For the past few years I’ve been a big fan of thrift shopping. I find the thrill of going into a thrift store and not knowing what I’m going to find pretty enjoyable. As a result, I have been to a lot of different thrift stores, whether that’s in my home town or in neighboring cities.
But with that comes seeing a lot of things that can be disappointing too. Not every shopping experience is going to be a dream come true, but there are many things you can do to make these troubles, well less troubling and to get on with it. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the end of the world if things don’t turn out how you want (or that’s what I try to tell myself!) .
Scent/Cleanliness in Shops
You might feel that when you walk into a thrift store, there’s a sort of stale smell, a kind of stench. This can be quite off putting, especially for those of us who are a bit younger and have a strong sense of smell. I’m not trying to be offensive, because truth is these places are often full of many kinds of donated items. And usually, since they were donated, they were probably unwanted, which means there’s a good chance they weren’t cleaned thoroughly before being gifted.
Now you can’t blame the people that work in these second-hand shops, because I’ve volunteered in a few before, and there’s a few good reasons why it’s not easy. Firstly, a lot of stores will have a lot of donations. This means that a lot of time and their priority has to be organizing this stock. Imagine that on a daily basis, you are getting customers all throughout the day, coming in with a few large trash bags full of stock. These bags are also likely to be mixed with all kinds of goods, bric-a-brac, toys, accessories as well as clothing. So this is a lot of work, particularly for a small amount of people. Which leads me to my next point.
Because a lot of these thrift stores, especially in the UK, are run by volunteers and 1 or 2 paid members of staff, this means that their actual workforce is usually pretty small. These shops rely on the goodwill of volunteers that are willing to put in a few hours in their day or week to help the shop with basic duties, such as serving customers, sorting through donations or putting out stock.
Because they are unpaid, chances are that only a few volunteers would put in a full day of really hard work to organize these shops. As a result, you’ll find that there’s little time to give all donations a proper and thorough cleaning. So when you go thrift shopping, you have to understand that you’ll need to wash these items or garments again once you get home.
Not My Size
This one can be a bit of an annoyance, but sometimes there are some solutions if you are willing to work for it.
I go through the whole of the thrift store when I’m having a browse, and not just the stuff that’s in my size. Why? Because sometimes you can be surprised. I’m normally a size small when buying clothes, varying between a UK size 8 up to 12. Now if I shopped in the small only size, or only for size 8’s, I am limiting the kinds to clothes I could find. Everything would probably fit me pretty well, but a lot of retailer’s sizing varies as well. I’ve tried UK size 6’s in some stores that fit me, and in others a size 10 won’t fit me. It just depends on the store and the quality.
So I’ve picked up pieces from the medium or large sizes, for example for tops, tee shirts or dresses. Tees are the best category for picking something a little over-sized, but I have found tops that say they are a medium and they definitely aren’t. So the best thing is to give it a try, or trust your eyes if you have experience with how your best fitting pieces look on the rail.
Another solution is to alter your clothes, or get it tailored, This is definitely something you can do with larger pieces of clothes, such as a pair of pants or jeans. I’ve been able to pick up a very comfortable pair of cool-toned, light-pink pair of Levi’s jeans for a good price. I loved the color, and the style was pretty relaxed as a straight fitting pair of jeans.
The problem was that the waistline was 33 inches, and I’m around 28 inches. Also, the inseam was 34 inches, and I’m probably about 26 inches (it was waay too long, but doesn’t that sound familiar?). Anyway, I proceeded to buy them, because I wanted them and figured I could make it work. So I decided to sew up the waistline myself, by measuring a simple diagonal line from the bottom of the belt loops to the top of the waist on each side, hiding about 4 inches of fabric by doing a running stitch on the inside of those jeans. Then I simply rolled up the hem, and voila, I had myself a pair of jeans I was very happy with.
But if you’re looking to do a lot less DIY thrifting challenges and more enjoying your spare time, then you might just have to accept that you won’t always find that perfect item.
You Won’t Always Find It
Some days you’ll be walking around a few different thrift shops. You’ll have a goal in mind, you want to find something that might even be a really basic piece. But you’ll find that on some days, you might not even find a nice basic white tee shirt. And this should be expected. Because at the end of the day, second-hand stores are only going to contain the items of clothing that get donated to them, and that are in the best or most reasonable condition possible. And this is where you have to let that inner shopaholic rest for a moment and accept it.
And remember that this is okay. It’s like shopping in any other store, if you don’t find what you want, don’t just buy anything else for the sake of shopping. I’ve been guilty of this, and the result is you end up having something you don’t want because you wanted to buy something and it’s cheap. You might find a few less regrets if you wait for another day until there is something that really makes your eyes sparkle at first sight.