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How to charity shop – six tips!

There was a while when I used to work in a charity shop as a volunteer on Saturdays. I would be out the back, in the sorting room. My “sorting” usually went “One for me, one for the shop. One for me, one for the shop.” I used to leave every night with two bin bags of stuff- it was a bit of a drain on my pocket as I didn’t even used to get mates rates!

I have always loved charity shops- identifying them as a young teen as a way of getting better and more bang for my paper delivery buck. (I was the WORST paper girl in the world, I would do my whole route half asleep on my bike, and then have to go back after school to retrieve and swap them all around until everyone got the right one.) But it gave me about £2.70 each week and even as a 14 year old I would delight in people’s expressions as I gloated “Oh, these Lee jeans? £1!”

I like to think of myself as a charity shop connoisseur. I have honed my art over the last 2 decades, I know the London shops like the back of my hand, and am gathering a charity shop map of the UK in my subconscious as we dabble in charity shop tourism!

Here are my top 6 pointers!Six Tips for Charity Shopping

Have a list

What are you looking for? It can be intimidating wandering into a massive room crammed with stuff. Have a list of 5 items that you always scan for, and then you can be in and out super quick. Mine include: good shoes that fit, vintage tea cups, wooden toys, cheap lace and embroidery,  dominoes, scrabble and Lexicon! With that list I can be in and out in 4 minutes flat, making charity shopping something I can do while I wait for the next bus.

Keep it regular

It does take a certain amount of commitment this charity shopping lifestlye malarkey. You can’t just waltz in twice a year and hope to strike gold. Little and often is the best way, dash around your locals on your lunch break at least once a week. Sometimes you can even get to know the volunteers and bust out the old cheeky “Anything out the back?” question!

Play the long game

Forget instant gratification -you have to be in it for the long haul. Have a list and be prepared for it to take weeks to find things on there. And have a little storage spot for things you need in the future. I have a giant suitcase of gifts that I have found and can pull out when the person’s birthday rocks up. January is THE BEST time for charity shopping new stuff, as everyone gives their unwanted pressies away. Buy them up, store them, and give them away!

Fabric tests 

I try to have a No Polyester rule. It tends to hold people’s sweat and catches on my dry fingers, so I avoid it. And if I find some 100% wool going for a song I nearly always buy it. 100% wool is always a winner both for warmth and also crafting (once felted in a hot wash) and hard to buy economically from anywhere. However, I hate to be grim but do SCOUR for signs of moths. It is possible to bring them into your home with a vintage wool purchase- but you can usually spot them. Figure out the quality fabrics  and classic items you want to fill your wardrobe with, and always scan for them.

Hokey kokey rule

If you are going to get buying from charity shops, also get giving. I kind of have a loose “one in, one out rule” when it comes to clothes. Otherwise I would be buried under a mound of 100% wool. Freely give and freely receive! (Totally mashing up  drunk wedding songs and scripture references here, this is how I roll.)

The lay of the land

The fact is, if you charity shop in posh parts of town you will have to accept higher prices- but you WILL find better labels and better quality stuff. If you like a good rummage and would rather take your chances on finding a dusty gem on a groaning shelf then head out of town and hit up those £1 rails. There is some kind of rule about charity shops paying less on certain streets, so very often if you are wondering where to start just search some of the big name charity shops and you will almost certainly find a run of loads of them. Charity shops don’t like to be lonely.

Be philosophical about your dosh

Your first few forays into charity shops COULD surprise you. You will inevitably find clothes that could be cheaper in Primarni. Sometimes it can be baffling. Don’t dwell on it. Think about the huge amount of goodness these charity shops are doing, by selling on these clothes. I kind of think they almost have a responsibility to get what they can from the things we donate. I pretty much count every penny I spend as a donation, rather then a bout of consumption. (Although, I have been known to have a proper grumble about it sometimes, so I understand, I do. I do.)

Rock Up in Red British Heart Foundation

Wearing my latest secondhand finds including my only red top in honour of Rock Up In Red. It is a bit dull, but jollied up with this awesome vintage scarf. And also a little chance to show off my 5 month bump which popped out a bit more this week- so much more actually that Tim had the audacity to Poke.My.Bellybutton. *throws up* (I’m phobic of bellybutton touching and he has known that for 7 years. Outrageous.)

One of the big hitters on the high street is the British Heart Foundation. I especially love their Hammersmith shop- nestled towards the end of a huge string of charity shops on the high street. In the last few years three precious family members have experienced serious, in one case fatal, heart conditions. Every time I buy something from their charity shops I think about the British Heart Foundation’s huge and ambitious fight against heart disease.

On 1st February 2013 they are hosting a “Rock Up in Red” day – a chance for individuals, workplaces, youth groups, schools etc to raise cash for a future filled with healthy hearts. It is a simple idea- get everyone wearing this most racy and bold of colours for one day and get small donation from each person – but is could make a massive difference in people’s lives. Hey, why not make your first delve into charity shopping a search for some lush red garments for Rock Up in Red?  You can download a fundraising pack and get loads of help with planning all their website. And blog your fancy red outfit!

Thanks, now come on, reveal all- what are your charity shopping tips?

PS If you love charity shops you will probably enjoy this round up of the UK’s BEST charity shops from some thrifty bloggers!

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Charity Shopping in the Cotswolds

Our second holiday this summer was to the beautiful lands of Gloustershire, where we wiled the days away charity shopping and hiking the hills. Really, truly, my ideal week. The only thing that could have topped it would have been a dash of river swimming- alas it was colder than a cold spell in coldville so it wasn’t to be.

As my contribution to the Charity Shop Blog Hop, I am going to cover a few little gems in this excellent thrifting holiday destination.

