Try the thrift store first

I think we all know by now that thrift stores are a great place to donate our unwanted stuff. If you have one nearby it sure makes it easy to get the stuff out of your home quickly. But Thrift stores aren’t only handy for getting rid of stuff they are also handy for acquiring stuff inexpensively.

Now I know you are all thinking ~ Has Colleen gone mad. Now she is suggesting we acquire stuff instead of forever telling us to get rid of it. Well never fear folks, I haven’t suddenly lost the plot, actually I am not sure I ever followed the plot but that is another story. What I am suggesting here is that trying your local thrift store first when you “need” something is a good idea. Below is a list of circumstances in which the thrift store may be able to help you out in your time of need.

  • When you need something for a short period of time on a rare occasion   but don’t want to stock it in your home 365 days of the year. 

Perhaps you are about to receive more visitors than you can cater for and need an extra mattress, linen, cutlery and crockery. Your friends and family may not always be able to lend you these items but you could pick them up cheaply from the thrift store. Then donate them back when you are done with them.

  • When something breaks and although it seems like it would be inexpensive to replace you find out otherwise when you start shopping around for that replacement.

Have you ever broken the glass plate in your microwave or had to replace a power cord for a cell phone or item that needs a voltage converter. Well these things can be more expensive to replace than you would think. I know my local thrift shop has lots of unusual items like these in the store. They may not have just the right one I need but I would check there first before buying new.

  • When you move interstate or overseas and transporting everything you own just isn’t viable.

When we moved to America our removal was paid for by my husbands work. However one of the stipulations was, if an item didn’t fit into a packing case we weren’t allowed to take it. The only things that I left behind that I knew I would need at the other end was an airer and an ironing board. Luckily for me, one of the first things we discovered when we arrived in Seattle was a big thrift store. So I replaced my ironing board and my airer at a very affordable price then donated it back when we left.

  • When you need an item of clothing for a special occasion or for short periods of time and it seems like a waste of money to buy new.

You might be surprised to know how many formal gowns and men’s suits arrive at the thrift store in as new condition because they have only been worn once or twice to a wedding or similar function. Now think about how many such outfits are in you closet or have past through it at one time or another. Why not check the thrift store first when you need one of these outfits chances are you will find something suitable. And once again donate it back if you have no further need for it.

Perhaps you live in a warmer climate but are going to visit another country in the winter. Why buy a new expensive jacket that you only need for a couple of weeks when you could buy secondhand.

Also why buy new for all your baby clothing. For all the time they actually fit into a certain size you may as well save your money and purchase at least some of them from the thrift store.

These are but a few reasons to shop at your local thrift store but I am sure there are plenty more. Why pay new prices and waste resources when secondhand will do. And when you are done with them you can always donate them back.

Today’s Declutter Item

You can tell from these items that we are travellers. And even though we make a habit of traveling light we have gotten better at it over time. Plus we no long travel with teenagers either that “need” all their electronic bits and bobs with them to stop them from getting bored or to make themselves beautiful. Now the only item that requires power that we usually travel with is the battery charger for the camera so one for Europe, one for Britain and one for America is all we are likely to need. All these extras are off to the thrift store. See, didn’t I tell you they sell all sorts of stuff at the thrift store.

Overseas Adaptors

Something I Am Grateful For Today

Well like I said yesterday my boy is home and yes he is up to his usual tricks. While trying to get my housework done he must have called me to his room to tell or show me something “important” about six time. He shut me in the pantry and held the door closed and he used my pony tail like reins and tried to make me gallop through the house. I could wish that he would be like a normal person and give me a hug or a kiss but instead I will just be grateful for the strange forms of affection he is willing to share with me.

“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” Brother David Steindl-Rast

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. Great post, Colleen. I hardly ever buy new clothes because we have several thrift stores that take new and barely used clothes and they look so new at such low prices I just can’t pass them up. The only time I have new clothes is when someone buys them for me. I had never thought about going to the thrist store and getting temporary supplies for when someone comes to visit. Hum! Maybe I can use this as a way to get Mom to get rid of some stuff.

    Ah Liam, I’m glad you love your mother. Tell her. It really means a lot.

    • Deb J, I didn’t think of it as a way to convince your mother to let go of stuff. Good thinking 99! This may be your salvation. And I will pass that message on to Liam.

