If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me “But I don’t have time to thrift!”, I’d be RICH. Hitting a thrift when you’re super-tight on time isn’t only doable, it can be downright fun (if you do it right). Whether you’re thrifting over your lunch break, as I commonly do, killing time before an appointment or sneaking away for an hour while the kids are at practice, here are my tried-and-true tips for maximizing your next thrift-store pop-in.
Preparation is everything.
When Roman statesman and philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca noted “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity,” I doubt if he was talking about thrifting, and yet, his words ring so totally true. If you want to get lucky on your next thrift-store power-hour, you’ve gotta have your ducks in a row.
Know where you’re going.
If you’re visiting a new-to-you thrift, make sure you map out directions and so you don’t spend your thrifting time driving around in circles. (Been there, done that!) Most thrift-store websites, Goodwill included, should be able to link you directly to Google Maps. And for goodness sakes, check to make sure the store will be open too!
Bring a list.
Just like grocery shopping without a list can turn into a train wreck, if you don’t know what you’re looking for at the thrift, it’s practically impossible to be in-and-out in under an hour. It’s simply too overwhelming! To avoid aimless aisle wandering, I review my running list of wants before I head out. (I keep my list on my phone, since I know I’ll always have it with me, but a small notebook does the trick too.)
I’ll also scan my Crafts, Projects & Plans Pinterest board so I can see what I’ve pinned recently and might need supplies for. Finally, I try to peek at my calendar to see if there are any events or holidays I should be planning or stocking up for. Having a detailed list in hand helps me stay focused, even at at big, busy stores.
Get to it.
List in hand, get down to business! Since I wear dresses and skirts 99.9% of the time, that’s the section where I always start. Shopping stores that are organized like Goodwill, where clothing is sorted by size, makes it so much easier to be quick and efficient!
A thrift-store power-hour is not the time to:
-try clothes on
-check to see if electronics work
-dig through bargain bins
-read book jackets
-flip through piles of vinyl
-bid on silent auction items
-buy furniture (unless the store policy allows them to hold it for you so you can haul it home)
Go with your gut.
Sometimes an item will present itself to you that you simply have to have. For example, a wicker serving tray wasn’t on my wish list, but when I saw this one, a fun makeover idea for it sprung to mind, and so I snapped it up. To avoid (impulse) buyer’s remorse, set a dollar-amount cap for spontaneous purchases. (Mine’s $10, for what it’s worth.) You can always come back tomorrow, you know?
It’s OK if you don’t find anything.
Leaving a store empty-handed does not make your trip a failure! Being “lucky” in thrifting requires persistence and patience, and sometimes, it’s just not in the cards. Do not waste your money buying something just for the sake of “making your trip worthwhile.” You know it’ll just wind up adding clutter to your home, closet or bookshelf!
Armed with these tips, I hope you feel more ready to hit the thrifts, even if all the time you have is just one hour. If you have any go-to tips for thrift-store shopping on a tight timeline, please share ‘em in the comments section so we can learn from each other’s wisdom!
P.S. A version of this post first appeared on the Goodwill/Easter Seals of Minnesota blog.
Photos c/o: Julia McMahon, LB Jeffries Photography