There are 2 types of people in this world – those who succeed at, and even enjoy, the process of finding amazing things in TK Maxx…and those who find the prospect of going to war with the red clearance rails nauseating and always disappointing. If you are the former, I bet you love a good charity shop too. And for the unconverted – did you know there are rules to succeeding at this game? Breathe in the musty smells and the world of possibilities, my friends – we’re going in.
Charity shops have been a staple of our household for as long as I can remember. I thought everyone at my school got their blazer at the Hospice Shop in Antrim, but apparently not. I remember going in with my mum one day when I was about 10, and heading straight for the books, and saying “Mum, look – I have this book at home too…oh, and these shoes! And this looks just like my jacket – how strange!” *Mum smiling over the £1 rail waiting for the realisation to hit* “Oh – it IS all my stuff”.
I didn’t really appreciate it then the way I do now – the fun of gathering up a load of someone else’s rubbish, and walking out with something I really love. Recently, it has taken on a whole new meaning with the plastic fantastic stage that Darragh is in – your local charity shop is your new best friend for rainy days / birthdays / treats. And, what you see in the picture below? All of this – less than £10 (except the boy – he’s priceless).
I do pretty well at the charity shop game – and yes, I did say ‘game’ because there are winners, losers and rules to this. My mum is the ultimate thrift shopper in so many ways – that woman can sniff out a designer bargain like nothing you have ever seen, and every time she shows me something and I say “Where did you get that?”, I am already laughing because she doesn’t have to tell me. From Burberry, to Barbour, to Berghaus – if it has a label and some style, she’ll find it.
And to do that, here’s what you need to know – in this order:
- LABEL – always label first. Don’t go in looking FOR something or thinking about what you need. Skim the rails – if they have a £1 rail, go there first (most people do – that’s where the shops make their dosh). Don’t look at the clothes, look at the labels. If it says Atmosphere or F&F, skim on by – don’t even look. Once you find designer, move to…
- FABRIC & CONDITION – it has to be good fabric. Again, don’t really look at the clothing but see if it feels right- is it good quality, well made, does it have a bit of style about it. Are the labels still on? Check the collar / sleeves / elbows – any sign of wear? Anything that you can fix easily? At this point, it is all about the feel of it.
- IMAGINATION – you are standing in a charity shop, possibly to the dulcet tones of Hugo Duncan on a crackly radio (nothing wrong with Uncle Hugo, but you know…), and listening to Betty and Barbara discussing Coronation Street across the shop, all washed down with what can only be called, the aroma of house clearance. But, you need to imagine that you have left the shop with your new purchase, and it isn’t surrounded by all that – it is in your house / wardrobe/ garden, and isn’t a part of the charity shop vibe. It’s yours, so take yourself there and when you have passed steps 1 & 2, number 3 is just you making sure you aren’t saying ‘no’ because you are put off by the surroundings.
- YOU CAN WASH ANYTHING – similar to point 3, if the smell or stains on a garment is putting you off, yes, you can (and will) wash anything. I find this goes mostly for the toys which sometimes you are lifting with dried on cheerios attached to them. But you know, a sink full of bleach is an amazing thing, and transforms this poor, unwanted rubbish into much-loved playthings…and I wish I never spent money in any of the high street toy shops on plastic tat.
So there you have it – follow this and I promise you will enjoy the charity shop experience…and even if you don’t, make sure you donate your stuff to support local. Betty, Barbara & Hugo are fine folks.
I’ll leave you with one of the phrases I have heard many times from my mum (which didn’t apply to her buying my school blazer in a charity shop)
Buy stuff you like and then find a place for it
From a woman who shops solely in charity shops and manages to make her home look like something out of Cribs, I’ll take her advice…and as I type this, I am sitting on her sofa she donated to us, wearing a jumper she bought me in…where? You guessed it.