  2. Thanks a lot for the advice, I love shopping the thrift store esp. for fabric, wool, books and clothes, but found lots of other needed things there as well. Unfortunately, the one around the corner doesn’t take electronic devices, as they say they can’t check whether the items are broken. Still, there’s also another second hand shop nearby (one where people can rent shelves and put their excess there – quite much like a flee market), where you can find electronics as well.

  3. Great post Colleen! It reminds me of this one which has made me think A LOT! A completely new way of considering “possession”…
    I’ve also translated it ( and it’s one of the most popular posts!
    It’s such an easy thing to do, but we’re somehow “programmed” to buy new stuff and we need a constant reminder that very often we should go visit the thrift store first 🙂
    Thank you for the remainder!

    • Thanks for that link yliharma. I have added it to my Friday Favourites for this week. His language is a little coulourful at times and I hope my readers don’t take offence to that. His idea is sound though.

  4. Some great advice there Colleen. I have a wedding in the summer and after reading this i will look out for a frock, then donate it back!! Genius!!

    I wish that i had have bought my baby clothes from charity shops, it makes my eyes water to think of the money i could have saved. Practicully every month they would grow out of that size.

    I’m with you on the affection from your Son. My eldest who’ nearly 17 pokes me in the back with the (non sharp) side of the butter knife, and pats me on my head and says ‘little mum’ he being 6 foot and me 5 foot 2. He generally goofs around, and if that’s the way he wants to show affection, that’s cool. I do occasionally get a hug and a cheek to kiss 🙂 It just makes it more precious.

    Sharron x

    • Hi Sharron,
      good luck finding that dress you need for the wedding. If you can’t find one at the thrift store try a consignment store or even see if you can hire one. These are the options I am going to try in order to have a dress for the next work function my husband takes me to.

      I didn’t have to buy much in the way of baby clothes at all. My mother and my mother-in-law either made them or bought them at garage sales and thrift shops for me. Not only that my kids were and still are slight of build and grew out of thing very slowly. People often used to brag about how big their kids were and found it necessary to point out how small mine were like it was some sort of disease.But I had the last laugh because mine weren’t costing me a fortune in clothes.

      Thank you for confirming for me that my sone wasn’t all that unusual in his behaviour for a 20 year old. Sometimes I think he really needs a good hug though but he still holds back. For now I will settle for his pokes and prods and getting shut in the panty. 😆 I told my husband about my day with him when he came home from work and he said ~ “OOOr! He missed you!” ~ I had to laugh.

  5. That’s advice I live by!

    My Christmas party dress always is either borrowed from my sister’s closet or bought from the thrift store to be redonated in January ($8 for a nice velvet dress is a cheap investment for something I’ll only want to wear once — to the annual “free” formal work dinner!)

    There are so many times when I find superior quality older items (like kitchen bits) to replace my cheapo ones — on average the excellent vintage pieces are under $1 too.

    The thrift store is also where I have found my camping dishes/pots/linens. Good tough stuff, just missmatched or not microwave safe (fine for camping though).

    • Good for you creative me. Thrift stores are a treasure trove and you can swap and change your stuff as often as you like because with the one in one out policy and the eco-friendliness of buying secondhand it is all guilt free.

      While reading your comment it occurred to me that hidden in the deepest depth of my closet are a couple of ball gowns that haven’t seen the light of day for years. In fact one I have never worn. They are going to the thrift store so they can get out their circulating.

  6. Oh Ya! I also bought shoes and clothes from the thrift store to travel with. I bought them with the intention of leaving them there so that I have room in my one and only bag for a new-improved “I bought this in Paris” scarf or to have room to bring home authentic Italian pasta or awesome foreign brochures (I’m a designer)…. you get the idea. The cheap clothes get replaced with something cooler along the way with no regrets and no extra luggage for the return trip!

    • Creative me,
      I will be wearing my old shoes when I go to the US in April where I will replace them with new ones. They are half the price there so why wouldn’t I. I just hope the shoes last till then.

  7. Nearly all my clothes are bought second hand. I like that they are pre-shrunk, and that I’m not likely to see the same thing on the next person I meet on the street.

    I love the ways that our kids choose to show affection – maybe because they are funny, like your son’s, and I love a good sense of humour 🙂

    • Jo, I am starting to buy more in the way of secondhand. It helps that I work at the thrift store once a week. I have a good look to see if anything appeals to me. I mostly look for cotton dresses though as I have enough of everything else.

