Thrift shopping is a great way to find unique and gently used clothing and other items. Not only can you get some great finds that you couldn’t find elsewhere, thrift shopping is also a way to reuse clothing and resources that have already been produced. Many of the mainstream retail stores use sweatshop labor to produce their clothes, and they also use up valuable raw materials in their production, which are often extracted through exploitative practices. Thrift shopping is one way to avoid this, at least in part. Plus, it’s certainly easier on the pocketbook. If you live in Seattle, there are so many thrift store options from the trendy vintage boutiques, to Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange, to Red Light, to Value Village, to the Goodwill. I know Crossroads, Buffalo Exchange, and Goodwill, at least, have stores around the country (not sure about Value Village) and there are awesome vintage shops in most cities I’ve encountered. There are Goodwills all throughout Seattle, but the best one, in my opinion, is the one in South Seattle on Dearborn. It’s gigantic and the turnover there is very fast.
I’ve been shopping at the Goodwill and other thrift stores since I could walk. When we were kids, my mom would take us to the Goodwill and tell us that we could get anything we wanted. It was so fun! Over the years, I’ve worked hard to refine my experience of the Goodwill so that I come home only with things I need/ will use. In my early adult years, I would get blinded by the novelty of the clothes I would find. I’d think, ”wow, this is such an interesting print… I bet I’ll never find another print like this as long as I live” and not be able to admit to myself that maybe it was a good thing I would never be able to find another print like that again. For several years, I would come home with a bag of clothes that were a combination of ‘totally hideous’ and just ‘ho-hum’. Now, several years later, I feel like I’ve worked out the best way (for me) to shop at the Goodwill or any other thrift store. Some rules/tips:
1. Check the daily sales. At the Goodwill, at least, there are sales everyday. Sometimes it’s a particular color of tag discounted, sometimes it’s all of one kind of item, and on Wednesdays it’s senior discount day. Luckily, my dad is still in town and happens to be comfortably in the category of ’senior,’ so we went to take advantage of the sale. When we got there, we found out that in addition to the 20% off for seniors, they were giving 30% off for college students, so we got 50% off our entire order! Holy Smokes!
2. Go frequently and take your time. Go when you have some time. Shopping in this way is dependent on being patient and looking through lots of clothes that you’re not interested in trying on. Going frequently to the Goodwill with enable you to get better at tip #6 (see below).
3. Be flexible with your size. In addition to my normal size, I usually try on one size above and one size below because sizing in such an eclectic collection of clothing is not consistent.
4. Keep an eye out for your favorite brands. If you know that you look great in Banana Republic jeans, for instance, keep your eye out for them. But also stay open to trying out brands you’ve never tried before. One of my best Goodwill finds was a nearly brand new Prairie Underground top that retails for around $150 (I bought it for 2.99).
5. Check the materials. Before I try anything on, I check the tags to see what the piece of clothing is made from. If it’s anything made from leather, wool, silk, or any other animal product, I put it back before I get attached to it.
6. Be ruthless. This is the most important rule/tip. Don’t buy anything that’s just okay. Be prepared to leave with nothing. You can find some really great clothing at the Goodwill, so you do not have to settle for anything mediocre. It might just mean coming back another time. When you go into the dressing room, hang the clothes ‘to try on’ on one hook:
Designate another hook for ‘maybe’ items:
And another one for ‘yes’. When we went yesterday, I made three trips to the dressing room, and did not come up with any ‘yes’ items. In fact, my ‘yes’ hook looked like this:
While that was a little disappointing, it’s okay! It happens. When you’re going frequently, you just have to be prepared to walk away with nothing. Last time I went, I came home with an awesome pair of skinny jeans, a really cute dress, and two adorable hooded sweaters/sweatshirts.
7. One in/One out. I have yet to implement this rule, but I would love to start doing it. When you buy an article of clothing, be prepared to go home and pick out one article of clothing to donate or give away. This way, you maintain your current volume of clothing without turning into a pack-rat like me!
8. Beware of the impulse buys. Invariably, you’ll come across something which you did not expect to find, and which you immediately think “I could use that!”. Take a moment to really consider if you’ll use it, where you’ll store it in your home, and why you need it. Unless you have a plan for the item, don’t buy it–it will just make clutter in your house!
Even though yesterday was a flop in terms of finding clothing, I had a couple of things I was looking for outside of the clothing realm. My friend and neighbor is moving back to Seattle on Saturday and I wanted to make her a welcome home basket with some vegan snacks and other treats for her to enjoy while she unpacks and moves back into her house. Goodwill is a great place for baskets and I find a beautiful one almost every time I’m preparing to give someone a gift. I found quite a nice basket yesterday, and I got this brand-new adorable dish towel to line the basket with:
I’ve been planning to make little reversible jackets for my niece and nephew for Christmas/Chanukah this year. I found this pattern on Etsy and wanted to make one for each of them. I’ve been trying not to buy new fabric from the fabric stores, except on special occasions, and the Goodwill has a sometimes-great selection of ‘Yardage’:
I didn’t end up finding the right fabric for my nephew’s jacket, but I found a few great options for the jacket for my niece:
The fabric on the left is a soft, light weight canvas that I thought would look great with the purple corduroy in middle (which is also lightweight and soft). On the right is a silky print with little children and horses on it (it’s hard to see in the picture, but very cute) and that also looks nice with the corduroy. The corduroy was a huge piece (probably 12-15 yards), which I got for $5. The canvas, probably a yard, I got for $1.99 and the print on the right, was $.99 for probably 2 yards. My niece is quite fond of butterflies and I was happy to find this soft cotton curtain for $3.99, which I was thinking would make a cute sundress for next summer:
If I have time, I always check the shoe section (avoiding leather shoes), the hat section, and the book section:
While wandering aimlessly through the housewares section, I stumbled across this:
Impulse buy of the week: a brand new sprouting jar for $1! I’ve been meaning to get one of these so I can make sprouts at home (other creative methods of trying to make them have not worked out well) and so I was delighted to find this. Yes!
A successful trip to the Goodwill. Do you all have tips for thrift shopping or favorite places to shop for used clothes?