How to op shop like a pro

Here’s how to master the art of pre-loved purchasing.

From the thrill of the find to the joy of shopping sustainably, opportunity shops are worth a stop for everyone from beginners to seasoned opportunists.

A woman holding books browses the shelves of a second hand book store

As well as giving unwanted items another shot at life, raising money for charity and instilling a sense of community, the humble thrift shop is the place to score some of your life’s most treasured trinkets – if you know how. 

Whether you’re new to the hunt or need inspiration to keep searching, we’ve rounded up pro tips to help you walk away with your next recycled wonder.

Out with the old

Make space for your new gems by firstly completing a clean-out. No longer will those bags of donations sit in your car boot for weeks, because you’re headed to the store soon. A good rule of thumb is if you haven’t worn or used an item in the past year, give someone else a chance to. Besides, you’re about to score a much more unique wardrobe anyway.

Shop with a plan

Write a list of what you’re hoping to find, and save it to your phone. You’ll stay on track – and on budget. You can also filter down your number of stops due to which stores stock which products. If you’re hunting for new bedside tables, for example, you only need to visit stores with a furniture section.

A potted plant sits on a chair in front of a blank wall.

Gather your tools

Plan ahead if you’re buying items intended for a specific use or space in your home. Measure the area before you leave your house, save the dimensions to your phone and take along a tape measure to use in store. 

Save time by scanning

The ultimate time-saving tip is to master the art of the scan. These stores can quickly become overwhelming, so scan each rack and shelf for palettes and pieces that catch your eye. Start at your favourite section first – be it homewares, electronics or books – then work your way down your list until you’ve successfully ticked your boxes. 

An exterior shot of an op shop, with various floral fabrics and oddments

Embrace the chase 

Chances are you might not find what you’re looking for right away, but try not to get discouraged. Instead, look at it like the thrill of the chase. It can often take multiple visits to source your next sustainable score. By sticking with your search, you’re honing your skills for future finds. 

Check quality and usability 

Once you’ve found something you love, give it a close inspection. Check clothing for holes and working zippers, ensure there are no chips in glass or ceramics and unpack boxed items to make sure all the parts are inside. If you’re buying electrical goods, either ask to plug them in or keep your receipt in case they’re not working when you arrive home. 

A woman searches through various colourful shirts on a clothing rack

Find the right fit 

When it comes to clothing, don’t pay too much attention to sizing. Often clothing has shrunk or is vintage-sized, so it’s best to try everything on. While you’ll likely score some brand-named clothing at bargain prices, don’t rule out lesser-known labels. A vast variety of linen, silk and cashmere designs await among those racks, too. 

Ask the purpose question 

It can be tempting to buy a stash of goods because they’re so cheap, but try to keep yourself accountable by ensuring each one has a place in its new home. Hold each item and ask yourself what purpose it serves and if you really need it. If clothing needs altering, consider if you’ll actually get it altered or if it’s likely to be sent back to the store in your next donation run. 

Posted inArticle, Publisher, Royal AutoTags: Op Shop Tips, Thrift Shop, Vintage Shopping