      Those boys, you gotta luv ’em!

    • Jo,
      that is exactly why when I need to replace some pieces of clothing or other items, I go to the thrift store first —I like unique items and I’m not likely to see anyone else wearing or owning the same thing. 🙂

  8. I totally agree with the idea of buying second hand, both for the reason mentioned above and because it’s so much less stress on the planet. However, I have horrible thrifting karma. I try, I really do, but I am rarely able to find anything I like at thrift stores, especially not clothing. Maybe I’m too picky, or maybe it’s the fact that I’m a just under 6′ tall woman (who is most certainly not a size 2, or 4, or 6, ok, I’m stopping there…), but I rarely find things that don’t look worn and even rarer that they fit. I think I’ve managed to find 4 items of clothing at thrift stores in my life, and several of those were mistakes. I feel like there is some thrift store secret everyone else knows but me.

    Purses on the other hand, are another story. I stopped buying purses at stores several years ago because paying $4 versus $20-$40? You can’t beat that.

    • Candi, I don’t think it’s your karma – unusual sizes are harder to come by 🙂 Although sometimes if you find one thing to fit, there can be several others, from the same load of donated articles. Also, thrift stores vary from area to area. Have you any consignment stores? Still second-hand, but higher-end stuff. And if you get to know the operator, sometimes they’ll give you tips on when they put out stuff or hold odd-sized things for a day for you. Or, you may find you have better luck concentrating on certain articles of clothing. You may never find pants with the inseam you need, but sweaters may be easier to find.

      • Hi Jo, thanks for the feedback. We do have consignment stores, and the one I’ve been to did have tall pants, but they cost more than on-sale new ones from the same store and they looked quite worn. I have to say, I’ve never been 100% comfortable with the idea of wearing used clothes previously owned by strangers (friends or family is no problem!). I think I’ll keep sticking to my new clothes only on sale rule.

    • Hi Candi,
      I think you are right your problem is your height. It is so much harder to get the right clothing item when you are that tall and then when you have it you wear it to death because it’s a pain to find a replacement. That is why the ones that do arrive at the thrift store are already past their prime. I have a friend who is that tall and she has a difficult time clothes and shoe shopping. My daughter has the opposite problem because she is short and has tiny feet. She beat the shoe problem by working in an independent shoe store where she can just order her size if she wants something.

  9. I can relate to this. Late last year it was my turn to host our wine tasting group (seven or so ladies) which meant I needed glasses for whites, and then for reds and for water too. No way did I have enough, so although I did buy a heavilly discounted set of six whites at Victoria’s Basement, I also hit the local Salvation Army and Vinnies shops and got enough beautiful wine glasses for the do for next to nothing. This pleased me a great deal as I am on very tight budget and I like “nice” things. One set from the Salvos was much admired – more so that one I purchased. I am not donating back this time, as I will need them again, but it is a great principle.

    I have bought a lot of second hand stuff in my life, sometimes from choice, sometimes from necessity and for anyone out there that has never done it and is a bit uncomfortable with it, I have one rule I follow -“If I can wash it (or otherwise clean it), it’s OK”. When you see what gets donated, often with the tags on, you will be amazed!

    • You are so right Calicoginger sometimes you can get some really lovely things at the thrift store that have hardly been used. I just wish some people would clean their stuff before they donate them. Some of the stuff comes in in such a poor state that we either have to clean it ourselves or, in the case of clothes, through them in the trash. More about that on Thursday though.

  10. Even with a 4.30am start for work, I’ve picked up some typos! There’s a fist instead of first. There’s another one, but I think you can only ‘see’ them on the first read, and they you lose them!

    I love the ‘buy a salvos jacket and leave it overseas’. Done that at least twice, and both times I’ve come to love my cheapie jacket and found it hard to part with! (but I have!) For my new place, I’ve got second hand wine goblets, dining chairs, table, buffet, sofa (on loan), TV, occassional chairs… Well pretty much everything! My bed/mattress were first hand a few years ago, and lots of my kitchen utensils are first hand (but I did look in thrift stores!) I would like a $2000 buffet (as an entertainment unit), but then I started looking on gumtree – can’t take the ‘cheapie’ out of the woman I tell you!!

