Rummage through clothes 1

Covid Clearouts: How To Find Hidden Gems in Charity Shops

29th June 2021

Newly bursting with possibility, inspiration and good intentions: UK charity shops are finally returning, a blessing for those who love to thrift, upcycle or simply snag a good bargain. After the first lockdown, UK charity shops were swarmed with generous donations as people tried to turn their homes into calm and comfortable sanctuaries by decluttering their lives. Once again, we can expect to find some goodies in the months to come, as everyone finally gets to offload the unwanted belongings stacked in some corner of the home.

With charity shops once again reopening their doors, you’ll definitely want to get in line to hunt for all the hidden goldmines ready for a new home. The stigma for buying second-hand items is far less than it was a decade ago - now it’s creative, innovative and supports good causes. Here are a few tips to find the best hidden gems.

1. Quirky is the answer

While the high street may sometimes be predictable, charity shops definitely are not. It’s unlikely you’ll ever see two of the same thing in these colourful treasure troves - unless it’s glassware, there’s always plenty of glassware. Clothing is without a doubt the most popular item to search for, thanks to the popularity of timeless, vintage pieces. Ignore any basic choices as you can pick them up at Primark later if your sole purpose is to save money. Instead, keep an open mind and pick quirky, unique pieces to add to your wardrobe. That way, building your wardrobe is a much more rewarding experience as it’s hand-curated with one-of-a-kind items.

2. Pay attention to quality

You never know what you might find in charity shops with expensive or high-quality items being just as likely as anything else. It’s a complete potluck. One way to separate the luxury from the ordinary, particularly for fabrics, is to feel it. This may not be the best option right now, but in general, this is how you seek out the better quality fabrics like cashmere, linen, wool and cotton. Get to know your wood types too, solid wood is durable, versatile and sustainable, making it a great idea to pick up any wood furniture you see. If it requires a little extra love, consider upcycling it. You can find plenty of inspiration on YouTube.

3. New day, new finds

With the nature of how charity shops run, you can expect an ever-changing range to buy from, particularly in populated areas. With new stock most days, it’s worth stopping in whenever you can, particularly on weekdays. As you can imagine, weekends can get busy, making weekdays a less competitive time to hunt at your own pace. Remember, today you might find nothing at all, but who knows what you may find tomorrow.

4. Rummage away

It’s no secret that the inside of charity shops can be a little chaotic, no matter how hard-working the volunteers are, it’s simply difficult to display your stock when it could be any shape or size. Often, items are organised by colour or size, but sometimes it can seem like there’s no reason for anything, which is actually a good thing if you’re patient. Rummaging is your best tool as you can discover the harder to find items that other shopper may have missed.

Keep in mind, we’ll probably see a lot of changes to charity shop layouts to be more in-line with COVID guidelines AKA not having everyone’s hands touching everything.

5. Get creative

Even if nothing stands out to you at first glance, don’t simply judge things at face value. Everything has potential if you really think about it and get creative - if you need convincing, check out what the internet has done with IKEA hacks. Fashion and home decor are the easiest to transform, often only needing a pair of scissors or a can of spray paint to be given a new lease on life. This way, you’ll own 100% unique items and pick up a new crafting hobby.

6. Choose your location strategically

Unsurprisingly, wealthier, more affluent areas usually equal charity shops with more designer labels, higher-end stock and things that are practically brand new. This works great in cities, for example, for those of you who shop in London, you’d expect areas like Chelsea and Marylebone to have some of the city’s most sought-after treasures (hint: try Marylebone High Street). The only issue with this is when charity shops in these areas realise their value - in these cases, the prices can actually become quite steep, but still cheaper than the original prices.

7. Try online

If finally stepping outside after lockdown isn’t your thing, you don’t have time or you just prefer to shop online, you don’t have to miss out. Visit the Oxfam online shop or the British Heart Foundation and British Red Cross are both on eBay, allowing you to buy straight from there and still support their causes. Of course, there are the more well-known online marketplaces to sell and buy second-hand goods, such as apps, Depop, eBay, Shpock and Facebook Marketplace.

Inspired to get thrifting and save money doing it? Hopefully, with these tips and a bit of luck, you’ll have a new outlook on charity shops, and a keener eye for spotting the biggest bargains. COVID had to have some silver lining, right?

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