Charity Shop Top Tips

Last week I bought the September issue of Elle magazine - The Sustainability Issue. It has taken me a week to read it as I've been making so many notes and googling EVERYTHING from 'sustainable jeans' to 'Plogging' (absolutely nothing sexual - I PROMISE!). I love shopping and love the buzz when you find something that's beautiful, or fits perfectly, or both! But I've never really been hugely into fashion and religiously following trends, and have always tried to wear what Ilike rather than what everyone else likes. Of course, I went through the 'Avril Lavigne' phase when I was 13 and had a pair of Tammy Girl wide leg skater dungarees with a silver chain on the pockets, I wore black and purple 'shag bands' (remember those?!) and forced my feet into my brother's old DC trainers. I then remember a year or so later dragging my Mum around Cheltenham trying to find the baby pink Buffalo trainers I 100% NEEDED right there and then. Apart from that I don't really ever remember being so desperate for any item of clothing.

We are bombarded with images of the 'perfect life' everywhere we look, and are led to believe that we need certain things to be happy. From skincare to phones to fashion to sofas. Every single aspect of our lives can be controlled by the media and advertising. It's everywhere. Consumerism is getting more and more out of control, and with it comes waste. A lot of waste. This linear economy has led us to care less about throwing something away before it's lifespan is truly over - after all you can just replace it with a new one right? A lot of businesses, companies and even governments are trying to work towards a more circular economy where by we aim to keep materials in use for as long as possible before regenerating what's left to create something new. Fashion is an industry that can so easily be influenced by a circular economy. We should be wearing clothes for as long as possible before throwing them out. And even then we should try to repair them, pass them on or recycle them. A super easy way of making sure clothes stay in circulation for as long as possible is to donate to and shop in charity shops. I know it's not everyone's cup of tea which is why I'm here to try and persuade you otherwise! And it's not just wearable bargains that you can pick up cheaply!!! I've bought some beautiful vintage teacups, cake plates and lovely plant pots!

I'm generally trying to be more conscious about what I'm buying and taking time to decide whether or not I really need something before I part with my cash. There are some things I have to go to certain shops for, and some items I'd rather spend a bit more money buying something I know has been made with 100% love, is kind to the planet and will last a long time. But where possible, I try to make charity shops my first port of call. It can be a bit of a musty minefield, so I'm going to share a few of my 'Charity Shop Top Tips' with you...

1 - Get over the fact that clothes have been worn by someone else. Most things I've donated to charity shops are things I've either never worn or have only worn a handful of times. They will have been regularly washed. Plus if you're happy to buy from eBay or Depop, it's really no different other than you're not buying directly from whoever the item belonged to, and this way your money is going to charity. I always sniff the armpits before I buy anything - I know it sounds gross but you can immediately eliminate something from your basket if theres a hint of fusty Sure or Nivea.

2 - Never go searching for something specific.You've got a festival coming up and you want the same gorgeous rainbow sequin catsuit you saw your favourite Instagrammer wearing last weekend. The chances of finding said catsuit in your size in your local town is pretty minimal. Not impossible but highly unlikely. Perhaps instead widen your search engine to sequins, colourful, and festival ready. The same goes for home-wears - stop searching for the pom pom covered woven basket for your new pot plant and be open to all kinds of baskets - it's amazing what you can do with some colourful wool and a pom pom tutorial!

3 - Never try to bargain.These places are called Charity Shops for a reason. The majority of them will do their research and price items fairly. They're not going to sell you a second hand Barbour for a fiver when they're going on eBay for a lot more. You're already getting a sweet bargain so don't try to knock them down any further.

4 - If you see something you love, buy it. We've all tried on that beautiful pair of shoes, jacket or dress and gone away to 'think about it' only to be devastated when it's not there when you finally make up your mind. It's even worse in Charity shops. It's more than likely that whatever you pick up will be the only one there, and possibly the only one anywhere. If you love it and know you'll use it - buy it!

5 - Re-donate.I've begun to only buy things I know I'll wear or use over and over again. I also try to only buy things I would have been willing to pay brand-new-full-price for. Once you've gained as much as you can from something, either send it to recycling or take it back to a charity shop if there's still some life left in it!

6 - Explore.Suss out the different charity shops that are in your local area. Some are more expensive than others, some stock more fashion than home wares (or vice versa), and some have a higher turnaround than others. The area you're in also hugely affects the stock - when I worked for Laura Ashley I was in a different town or city everyday and would spend my lunchtimes trawling the charity shops. Each town was totally different, and some had way more charity shops than others!

I'm not here to tell you to exclusively shop in charity shops - I don't. There are some items I will only ever buy new and I think thats fully justifiable. But if you are shopping for something brand new, try to suss out some smaller businesses, more eco friendly companies (just like Lovesay and Mo) or make sure that what you're spending your money on is made to last! Sustainability isn't just about buying recycled, organic or planet friendly products. It sure as hell helps but it's also about expanding the lifespan of something and maximising it's value whilst it's still good.

I've shared a few of my favourite charity shop bargains below and I hope you'll share some of yours with me too!