I was looking for a good Christmas jumper recently and ducked into the Salvation Army shop in town. I had my good friend, Willow*, with me. She stood, wide eyed, as I had a quick flick through the racks. Sadly, there were no Christmas jumpers to be had that day. As we were leaving, Willow confessed that she’d never been in an Op Shop before. Whaaaaaat?
There are people who never consider buying second hand items and I just don’t get it. In particular there still exists a weird sort of snobbery about Op shops like the Salvo’s and Vinnie’s. This is obviously not great for the world in a bigger sense (hello? recycling?) but also, how do these people not understand how much fun it is? In Willow’s case, it’s a matter of germs – she’s worried about them. I am apparently not.
I always get brilliant things in Op shops around Christmas time when everyone suddenly decides to clear out room in their houses to make room for more things. Oh my GOD, I hear the non-believers thinking, please don’t be buying underwear! Of course I’m not buying underwear. I’m buying wonderful things like old crockery and chairs and kiddies books and toys and magazines and bookshelves and wardrobes and hats and bags and baskets.
I’ll admit it’s not what it used to be. Ten years ago the Op shops were full of clothes you could actually wear. Vintage blouses and dresses, cool jackets and beautifully tailored long coats and pants. It’s hard to get these things now. Now you mostly get funny old coats with the huge daft furry collars that no one wants to wear and most of the clothes are just cheapie modern crap. But every now and then you get something that restores your faith and keeps you going back.
The Glenorchy Tip shop is my current favourite. I probably shouldn’t even tell you that in case you go and empty the place. Not for clothes but for books and kitchen wares and general stuff. I can spend a great deal of satisfying time there, in search of potential treasures.
I know a lot of very passionate op shoppers and the ones that are successful are the ones that keep at it. One of the first things I do when I find something wonderful (like my baskets) is to send a photo of it to one of my friends who will be equally excited as well as reassured that there is still good stuff to be found. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like the thrill of a fantastic second-hand find. Forget about your Catch-of-the-Day or your Brands Exclusive emails. Try finding a 1960’s octagon dining table in near perfect condition. Or your fourth retro bucket basket. Or a book about trains that will keep you kid quiet in the car the entire way home!
Five great things to look for in Op Shops:
1) Kids clothes. Still plenty of those about. Nice ones. Particularly baby ones which are seldom used for more than a few months at a time. The Baby and Kids Market is especially good for beautiful hand knitted baby clothes.
2) Kitchen stuff : Plates! Glassware. Those old fashioned champagne glasses you can stack and make a champagne fountain with. Jars. Vases. Ramekins.
3) Furniture. Lovely solid stuff that has never been in a flat pack. Unique stuff. Pieces that will make your home look stylish and different. Things you can sand or slap paint on and be proud of.
4) Storage containers: Vintage suitcases for stashing under beds. Baskets – I am in love with old baskets. In particular I have been getting these fantastic bucket style baskets and I use them to house cleaning products and Barney’s toys. Actually I’ve written this whole post just so that I can show you my bucket baskets.
5) Toys and kids books. G is allowed to select one item per outing. It’s invariably a piece of plastic Toy Story junk (hey at least I’m not buying it new and they’re happily washable) but occasionally he finds something great. Like his futuristic plastic gold bracelet which has been a favourite in the dress up box ever since. Little girls have wailed – because he will not give it up.
So you don’t need to be buying a million new things in the Christmas sales this year. If you’re not already into it, now is the time. Best of luck.
*Willow is not her real name.
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