Shopping at op shops (or charity/thrift shops) is a great way to save money, and it’s also a wonderful way to re-use and repurpose gently used (and sometimes hardly worn!) items. I also love stopping into op shops for vintage and unique homewares like ceramics or art. Some of my most favourite decor items in our house have come from our local op shop and have cost me less than $5. It feels like winning the lottery when you find something good!
I also love checking op shops whenever we need something specific that we might not want to keep forever — things like camping gear for school camps, costumes for dress-up parties, or black sneakers for a dance recital. I’m almost always able to find perfectly good items at a cheap price, and then I don’t feel bad returning those things when we don’t need them anymore. (Having limited storage in our house has forced me to be strict about what we buy and keep in our home.)
We are lucky to have a great op shop in our little town, and a few others in nearby towns, so we’re often popping into an op shop for something or other. I thought I would share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learned from my op shopping experience.
Ten Thrifting Tips:
- I almost always go straight to the kitchen section first. I look here for ceramic mugs, vases, bowls, dishes, etc. So many of my favourite vases and ceramics were found at op shops. I have also found so many one-of-a-kind little bud vases for $1 or $2. I keep a collection of these bud vases in a cupboard, and then gift them to friends on their birthdays with some flower stems or clippings from the garden. It’s a thoughtful yet inexpensive gift.
- Glassware & stemware – In my experience, there’s usually quite a lot of random glassware in opshops. I try to buy glassware only if there’s a minimum of six matching items. Otherwise, you can end up with lots of really random things in your cupboards. (Unless, of course, you collect vintage stemware and you’re after that random mixture, which is also fun.)
- Op shops usually have a sewing section, where you can find fabric offcuts. We’ve found so many pretty vintage fabrics this way. I also love looking in the linens section for vintage tablecloths — again, we’ve found some really pretty vintage tablecloths which can be used as-is, or repurposed in sewing projects.
- Art is another thing I look for in thrift stores. I’ve found so many beautifully framed vintage artworks for under $5. I also look out for nice timber frames — if I don’t love the art, but the frame is nice, I’ll often take it home and frame up the children’s artwork. This is a fun way to display your children’s art (and it always makes them feel really proud when their art goes into a proper frame).
- If I’m really on the fence about buying something, and it’s $5 or less, I buy it. I’ve come home from too many thrift stores with regret for not buying something! That quote “Nothing haunts us like the vintage we didn’t buy” is definitely true. (If you don’t love it later, you can always return it.)
- I always give textiles and baskets a sniff before buying. (I never buy something if it smells like cigarette smoke or damp because those odours never come out!) I also look really closely at baskets – they get mouldy quickly in our humid climate.
- Books are another great thing to buy from op shops. Our local op shop has a large book section and all books are 50 cents! We have bought so many great books from here. Same goes for children’s books – I often pick up favourite paperback versions for travelling or to keep in the car.
- Encourage your kids to get into op shopping too! My kids love going to op shops, and are often quite successful in finding what they need – everything from tees to jeans to shoes. (Marlow, age 10, is particularly good at it, and we haven’t had to buy her something new all year!)
- If the kids need something specific for a project, a school play, a dress-up party, or even if they need new rain boots for school or black sneakers for a dance recital, I always check the op shops first. I’m almost always successful in finding gently-worn items to meet our needs. This way I don’t feel bad returning the item to the op shop when we don’t need it anymore, which keeps our house free from clutter.
- Op shopping requires patience. Sometimes you score something great (which feels like winning the lottery!), and other times you’ll find nothing at all. Remember that those days when you find nothing make the op shop scores even sweeter.
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