How I came to my senses and embraced cast-offs!

I remember a time when my home was filled with things that were second-hand or makeshift. My children were babies

I remember a time when my home was filled with things that were second-hand or makeshift. My children were babies so they didn’t notice that the shabby couch was covered in an old sheet. Our “entertainment unit” was made from two milk crates and a plank of wood, the pots and pans in my cupboards were handed down from my mother and aunties, and I decorated the house with pretty tea cups from my grandmother.

With today’s trends, my home was quite hip – but in those days, it was more of a tip. We were so very broke, living hand to mouth on one salary. But we had everything we needed, nothing more, nothing less.

As is what typically happens, our kids grew up, I returned to work, we had more money and less broken old things. I was proud of my home, and also myself, spending money on good clothing that would last (and some fund clothing that wouldn’t).

But the cost! Oh my gosh. When I think now what I used to spend on clothes and homewares, I feel dizzy. While DINKs (double income no kids) make the economy go round, IRWGTS (in retirement with grandchildren to spoil) don’t.

It was my daughter, who is still at that point of desperate near-poverty that children can bring, who convinced me to start shopping in op shops. For years my trips to charity stores had been a one-way transaction, with me dropping off clothes and other items I no longer wanted.

But now that I am drawing a pension, I have rediscovered the joys of thrift shopping, and can’t imagine why it took me so long.

In today’s world of disposable fashion, charity shops are quite literally bursting at the seams with quality clothes. There is also plenty of rubbish, but in a moment I’ll tell you how to find the true gems.

Before that I must advise you that right now is the best time to hit the op shops. As this newspaper article confirms, charity stores are inundated with clothing and homewares at the moment as people hit the shops and find time to clean out their cupboards over the holidays.

My best tip for finding the gems amid the misshapen t-shirts is to find three or four well-run op shops and make these your favourites. I personally prefer one that organises the clothing in size order as it saves a lot of time hunting through items that won’t fit. As I flick through a rack, I am looking at the labels, knowing that the better quality clothing will last better the second time around. I have found Country Road, Trent Nathan, Wayne Cooper and Lisa Ho, to name a few brands.

There are basically two types of op shop – the kind where whatever comes in the door goes on the shelves (these tend to be the more poorly organised kind) and those run by larger charities that send clothing to a central location to be sorted and redistributed. The latter are my preference because they tend to have a better range, but they are more expensive. If you’re someone who loves the thrill of the hunt and scoring an absolute bargain, then the little Aladdin’s cave shops will suit you better.

For the record, it’s not just clothing I buy at charity shops. There seems to be a never ending supply of cast iron pans, which I love and have returned to using, and I once found a new-used set of Sheridan sheets – for $12!

Are you an op shopper? Have you always been or, like me, have you come to it by necessity? Are you willing to share the name and location of your favourite op shop?


    • I volunteer in an op shop it is by unpaid workers and our clothes are all sold from 50 cent to 2.00 dollars they are all good clothes, what comes in very worn gets sorted out. We sell a lot clothes furniture, books mags all kitchen items. Money coming in goes back to the community.

  1. Op shopping is like a treasure hunt. I don’t buy much these days but I love searching for those unexpected treasures.

    • Also great fun place to hunt for bibs and bobs for craft like unusual buttons and trims.

  2. Dianne Evans  

    I have always liked op shops but buy little as they are often more expensive then new now but I always look and get the odd gem.

  3. I donate my clothes to op-shops but as yet have not shopped there. As I am still working I buy EVERYTHING on sale and try to buy one really good piece every year – my coats, jackets and shoes last years. I will be op shopping/browsing when I retire!

  4. I have dedicated a room to my small grandchildren. They play in that one area with toys I have bought 2nd hand. We are all happy!

  5. you can get some amazing bargains in OP shops , one mans cast off’s can be another man’s treasure or woman,s 🙂 I just donated 2 full green garbage bags of clothing and some of the dresses were vintage from 60’s and 70’s, when I told my 2 teenage great Nieces, they looked shocked and asked why I never gave them to them lol I honestly never though they would want them

    • my nieces have always loved my castoffs….especially the hippy stuff….clothes, jewellery, bags….then my own daughters who came along, much later were miffed I had not kept for them….lol….and they all think that we hit the jackpot for being born when we were…who’d of thunk ???

  6. I love shopping in the op shops , buy most of my clothes there, I don’t have to but love to, I see it as recycling ,pity a lot more people don’t do it , my home is full of recycled things and I love it

    • Same here Lynne. At one stage I would never have dreamed of shopping at Vinnies etc., but I went in one day with a friend and was hooked. Some of the clothes are hardly worn, some even have tickets still on them. Have just taken a pile of my clothes to Vinnies after 5 years of not wearing them.

  7. Julie Ord  

    My best find was a new Oroton leather handbag for $4.

  8. Well anything you buy new is second hand once it is washed and you can find some great clothes there, some never worn.

    • Since I retired I have been working in Vinnies twice a week. Before then I had never set foot in an op shop, now I rarely go home without something I have bought on my shift!

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