    • Thanks again for the proof reading Snosie. I think the other mistake you were thinking of was volage which should have been voltage. Volage doesn’t even exist in my computer dictionary so why didn’t it show up yesterday as a mistake. It is showing up today OK. I wonder if it is because I cut and pasted that line out of another post. Weird.

      You are doing a fine job of picking up stuff secondhand Snosie, well done!

  11. My daughters took some baby clothes into a thrift store and they traded them for clothes they wanted. I haven’t shopped much at second hand places. I usually just wait for garage sales since their prices are so much lower in our area than the thrift stores. It is hit and miss with garage sales, though. I think it is a good idea to get costumes second hand. I would love to have you write a post on bartering. I think it is something that could really help a lot of us and we don’t do it enough.

    • Hi Spendwisemon,
      the thrift stores here don’t barter. I suppose if they operated that way they wouldn’t make enough money. Some days when I am there I feel it is only fair the if someone brings in a load of stuff to donate and then want to buy a blouse or something we should let them have it free and a token of thanks. Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. We do have frequent buyers cards though where if you spend $5 or more you get a stamp, 10 stamps get you a $5 discount on your next purchase.

      As for bartering, I love the idea but as you say it doesn’t happen often enough. I used to read a blog of a guy in the US and the town where he lived did a lot of bartering. I supply you eggs if you mow my lawn kind of deals, carpentry for mechanical work. I think it is great. The government would find a way to pay a goods and services tax on it though here in Australia I am sure.

  12. My Mother managed the Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop for 15 years. Most of my daughter’s clothes came from there when she was little. She has actually turned into a good thrift store shopper herself. I guess it’s in our blood.:) It took me a while to buy a pair of thrift store shoes, but it turned out to be one of my best purchases. They are sooo comfortable and fine for work. Online they retail for $90.00 and I paid $4.00. Glad I got over that!

    • We get some really good shoes in the thrift store were I work. They are never what I need or not my size. Even at thrift store prices I still only buy what I need. Clutter is clutter after all.

  13. I admit I purchase my clothing first hand because I’m super picky. But I limit my wardrobe; not quite at 33 items but close.

    • I do a bit of both these days. Like you I am super picky and only buy something if I need it and am completely happy with it. I don’t have time for second bests anymore.

  14. One of the things I love best about buying stuff second hand is that all that new chemical toxic smell is gone! I am never going to buy any new furniture anymore. I am too scared of formaldehyde, flame retardants etc… Even clothes smell so strong now days, I sometimes have to wash them several times before all that toxic smell is gone.

  15. Hi all,
    Thrifting is fun, cheap and entertaining, check out Megan at De-Clutter Daily, she has me in fits with her little ‘Thrift-tacular’ tidbits! I have to admit I have always been a good donater but always found that I could never find anything when I was looking, except pieces for costumes, my sons’ song and dance outfit was completely thrift store. Sadly when my son was a baby I never got anything handed down to me or thrift store bought because I’m sure I had the only boy in a 50km radius. Girls, girls everywhere, I did however find outlet stores and found designer clothes etc at ridiculously low prices. Some things may have had a fabric slub or a missed stitch, unbelieveably stupid little things amiss but I bought my son some gorgeous gear at a very, very discounted price (God Bless Big W for everything else) and all that got passed onto others once boys started making a comeback! He was a boofy baby as well so that made it hard to keep up with dollar wise, it was always nice to know that his gear was in great nick when I passed it on so the next tacker got really good wear out of everything. I got used to the idea early and just made do. Now he’s so tall and broard he gets to wear it out rather than grow out of it. Now I find I’m getting sick of seeing it hahaha can’t win this one.

    I don’t shop for clothing like I used to, (or anything else for that matter) I just get what I need when I need it. I kept the Salvos in designer shoes and clothes etc for years, when I worked I had a clothing allowance and it had to be used. When I left work to be a mum I had my first big clean out after my bub was 6mths old and then cleaned out my wardrobe/s and shoe robes 6mths after that. That’s probably what started me on my de-cluttering journey and I was donating everything along the way. I think I probably stocked our local store at least 3 times. Terrible that I had excess but great for anyone out there that needed it.

    As for your comment on the unclean or ratty bits, it’s such a lot of work for the store, if donations come in dirty or obviously ratty, they have to trash it because they may not have the resources to fix/clean them. Donating is great but be mindful of what you donate. I always look at stuff and give it the once over for judgement. If I look at it and know I would definitely buy it if I needed it, it gets donated, if it really has seen better days, then recycle bin/rubbish bin/rag bag. Just because you’re cleaning out your crap doesn’t mean you should donate crap! If it’s crappy BIN IT!

