10 Practical Tips for Thrift Shopping and Upcycling

Thrift shopping is a definite fad now among the hipster crowd, but as some of you may well know, thrifting is actually serious business that requires foresight, thought, and creativity to get the most out of it. This is something that most people don't think of; after all, how much planning ahead can thrift shopping require? It's just a fun activity, right?

But aside from being fun, thrift shopping is a noble choice environmentally, economically, and socially; it reuses items that would otherwise end up in the dump, it saves people lots of money, and it encourages others to live a more sustainable lifestyle. It's also a great way to make a few new friends, and start a hobby that is genuinely exciting and fun. Therefore, it's worthy of our forethought.

The blog Stars for Streetlights](http://www.starsforstreetlights.com/10-tips-for-thrifting-how-to-find-vintage-treasure/) has some excellent tips, and we’ve thrown in a few ideas of our own to create a handy starting point for your thrifting adventures:

1. Have a goal in mind

What exactly are you looking for? Clothes? Supplies? Furniture? Plan accordingly and map out the best places to find these specific things. Maybe there’s a specialty thrift store that does just clothes, or just furniture. Even more specifically than that, though, it can also be helpful to know what the item you want looks like in your mind’s eye. What’s your dream thrift table made of? Are you looking for a certain pattern or material for your clothing item? By zeroing in on what you want, you are more likely to be successful in your endeavors.

2. Choose the small towns over big cities

It seems counter-intuitive to choose the small cities over the big ones. After all, shouldn’t the larger city shops have more of a selection? However, as it turns out, the big cities will often charge way more than they should for less-than-valuable items. Small towns also usually have more elderly people who donate the best items, such as vintage dresses, cameras, and furniture. Plus, these smaller thrift stores are often "the road less traveled," which means the pickings are much better than the much-grubbed-over big city haunts.

3. Learn the store schedule

If you really want the best items, you need to know when a fresh load of them come in. The average Goodwill usually restocks every Wednesday, but of course, every city is different. Plus, it’s great to have a working relationship with the employees. If you can make a friend or two, you have the inside scoop on where that one item might be lurking. They are the gatekeepers, so start befriending!

4. Go a lot

Even if there IS a schedule, sometimes items pop in that weren't in the scheduling plan. If you go often, you will also learn the layout, the people, and the familiar items that you can automatically pass over.

5. Steel yourself mentally

To find what you’re looking for, you’re most likely going to have to dig in to the massive piles of things that are everywhere. Whether it’s lifting a box, shifting a set of serving platters, or shuffling through a rack, the best things are often not in plain view, so don’t be afraid to get down and dirty with all the thrifted items.

6. Reuse any patterns you like

So what if that polka dot shirt you love is size XXXL? You can always break out your sewing machine and scissors and reuse the things that you find. If you love the print, you can definitely make it happen. You can make the shirt smaller or reuse it to make a different item all together.

7. Feel the material

Sometimes, when you’re perusing, it’s more useful to use your hands than your eyes. As you walk down the aisle, run your hands through the racks and let your fingers do the finding of quality material. You’ll be amazed at what silk and wool scores you can find this way.

8. Just try it on

As you can quickly find out in regular department stores, all brands have different sizing. On top of that, these are second hand clothes, so even if it says it’s a certain size, someone may have expanded or shrunk the clothes, depending on the wear and washing it got, and also depending on the original brand. So if you have an inkling of favor towards a particular item, just try it on and be pleasantly surprised.

9. Keep an open mind

Even though it’s good to plan ahead, you still want to be flexible in finding items that you didn’t expect. However, so you don’t break the bank on impulse buys, give yourself a specific amount of ‘surprise money’, such as $20 for anything you find that’s worth your time. Also be open about the things that you find that might need an extra bit of love, such as a new coat of paint, new soles, or even a simple scrub-down.

10. Only grab the good stuff

You don’t want to accumulate junk you will never wear, use, or up-cycle. Make sure you ask yourself if you will actually use whatever item you’re considering. How do you feel in this dress? Where are you going to put this lamp? Are you actually going to replace your old table with this one? Make sure you love it, and leave the rest for someone else who will.

While you can have a perfectly grand time without using all of these tips, it's important to remind yourself of a a sustainability philosophy before you begin buying out the store. After all, your own closet might have just as many finds as the thrift shop! See what you can find in your closet that could use an upcycling makeover before heading out.

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