Charity Shop Tips

Thursday, 11 April 2013

This dressing table set was found in a charity shop by Mum, which she gave me for Christmas.
I wouldn't profess to being a charity shop "expert" (I'd leave this to guru's such as A Thrifty Mrs), but you only have to hang around my blog for all of five minutes and you know I'm big believer in thrifting. Yet it still astounds me the amount of people that wouldn't set foot in a charity shop! Often this isn't out of embarrassment but more out of not knowing where to start.

Just to deal with the embarrassment issue - who is actually going to see you? Honestly? There's probably more of your friends than you realise that thrift, and have you ever seen them going into a charity shop? Probably not. If this does ever happen, just say you're looking for books. (This seems to be an acceptable reason to go into charity shops apparently rather than buying clothes.) Personally, I've got to the stage where I no longer care!

So moving on. If you've never set foot in a charity shop, or have and don't know where to start, here are some of the tips I try to keep in mind.

1. Learn some basic sewing tips - This may seem a bizarre one to start with, but if you don't even know how to thread a needle, you are going to miss out on some items. You might find a gorgeous cardi, but with boring buttons, or a hem that may have come undone. If you're able to fix these things, it expands your charity shopping chances that bit further.

2. Keep an open mind - you won't always find a "find". Go in with the attitude that whatever you find is a bonus,  then you won't be frustrated when you don't discover something. And I would also say, the chances of finding an amazing designer item are generally a bit slim.

3. Look through the size range - Most people are different sizes in different stores. Don't just stick to just searching through your 'usual' size. I can be a size 8-10 in higher end high street brands, such as Next, and up to a 12 ,in brands such as Primark. Sometimes things labelled Large and Small get sized at the guess work of the shop assistants too.

4. Don't just take things at face value - You might find a lovely a jumper that's actually designed to be worn big, but it may fit you as a more fitted jumper, or vice versa. If a dress is a little big, could it be cinched in with a waist belt? When looking at bric-a-brac and furniture consider whether it could be repainted, the handles changed, or whether the picture in a beautiful frame can be changed. This is also where your basic sewing skills can come in useful to shorten a skirt, change buttons or mend a hem.

5. Check before you buy - Is something missing? Is it damaged? When buying toys and games, check to see if it's complete. Most shops will stick a sticker on if they know everything is in the box. If something is damaged, you could try to haggle on the price. Some people don't believe in haggling in charity shops, but you would probably ask for a little discount in a high street store if something was damaged. The shop want to sell the item, and if it's damaged, their chances are reduced, so it can be worth asking occasionally. (I wouldn't employ this practice on a regular basis, but that's me personally.)

6. Where to go - Always check your local stores first. Get to know the staff by going in regularly, as they will keep stuff aside for you if they know you are reliable. Check regularly. Stock changes in charity shops at a fast rate. Monday and Tuesdays are good, as most people donate on Saturdays. If you want a 'reliable' charity shop to start thrifting in, British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research always have well known good quality high street brands. They are usually pricier than local charity stores, but they are often more 'comfortable' for a virgin thrifter. BHS also have specific 'vintage' sections as well. Charity shops in more expensive postcodes are also likely to have higher end brands in.

7. More than clothes - there's more than just clothes to charity shopping. They are my go to book store, and a great for homeware bric a brac, accessories, bags and yes even shoes! I've seen people donate an entire home decor set (such as pictures, pillows, curtains etc) when they have obviously changed their colour scheme, so you could completely re-decorate for next to nothing.

8. Think about what you already have - Items won't be displayed in outfits like they would on the high street, so you are going to have to use your imagination. Different stores lay things out differently, some lay out by size, which I prefer, or by colour (damn you Mary Portas!) but this can make it easier when thinking about what would go with items you already have. Charity shopping is about being thrifty, so buying something, that you have absolutely nothing to wear it with, is false economy.

I hope you found my charity shop tips useful. Are you a thrifter? What tips you would give?
Made With Love By The Dutch Lady Designs