    Liam hug your Mum, it’s all the sweeter when you need $50 and she complies! haha!!! while you’re at it hug your Dad too because everybody needs a hug!

    Hugs all around and have a great week
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 Colleen just embrace your typo’s my personal favourite so far is still “Going to have coffee with fiends.” Just lovin’ 365

    • Yeah, Dizzy, that typo was my favourite, too. I wouldn’t have had it changed for anything!

    • Hi Dizzy,
      as always a very comprehensive response. And thank you for stressing the fact to not donate crap. My post on Thursday will be all about that. You were right about the $50 hugs. The only time I get one is when he is trying to fleece me for cash or something that is going to me a nuisance for me. He doesn’t remember but I gave him lots of kisses during his stint in hospital with the brain injury. I knew he was getting better when he started to fend them off. Little weasel. 😉

      • I think, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish what “crap” is actually. E.g. books:
        In the thrift store I usually go to, they have problems selling old books, i.e. books that look and smell old already. On the other hand they sell lots of paperbacks that you could sum up with “easy read” – romance novels, detective stories, fantasy and so on. It’s just because their customers are mainly people who just like a good read.
        Other stores that sell used books drown in paperbacks like that and are eager to get their hands on “old” books, as they are frequented by collectors.
        Sometimes it’s not that easy.

        • Hi Sanna,
          I haven’t bought a book in so long that I can’t say I have had any experience with this problem. I do know though that we do sell lots of books at the thrift store where I work. But as you say they are mostly novels. Although I do know that people look through the entire collection because I bring non-fiction books in at times and I often sell them before my shift ends. WE get a lot of deceased estate donations that have old books and I assume they sell because we are always adding to what is there. I also find that we get a lot of secondhand dealers that pick over the good stuff in the store and sell it and I imagine there would be book store owners among them. I guess to get the good stuff you have to be in the right place at the right time.

  16. I always hit the thrift stores before our annual camping trip. The girls can be pretty hard on their clothes during a week or two in the mountains. This way I don’t worry about the tears and stains, etc. If they don’t survive the trip (the clothes that is…of course I don’t mean the kids…yikes!) it’s no big deal.

    • Good move Lisa. Why wreck the good clothes when you can dress them in some knock about ones. I am glad that the girls survived the trip though. They aren’t so easy to replace. 😆

  17. eBay is also a great resource for used items. When I first moved to my current town I didn’t have a car and couldn’t get to the thrift shop. I was able to get pots and pans and a keyboard through eBay for thrift shop prices. There’s also so much baby stuff on eBay for even less than some thrift shops.

    • The only problem with ebay is having to pay the shipping. When you get an item cheaply the shipping is often more than the price of the item and the bigger the item the more expensive the shipping is.

  18. I have OCD. I had no idea that this related to thrift stores until my daughter spent an hour shopping at a Goodwill. I became more upset as time went on, then when I figured out why, I left. I gladly donate items to thrift stores, but I would never feel comfortable shopping at one. It’s irrational, but most phobias are.

    • That is completely understandable Jude and I can just imagine how they would freak you out. I have a problem with shopping in stores that that appear cluttering and disorganised. I used to frequent one particular craft store when I lived in America and felt like I was suffering from some sort of product dyslexia every time I went in there.

    • I don’t have OCD but I’m picky about the thrift stores I will go in. I don’t like it when they are so crowded that you can barely get through the aisles and everything is piled. I feel claustrophobic. They usually aren’t as clean either. Don’t like that at all.

  19. Like many people I had hand me down furniture during my renting years but when I bought my own home a few years ago I wanted furniture that fit that house. It took me about two years to find everything I needed but I managed to kit out my whole house (minus the main bedroom as I already had a nice suite) from local second hand shops. Saved me an absolute fortune (which went to the mortgage instead) and it also means I’m not so precious about spills etc on the furniture.

    • It is nice if you can find the secondhand furniture that suits your needs. Some of it is so cool. I must admit though none of our furniture is secondhand these days, some of it is old but not secondhand. We have changed a few pieces during my decluttering period, we looked for second hand but couldn’t find things to suit and in some cases the secondhand stuff was so expensive it just wasn’t cost effective.