The Joy of shopping in charity shops

I want to share with you the joy of shopping in charity shops. I remember growing up the term ‘second-hand shops’ was batted around in a rather shameful way. Looking back I am annoyed charity shops had to carry such stigma. Yet fast forward 25 years and here I am sharing with you why I love charity shop and thrift shopping so much and why I think you all will too.

I started my charity and thrift shop buying properly this year, by which I mean nipping in on a weekly basis. I had popped into a few here and there before this year but I had only come across the odd item.

This year I really began to take note of the environmental impact fast fashion is having on the planet and also the amount I was spending trying to keep up with new trends and in a shallow nature, I like to look and feel good, often buying new items to wear made me feel better about myself. Then my friend Fliss published a Vlog on Charity shops tips and charity shops in London. I know it shouldn’t have taken a vlog to make me realise but it really opened my eyes. I was already buying the majority of my books from charity shops, the odd present here and there for my nephew so why couldn’t I buy my clothes from there too?

Back at the beginning of the year, I purchased the nicest Topshop Camel coat for £10 in a charity shop in my home town and since then I have found so many items I love. Sometimes if there is an item in a charity shop well priced but not in my size and I know I can sell it for more, I will be a bit cheeky and list it on eBay or Depop but I do spend a lot more money in them now I think it is ok.

So let’s talk about fast fashion and its impacts on the environment because it seems to be the big baddy around at the moment. So is fast fashion, shopping on the high street as bad as they are making out it to be? Well, the simple answer is yes.

Fast fashion relates to the brands who can react with speed. The brands who are churning out more products than we will ever really need or that we don’t really have full demand for. They are the brands who can react to what is seen on the catwalk, magazines or on tv and replicate it within a matter of days from design all the way to the shop floor in less than two weeks.

Lauren Bravo author of How to break up with fast fashion reports that textile production produces an estimated 1.2 billion tons CO2 per year which is more than international flights and maritime shipping combined. The clothes we buy in the UK per minute produce more carbon emissions than driving a car around the whole world 6 times. If that was not enough to make you realise what our clothing habit is doing to the planet global clothing production has roughly doubled in just 15 years, and every year an estimated 300,000 tonnes of used clothing ends up in UK landfill. 

Despite my mass admiration for charity shops which I am going to come onto I cannot write a post such as this without acknowledging my privilege when it comes to second-hand clothes for a number of reasons.

Yes I think it is incredible that thrift shops, charity and vintage shops are getting the recognition they deserve for their contributions towards fashion but I don’t want to take away that to some people these are a lifeline to much needed clothing for work, social, home life etc that without donations they couldn’t afford to shop. Due to this, I am mindful with local charity shops how much I buy and how much I sell on on eBay. I also ensure any clothes of mine I no longer wear are also donated to charity shops.

I know I am fortunate that I have the income to support me buying from various other places which can curate desired outfits without relying solely on these shops. Whilst I think these looks could be created with charity shops alone I do realise to achieve such looks would be hugely time-consuming. So even though I have moved away from shopping high street as much as I can to almost hardly ever I still have the freedom and I can afford to shop on depop and eBay to create a look. I also shop new but sustainable brands such as Vejas and reformation etc I also love high end repurpose websites such as Manifesto Women.  Lastly, It hasn’t gone unnoticed that I am an average height and a size 8/10 women which means I have a lot of options especially as I like to size up a lot of my clothes. I know for other body types it is not so easy. So whilst I want to urge everyone to shop more sustainably and in more second-hand shops I want to stress than I am not unaware of the privilege I have when I talk about this.

Whilst I am encouraging shopping in these stores and I want people to buy from them because the money goes to great causes I just want everyone when buying things to check the amount. I think there will come a day when hopefully we are a little more mindful over what we want and what we need. It has changed my perspective on wanting and needing. The high street is marketed towards making us want everything we see, despite not needing it. Charity shops adjust that mindset because there is no guarantee and if you do see something you like if they don’t have your size you can’t ask the assistant to check out the back. Just be mindful of buying more than you need because it is the shopping in excess in any environment of any product which is contributing to the problem.

Nonetheless, it isn’t all doom and gloom, and this is the part I enjoy the most. Charity shops hold a treasure of great finds and over the next months between my friends and me, we want to show you all the great ways you can shop and still get the looks you are after for a fraction of the cost, whilst reducing your clothing carbon footprint. It really is a win-win for all involved. The elements I enjoy about these shops is you can leave with a whole array of purchases from clothes, books, homeware and gifts but I want to focus on the clothes for now.

I try to allocate one lunch hour per week to check out my local charity shops. I am lucky, in the small town where I live and work there are five charity shops. I am none the wiser as to where all the donations come from but these shops are always full of amazing items. I put one lunch hour aside to walk into town for a browse. This is also so good for my mental health (couldn’t get through one post could I?) as it gives me a good stretch away from the office and out in nature so I never mind if I don’t come away with anything. If you live or work in a larger town or city try to locate one or two charity shops close by which you know you can make once a week and stick to them. It is not a numbers game it is more chance or the right place at the right time so if you can visit the same shops over and over you are more like to find things in there if it is a shop you like. Finding a shop with a good layout is the most important. I am not going to talk much more about how as Fliss’ Vlog does this so well.

My perspective for second-hand shopping has completely changed. I find shopping second-hand purchases far more fulfilling and joyful than buying from the high street. This is for a number of reasons. I think it actually takes a little bit of skill to go into a thrift or second-hand store and look through items and imagine how it will look when it is not on a hanger with a collection of matching items in a high street store. It is almost a sense of achievement when you get home and piece an outfit together with the items you found. I love the buzz I get when I come across an item, and know it has cost me hardly anything especially compared to what I would have paid for it new. I always relish in the feeling even more if it is an item I have been after for a while such as a grey roll neck in the photo. I love knowing the money goes to a charity. The shops in my town are all really great causes, I doubt you will find a charity shop that isn’t but I suffer a lot less from buyers guilt then I do when I buy from Topshop etc knowing that money is not lining Philip Green’s pockets. I love that I can buy three big items and not even spend £15. I always like the people working in the shops and their stories they have to tell. We are so lucky that so many volunteers give up their time to run these shops. I enjoy that these shops are a place which can give my old clothes a new life without them just been thrown into the landfill.

From this post, you will know I am a big advocate for second-hand shopping and being a little more aware of the impact we are marking. I have only recently started to become more aware so I certainly don’t know it all and I am definitely not perfect, but I am taking small steps to make bigger changes which is all every one of us can really do. If you do want to know more I really recommend Lauren Bravo’s book which is released in 2020 (mentioned above). I also urge you to listen to Nobody panic podcast the episode with Lauren titled ‘how to break up with fast fashion’ and Fashion fix on BBC Sounds. Last but certainly not least for the third time watch Fliss’ vlog it is really helpful and kick-started me on my second-hand shopping addiction, which is now wildly out of control.

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