In general, most of the shops were fairly astute in their prices, if you like mining piles of jumble in order to find a classic for three pee, this probably isn’t the staycation for you. But without exception every single town or village threw up at least one or two Absolute Proper Bargains, and had a million other lovely things going for it as well.

Wotton – Under-  Edge

This is a gorgeous little village, just one high street, with tons of little cafes and deli’s nestled amongst it’s charity shops. If you enter the high street from the bottom you immediately get to the Cotswolds Care Hospice Shop. It is jammed to the rafters with quirky odds and ends. We bought some particuarly lovely and cheap as chips kids toys- including a vintage abacus for half the price I expected to pay.  As you wander up the high street you find  three others and one tucked around the corner on the left. Have a peep at the map.

Dursley

A tiny little village, surrounded by beautiful walks. The five Charity Shops are well worth visiting, if not just to have a grand old giggle with the stereotype defying ladies in the Oxfam shop who were actually HAPPY and pleased to have customers!!
Oxfam is on the left hand side on the main road in, keep walking up through the pedestianised bit to find the others. Check out the map.

Tewkesbury

Tewkesbury is a larger town with a long high street littered with charity shops. The first three we went to were all next door and suffered from Three-Charity-Shops_Right_Next-To-Each-Other Syndrome and had nothing worthwhile in them at all. But a short hop away are where the bargains begain really flowing! There are other reasons to visit too – a breathtaking Abbey and beautiful countryside strolls to be done just minutes from the High Street. Forgive me – I haven’t done a map as they are all on the main drag, can’t miss ’em!

Nailsworth

Yet another delightful village tucked in the middle of the Cotswolds. A primary feature is the huge bakehouse, sitting next to a stream, filled with buns, biscuits, donuts and every baked good you can imagine! It is worth wandering around this village just to come across the Emmaus charity shop- a lovely one with shelves absolutely bustling with both bargains and vintage classics.  See the map here!

Stroud

Stroud is fabulous town. Totally stunning and with loads of amazing Fair Trade shops and cafes and delectable delis. It is also crammed with charity shops – nine of the bad boys!  Some of them offering old odd bits of crockery for pennies. There are also some lovely antique shops – every antique shop is out of my price range but still well worth an ogle! See the map here.

(Massive shout out to my beloved sister Jo who swung by these and double checked my lazy, hazy holiday memories!)

Right, I showed you mine, now you show me yours!

Charity Shop Blog Hop Link Up below


Can’t wait to stop by and read them.  Do visit the others and leave a comment to say hi –  you might just find some blogs you’ll fall in love with 😀

Charity Shop Blog Hop and a few magpied marvels

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I used to volunteer in a charity shop on Saturdays, it was so bad for me. I jest not, at the end of the day I would routinely walk away with AT LEAST one bin bag full of finds I couldn’t resist. I’d be in the back sorting, going “One for the shop… one for me… one for the shop…. one for me…”

Since those heady days I have installed charity shopping as the primary source for all our stuff. I just see it as totally win win – a good rumble in their jumble gets us both necessary and frivolous things in a cheap way.  But equally I love knowing the money I am spending is going to help someone or a situation AND I love knowing I am making use of someone’s leftovers. ( I realise that is not even win win, but win win WIN.)

Of course, there is the odd time a grumpy worker bites or you have a couple of weeks of thrifting absolutely NADA, or the time you see a Primark dress going for thrice the price, or the time you get something home and it reeks of someone’s armpits.  (But best not to mention these as each time you  do an old shop volunteer dies.)

I know loads of other people adore charity shops too and there is a whole bunch of bloggers dedicated to showing off our charity shop bounty. I fancy holding a bit of a parrrtaaaayyy showing off the charity shops themselves and I’d love you (Yep, YOU) to join in.

Whoever you are, if you have a charity shop you can never pass without ducking in, a route you often traipse around or have hit up a random town in a splurge of charity shop tourism then blog it and link it in ten days time on Thursday 31st May as part of the (drum roll):

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It could be a secret route, with intricate detail and a google map, or it could be an abstract poem dedicated to your local – anything goes. The aim is to have a little Tinternet soiree  for charity shop lovers and for newbie thrifters to meet the Old School,  but it might also provide some helpful info so we can all plan our holidays around scouring charity shops (What, no one else designs their breaks around that?!)

Please join in – everyone welcome! Simply write a post before or on Thursday 31st May and visit here to add your link using the linky tool. Include the graphic using the code above so people can find their way back to check out the other party people.

I’ll also do a round up of the highlights  a week later in case anyone missed the joys.

Cool. You in, yeah?

Onto a couple of things I have found lately:

Every house needs a step ladder with a plump pile of neatly folded fabric on it eh? The fabric stacked at the very bottom was a hefty £10 from my favourite Fara shop but it is huuuuuge – about 2 x 3 metres.  I am not sure what to do with it. It is a peculiar shiny material. Maybe a blind?

The top piece is about 50cm by 1 metre and is clearly quite ancient- I just love the flowers on it. It was £1.50 from a Geraniums for the Blind shop. I can’t quite bring myself to give it a permanent setting if it involves taking scissors to it. But I know it is wasted perching on a paint splattered ladder.

And lastly, I scored these five plates from the local car boot fair in East Dulwich- just £1 for the five. I love the brown and turquoise design, all the glories of the Seventies right there.

Linking up with Liz’s Magpie Mondays, of course- do have a poke around their second hand loot.

Have you found anything lush lately?

And, do you reckon you’ll join in with the blog hop?

And, how do you feel bout spending 17  seconds voting for Lulastic in the Thrift & Craft categories of the MAD blog awards? (Saying it in third person sounds much less desperate.) Unlike our electoral system, every little vote counts!