. IT WAS $1.50, FRIENDS– just try!
  5. Know Where To Go: I live in Shorncliffe, so I op shop well away from centre city stores. I bought a cute basket for the kids to gather Easter eggs in on Easter Sunday for $2 last week, and when I had a quick look through some op shops in Paddington recently, I couldn’t find a single basket for under $15. Generally, you need to steer well away from thrift stores around the city centre including Paddington, the Valley, New Farm and the city itself, if you want to find some inexpensive treasures. My go-to stores are: Virginia Lifeline Superstore, Brighton Vinnies, Sandgate Salvos, and my biggest treasure trove of op-shops: MARGATE. Margate has an amazing strip or thrift stores I find good things in all the time, including Save the Children, Lifeline, Vinnies, Endeavour, and a cute little vintage shop I found called Poppy Vintage. Find some thrift shops in some suburbs out of the city centre near you and go raid them. Some churches and parishes also have op-shops tapped on the end of them which are definitely worth checking out.
  6. Road Trip Shopping: In staying with the out-of-city tips, don’t forget to tap on a quick browse through a thrift shop on your road trip if you’re ever going somewhere out of town. Often, small country towns are a goldmine for vintage treasures and I have found the BEST little finds in my road trips over the years.
  7. Go often: Thrift shops have new stock all the time, so don’t get discouraged if you look and can’t find anything, or if you’re having a bad bout — chances are your next treasure is right around the corner.
  8. Snap It Up: If you see something you love but it’s the wrong season or 3 sizes too big for your kid, snap it up anyway and store it away. Gems don’t always last long (especially if they are the hand-made, vintage kind). I once waited 3 years for Ella to fit into a Fredbare Originals plaid Christmas dress I found in an op-shop once and it was worth the wait.

A few more things to keep in mind: 

  • Don’t go with hopes to find that “magical thing”. Chances are you won’t.
  • Have an open mind.
  • Bring water – I always get a sore throat when I thrift!
  • Clean and wash your items thoroughly when you bring them home.
  • Try not to buy anything you have to mend if you’re not a sewer. If you don’t sew now, chances are you won’t in the future and you don’t want clutter building up in your home you’ll never use or wear.
  • Remember you are helping your community by both donating and thrifting.

I hope this has helped and inspired you to head out thrifting! It’s a whooooooole lotta fun, you guys.

What are some of your op-shopping tips? What do you love to thrift for?


5 Responses to “A Guide to Thrifting”

  1. Jane Bowden

    A girl after my own heart. Denise has always been my thrift shop buddy. Since moving to the coast I miss our outings. I’ve decided to train Isobel now as she loves to come to Vinnies with me!! She found a beautiful Princess Elsa dress for $5!!
    Marian and I would rush to the Smith family sale every Saturday morning. That’s where most of our furniture came from. We would bring it home ,clean it , pull it apart and either sand each piece or (ugh) strip old paint off. But the satisfaction of a beautiful piece furniture. Priceless. I still take joy from each piece.

  2. Caitlin

    Oh God I am SO OBSESSED with opshopping! Like, I’m actually addicted. There’s some study about the hormones that are realeased when someone likes or comments on your social media, it’s a “reward” that is addictive to your brain, and I feel exactly the same way about opshopping, finding a treasure is golden and the thrill is so addicting. Anyway, love this post from one addict to another. Hahahah. Gonna check out Margate asap!


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