8.12.2010

The #1 Second-Hand Shopping Tip


I'm just going to say this upfront: Thursdays — Thrifty Thursdays, that is — are going to be awesome. Not only will we talk about strategies for tackling rack after rack in an endless sea of second-hand treasures, but I'm going to take you along with me as I check out some local thrift shops, and you'll be the first to see what goodies I dig up.

Today my plan is to visit a couple Goodwill SoCal stores that I've often driven by, but never when I had time to stop. The first is their Ladera store on La Tijera. The second is this giant one on Fairfax I've drooled over for some months now since I used to pass it on my way home from work. So be on the lookout for another blog post today!

Now, onto the good stuff. When I first moved out here and couldn't break into publishing, I got an assistant manager job at a Goodwill in Santa Monica to pay the bills. Coming from Missouri and having worked at Goodwills in St. Louis (holla!) and Columbia (holla!), let me tell you that I was shocked — and a little dismayed, since thrift stores are where 90% of my wardrobe comes from — at how much more expensive the California stores are. And I've found that to be true with other chain thrift stores as well.

I bring this up because it ties so beautifully into my #1 second-hand shopping tip. Ready for it? [Drum roll, drum roll, drum roll, drum roll] It's a little thing I like to call....perseverance! I know, I know, it sounds a bit anticlimactic and cliche, but it's my answer 100% of the time when people ask me how I find the things that I do. And when I tell them that, on average, I spend about 3 hours at each store, either their eyes glaze over or they respond with something like, "I just don't have the willpower to weed through all that stuff for so long!"

Well, then you're already beat.

If you're serious about taking that step to clothe yourself and your home with second-hand goods that are also stylish, you gotta work for it. You have to spend time visiting the stores in your area to find out which ones tend to have better merchandise; you have to spend time going through almost every rack, every shelf, every case, making sure you've given the store a thorough once-over; and you have to not be discouraged if you don't find anything worth bringing home.

I know this is a lot easier said than done. We are used to going to retail stores where everything is sorted by color, size and collection, but most thrift stores don't even come close to that. And if you've worked in one, you know how impossible and unrealistic it is to do so. I've spent hours colorizing a store or putting up a window display, only to have customers undo all that work within minutes. So you have to get that expectation out of your head right now.

I also know there are plenty of people out there who just don't know if what they pick out will fit, or are still struggling to find their own style, so they don't know what they're looking for. In both cases they end up paralyzed and don't even try anything on. I have most definitely been there, especially when I first started making second-hand shops my number one resource. It takes time to shake off that paralysis. But the more you do it, the easier it gets, the better your eye gets, and you begin to develop your own strategies for tackling the madness. But, like I said, all of this takes work!

We'll touch on these roadblocks as the weeks and posts continue, but for now start by researching what's out there in your area, and go into a couple to get a feel for them. No pressure!

So, like I said, perseverance was key for me when moving to the Golden State. After seeing how expensive things were, I knew I'd have to be more choosy with what I bought because the number of things I could get in Missouri for $40 is about half that in California. Therefore, over that first year I tried to go to all the thrift stores in and around Santa Monica to compare prices, merchandise (the area the store is in absolutely plays a part in how good your selection will be), sales, etc., and now I have my favorites that I go to regularly.

Have you tried to go second-hand, but the attempt was futile? Shoot me an email or post a comment and tell me what happened. I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading + stay inspired!

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of shopping at second-hand stores. Im a huge lover of a bargain and often get made fun of because I will carry something around the store only to later let it go because I just didn't feel like it was "that good of a deal". I definitely think I'm cut out to "thrift" because I love nothing more than to spend HOURS scouring through boxes, racks, shelves, whatever for a great deal. My issue, again, is that I never know what I want to buy or even where to start. Can't wait to hear more of your tips :)

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