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Charity or thrift shopping can be a pain in the arse but it's honestly worth it for a good bargain, so I'm offering these tips so your arse stays as pain free as possible. It's certainly isn't for the fashionably lazy and you'll definitely struggle finding a specific item in mind. But for majority of charity shoppers it's the thrill of finding something unexpected and cheap. Interpreting the possible use of a item is a good skill and makes for unique clothing.
Finding charity shops is relatively easy, there’s plenty on the high street and in busy areas. If you're unaware of your city's shops then use Google shopping map to check out the ones in your area. There’s a myth that wealthier areas give up designer clothes in bundles into the nearest charity shops, this is definitely not true for every city! I’ve noticed this never occurs in working class cities like mine but when I’ve visited more middle class dominated cities there’s more quality items to be had.
However the location can make a big difference to the amount of stock, for example the charity shops in and around town are more likely to be restocked soon. People will be dropping in their old stuff and walking a small distance away to replace them, whereas the more distant charity shops may be less updated they will have less traffic. However it's much easy to hunt near the central part of your area so you can simply pop next door if your first search fails you.
Shops display and organize their stock in different ways, some shops organize by size and type of clothing. Others display by colour and gender. Either way be sure to look through every rack and properly admire an item before putting it back, if in doubt keep it on your arm until you can try it on. Often I've put things in a basket I liked a few minutes ago but once I've gotten over the initial rush I don’t want it any more. But better safe than sorry and you can always put it back.
Some charity shops have a special vintage section which is the most looked at and a curse. Anything good there is snapped up as soon as possible so if you want vintage ask when they're restocking but look around anyway a few items could have slipped past.
You should try on everything before buying, it might not fit or look as good as you thought. Charity shops generally don't offer returns. I would be surprised if a shop doesn't have a changing room but if you’re aware of a shop that doesn't have one you could wear a slip underneath, tights, leggings, shorts, a loose skirt, anything that covers you comfortably. Taking your measurements beforehand and taking a tape measurer with you is a good idea.
Call me negative but people don't just give their stuff away for the sake of being a good person, sometimes it's because the item has a nasty flaw such as a stain. Check for stains and tiny holes by holding the items towards the light, look for missing buttons, loose threads and deciding if you could take on this project yourself. But true to yourself and leave it for someone else if it'll only fester in your wardrobe.
Don't buy something you can't fix or can't be tailored, you're doing this to save money remember? Items that are a size or two too big are easy to take in but any more than that or you're wasting your time, it'll probably lose it's shape and if it's printed it won't look right afterwards. Items can be taken out if there's spare fabric, check the inside before trying. Sleeves can be removed, skirts and dresses can be hemmed, t-shirts into vests, you get the idea.
- Go on a regular basis and get to know the router, sometimes if the staffs are friendly enough they'll point out stuff they'd think you might like. Like any other sale you should get there early and avoid the rush, everything is much more organized than and easier to find items.
- Remember to bring a spare bag as most shops charge for them and it's best to let them keep it for others who actually need it.
- Have your money in no more than ten pound notes and change is preferred, more shops now have a pin machine though.
- Bring Hand Sanitizer or baby wipes and if you're asthmatic make sure to bring your inhaler because some items are dusty. Avoid fabrics that grip dirt, for example velvet would be covered but jeans could easily brush it off.
- You can buy cheap shirts for the sake of buttons and the rags for spare fabric.