It’s tempting to go to the op shop with the urge to buy everything just because it’s cheap or one-of-a-kind. But if we buy things like this, we’re still contributing to the too-much-stuff problem and not reducing our consumption – even though we’re choosing second hand. Buying because it’s cheaper than brand new is a big pitfall of shopping second hand.
These 11 hot tips for op shopping mindfully mean you can still choose second hand first and support your local charity, but with significant knowledge and confidence about your consumption patterns.
Before we get stuck into it, whether it be second hand or brand new, there are similarities to guide your purchase decisions:
- The Ums, Arrhs, Maybes and Unsures become “No. I do not need this.”
- To try things on easily, wear comfy, easy-to-change clothes and shoes.
1. Do a Simple Home & Wardrobe Declutter
Before heading to the op shop, do a quick home and wardrobe declutter. Then, intentionally take a couple of items to donate before browsing the shops. A simple clear out supports the circularity of donating and reusing and, as a bonus, helps clear your mind and your home!
Many podcasts, blogs and books, such as The Minimalists, Becoming Minimalist, KonMari, and Gretchen Rubin, discuss decluttering with purpose. In her Book Outer Order Inner Calm, she recommends starting with superfluous items – purge everything that’s not needed, used or loved. Check out Gretchen’s Spring Cleaning Tips and go here for my recommended books to help you declutter intentionally.
Decluttering helps you shop mindfully, my third Guiding Principle for Op Shopping.
2. Have a List
Have a mental or tangible list of:
- things you’re looking for or needing and know you’ll use.
- items you know you definitely don’t need
This helps to hone in to focus on what you do or don’t need. Being prepared – as much as possible when op shopping – and having an open mindset is my first Guiding Principle for op shopping.
3. Check Every Section
For Clothes – I’ve found excellent windproof cycling jackets, European branded/ sized women’s shorts and small-sized merino wool jumpers in the men’s clothing. You can understand the volunteer’s quandary sorting items – is it a kids’ or women’s size 16, or perhaps a unisex brand, a women’s fit or a fitted men’s fit?
Vintage sizes are completely different from today’s sizing, so what may have been a size 12 is today’s equivalent of a size 8. It also depends upon whether the item has been washed correctly for the fabric.
For Homewares – Each op shop arranges products differently to spice things up! You may find a beautiful vintage teacup in the “cups” section, but the saucer may be in the “plates” section…and the remaining dinner set is somewhere else!
Checking every part of the homewares section is paramount, as some op shops organise by colour coding, and some put all like-items together eg all plastics, or all drink bottles, all saucepans.
For Books – Like clothing, op shops are overflowing with books.
Scan through each section, as the straightforward and colloquially phrased “Diverse Donation Classification System” is used rather than the traditional Dewey Decimal Classification.
Watch out for book sorting by colour (not my preferred method of sorting books), author, fiction/general interest areas and kids books. The randomness of book selection adds to finding a book you never knew you were looking for!
Head to your favourite section first, which gives you the most pleasure. Checking every area of the op shop is in line with my second Guiding Principle for op shopping – be committed.
4. Know Your Prices & Brands
Experienced op shoppers know their brands and the buy-it-brand-new prices. For example, I saw a 100% polyester Anko dress (Kmart brand) in one op shop for $15. I left it on the rack, as I knew that to buy this dress new would be cheaper when it’s on special as a brand-new item.
Crazy to see, especially when our textile waste is such a problem. On the flip side, I’m utterly delighted with a red original vintage Morrisey Edmiston jacket for the same price.
Avoid buying an item just because it’s cheap. Instead, have the willpower to leave the bargains that you don’t need, love or use for others to enjoy.
Don’t barter or haggle. Read more about why it’s best to embrace the op shop pricing in my fourth Guiding Principle for op shopping here…
5. The Triangle of Need – Love – Use
Before deciding whether you’ll buy an item, carry it around the op shop with you. Ask yourself – do I need it, do I love it, will I use it? If it was brand new and full price, would I buy it? No? Then leave it in the op shop.
One way to fight waste, and potential clutter, is by not acquiring things in the first place.
Gretchen Rubin reinforces this beautifully in her book Outer Order Inner Calm. On the plus side, if your purchase doesn’t work out for you, donate it back to the shop.
6. Glance with a Goal
Simplify your clothes op shopping by scanning the clothes racks. Only touch and feel the clothes with your preferred colour palette or pattern. The ones that catch your eye are those you’ll naturally fall in love with – fingers crossed it’s your size!
7. BYO Reusable Shopping Bags
8. Patience is a Virtue
Op shopping can take time, and it’s okay to leave empty-handed.
9. Take Loose Change
Many smaller and church-based op shops only accept cash, so please be prepared and take both cash and card.
10. Shop Alone or Together
Go by yourself or take a chum with similar patience and love for op shopping.
11. Ask the Volunteers
Surprisingly, larger op shops can be seasonal, based on floor capacity, number of donations and whether there’s a distribution centre that determines when the stock’s displayed.
So if you’re after a specific item, or perceived out-of-season piece of clothing, ask the shop volunteers. They may be able to help you out with your wish list item, such as swimwear, or jackets and jumpers in the summer (I freeze in the aircon), and ski gear.
Refuse & Reduce Consumption
Op shops are overwhelmed with the influx of donated goods. However, we can help by refusing and reducing buying brand new in the first place. And when we do need to shop, choosing to buy second hand first is better with these 11 tips for op shopping mindfully under our (op shopped) belt.
We know we’re making a difference to our community, hip pocket and a better choice for our planet by relieving the environmental pressure of consumption. Enjoy shopping mindfully!
Some links in this post are affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase, I may receive a commission. Thanks for your support!
- Can’t make it to an op shop? Discover how Newcastle-based online clothing shop The Re: Club is helping to reinvent the way we shop for clothes,
- Go here to read more stories about sourcing second hand and ways to reuse and recycle
- For your local op shop, try Vinnies Op Shop, Lifeline Op Shop, Red Cross Op Shop, Salvation Army Op Shop & Salvos Op Shop
- Discover the annual National Op Shop Week awareness campaign by Do Something Near You
Some links in this section are affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, I may receive a commission if you choose to make a purchase.