Going charity shopping for clothes for me is my guilty little addiction. I find I can’t walk past one without going in for a little snoop around. Thankfully for me the high street where I live has them in abundance. My obsession started years ago influenced by my mother. She was one of 12 (they had no TV!) and every one of them wore hand-me-downs until the clothes that were left were no better than rags. With not much money to go around, my Mum can sniff out a bargain from 20 metres away and through brick walls. I too have inherited that superpower skill and can detect a well-known brand name within seconds of entering a charity shop. It is both a gift and my downfall because if I am not careful I can end up buying more than I went in to donate.
I have discovered that over the last few years the quality of clothes in charity shops has greatly improved. Perhaps it is this throw away nature that our generation tend to have today, or perhaps the shops have just got savvy with what they sell. Whatever it is, my fellow charity shoppers and I benefit greatly. It’s not just the quality of the clothing that has improved. Stored themselves have started to smarten up their act. Layouts of the stores try to reflect those of high street brands meaning the days of rummaging are over. There are proper section for dresses, skirts, blouses etc and all grouped together by size. Although I do often hanker back to the time when it was more like a jumble sale and it felt a real victory to find something that you wanted.
So, when is the best time to go charity shopping for clothes?
The answer is anytime – you never know who has just had a good wardrobe clear out and donated everything to charity. That being said, I tend to go at the start of the season when everyone pulls out their “other wardrobe” ready to replace the items in their usual one. For me that means pulling out the storage boxes under the bed ready to transfer everything over. Did I mention I rarely throw things away? I am also the younger sister so I get my sister’s cast-offs and her’s are far too good to donate. They also go in the boxes under the bed as I am usually too excited to make a rational decision on whether I need them or not when they first turn up.
My decisions on what to donate are the same as the majority of the population and are triggered by the following factors:
- Outgrown – my son’s wardrobe not mine. I stopped growing 30 years ago and if anything I am now at the shrinking stage.
- Bargain sale item- you know the one “couldn’t leave it there” but had nothing to wear it with and you weren’t even too sure you liked it in the first place?
- Put on weight
- Lost weight
- No longer fits in general – I’m talking pre-baby body shape compare to the post one
- Not worn in three years – when I know clothes have to go because I have no room for others this is the defining decision category
After a few visits to the charity shops around you I guarantee that you will learn when the best time is for you to go shopping.
What can I expect to find?
I know I’m not alone in my thought process so by that logic there will be people throwing away perfectly decent stuff like me. In fact, here is a sneak look at some of my clothing hauls from the last few weeks:
Monsoon Top: £2.99
Shoes (brand new – although the photo doesn’t do them justice because of the shadowing): £1.49
BHS Shorts: £2.99
Papaya top: £3.99
Roberto Vianni Shoes (brand new): £3.99
Esmara Blue Linen top: £1.99
- Try on! Some shops allow you to take purchases back but not all of them do. If you don’t have time to try on then ask before you buy if there is a returns policy. I get really put out when they don’t have a changing room so I even ask if I can just pop to another shop to try it on quickly so that they remember my face if I need to bring it back a few minutes later.
- Try different sizes. Just because you might be a size 10 that doesn’t mean all sizes are the same. Don’t forget that you can have anything from Top Shop to River Island to Wallis all on the same rack and as we all know the sizing is never the same. So have a look in the size below and the size above.
- Make sure you go for labels as they tend to wash better and will last longer. You are also getting more of a bargain. People tend to donate White Stuff, Monsoon, Fat Face etc because they are too good to throw away and have plenty of use left in them.
- Have a good look around as clothes will be sorted in all sorts of ways. People also pick up and put back willy-nilly and the volunteer workers can’t always stay on top of checking that everything has been put back in the right place.
- Don’t just buy it because it is a bargain. Make sure you find pieces that go with things you have at home already. Despite the top and shorts I found that go like a dream, rarely do I find a complete outfit. All you end up doing otherwise is spend more money trying to find a match, or a few months from now sticking it right back in to the charity bag.
- Don’t buy basic items of clothing. For example, if I need basic vest tops I will go straight to somewhere like Primark or Tesco because they are not that much different in price and at least you will get a few washes out of them before they lose their shape.
And here is a sneaky tip for you, don’t overlook those charity shops that look slightly more disorganised than the others. From my experience these are the ones where you can unearth a gem because the staff don’t really know what they are selling. I picked up a barely worn Joules dress for only £1. Yes, that’s right only £1!
Let’s do this!
Hopefully with those tips you feel ready and to go out there and give it a go. Not only will you get excited by unearthing a little gem, but there is enormous sense of satisfaction from the win-win. You get something and the charity benefits as well. It is such a rewarding experience. Let me know how your next trip goes and share your photos on social media tagging me (twitter: @lifeatnumbereleven Instagram: @lifeatnumber_11) so I can join in and marvel at your purchases.
Have fun and welcome to the party.