This year I’m taking part in Oxfam’s Secondhand September challenge, and try and buy no new clothes for the whole month of September. However, I’m going to make it a bit more difficult for myself by also giving myself a ban on buying new furniture, decor or kitchen stuff, too.
To my great shame, I’ve been buying a lot of new clothes lately. I’ve also been sending 90% of it back… but it’s still a habit that’s HORRIBLE for the environment. 11 million items of clothing get sent to landfill by people in the UK each week, and as I’m on a mission to reduce waste at the moment this challenge sounds perfect for me.
I’m posting this now (in August) to give you all a chance to take part too. I’m much more of a homeware and accessories second-hand shopper, but I want to start giving thrifted clothes a chance.
Here are my top tips for getting the best value out of second-hand shopping.
Know where to shop
Looking for secondhand items can feel fruitless if you’re not in the right place at the right time.
My hometown in Dorset has a very elderly population, so I find the clothes in charity shops definitely lean towards the matronly side. However, in larger towns and cities with a more even mix of ages I’ve had much better luck.
The Thrifty Londoner has a really helpful guide to the best charity shops in West London. It’s worth exploring your local area to see if there’s a high street with donations that suit your style.
What should I buy?
My favourite things to buy second hand, are things that are really expensive new, don’t really wear out, and are re-sold at a bargain price.
Keep your eye out for:
Board games and puzzles – a brand new game of Trivial Pursuit is £25, but it’s really easy to find in charity shops for £1 or £2. Have a quick look while you’re in the shop to check the board game you’re buying comes with all of its pieces before you commit to buying it.
Furniture – I own loads of pieces of second-hand furniture. Most of mine were either bought from Facebook Marketplace or specialist furniture charity shops. I spent £30 on my wardrobe in a charity shop – even IKEA’s cheapest wardrobe (that isn’t made out of fabric) is more than double that. Plus, mine is definitely prettier.
Kitchenware – I find vintage kitchen items so cute, I have a particular soft spot for old fashioned Pyrex dishes. I’ve bought these from eBay and found them in charity shops for very low prices. Essentials like plates, cutlery and measuring jugs are always in charity shops, and it’s rare to see them cost more than £1, when a full dining set can cost £50 new.
Jackets and outerwear – I love a powerful 80s jacket (think Heathers, not Maggie Thatcher), and these are a charity shop favourite for me. People don’t really wear jackets as much as other types of clothes, so it’s not usually hard to find them in mint condition. A winter coat can be a big investment, so why not have a look while the weather is still good (so there’ll be less competition) and save yourself some money?
What should I avoid?
My one big no-no for secondhand shopping is vintage shoes, especially high heels. If you’re looking at footwear that’s over twenty years old it’s highly likely the sole is going to have issues. Old fashioned plastics really don’t hold up well over time, and are likely to crumble apart when you wear them. I’ve picked up trainers with soles that don’t bend at all, and bought stilettos where the plastic tips have fallen to pieces after only one outing.
Of course, it’s possible to get most shoes re-heeled, and if you really love them it could be worth the investment.
If you have your heart set on a pair of secondhand shoes, make sure you give them a thorough testing in the shop before you take them home.
Don’t forget online
Charity shops aren’t your only option when it comes to buying pre-owned items – shopping online is easier, and sometimes not much more expensive. Depop is a fantastic place to buy clothes and accessories, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace can be good for furniture and decor items. For me, eBay is the safest bet with PayPal protection for if your item doesn’t fit the description.
So, what do you think? Are you along for the ride with #SecondHandSeptember? I should be back with how I did, and maybe some more in-depth posts and pre-owned buying tips later on in September.