Thrift shopping with a strategy

05/31/2014 11:12 AM

05/31/2014 11:12 AM

Give me a secondhand store over a shopping mall any day.

There’s just something satisfying about pawing through other people’s old stuff and coming up with a gem.

Sure, I like saving money and saving stuff from landfills, but for me the allure is more than that.

It’s the thrill of the hunt.

Lauren Ward and Katie Plato understand that.

Ward, who owns Noto, a boutique in downtown Akron, and Plato, who writes the blog Something to be Found ( www.somethingtobefound.com), are both passionate thrift-store shoppers.

But unlike me, Ward and Plato aren’t at all casual about the pursuit. These two shop with a purpose.

Thrift-shopping success is largely in the planning and technique, they said. You’ll have better luck if you go into it with a good idea of what you’re looking for and a willingness to forage for the good stuff.

It also helps to be able to think creatively, but luckily for in-the-box thinkers like me, that’s not a necessity. Plato and Ward pointed out there are plenty of resources to give you ideas for repurposing old stuff or pulling together outfits, from Pinterest and magazines to TV shows and retail stores. You don’t have to come up with your own ideas. Borrow someone else’s.

More important, they said, is being prepared and persistent.

Use those same resources to keep up with trends in fashion and home decor, so you’ll know a good buy when you see it. Keep a list of the things you’d like to find, which helps you focus your search.

It can be an old-fashioned shopping list or perhaps a Pinterest board or some pictures torn from magazines.

Some other tips they shared:

• Dig deep. Thrift stores aren’t for timid shoppers. You have to search through racks, squat to see what’s on lower shelves, lift and move things, and otherwise take an active approach to seeking out hidden treasures.
• Focus. Especially if your time is limited, concentrate on finding only two or three items on your list.
• Develop an eye. When you’re shopping for clothes, it’s easier to spot textures, colors or prints than styles. Look for those first.
• Be willing to change things. A coat of paint can turn an ugly picture frame or a worn piece of furniture into something right on trend. A sewing machine can transform an outdated style or fix a poor fit. An old curtain can supply the fabric to cover a lampshade. Try to see things for their potential, not their present state.
• Shop off season. People usually donate clothing, holiday decorations and other items at the end of a season, so that’s a good time to shop. That’s also probably when you’re packing away your own family’s things and getting rid of clothes your kids have outgrown, so make a note of what your family will need next year and keep an eye out for those things while you’re thrift shopping.
• Don’t be afraid. The idea of painting a hutch or taking in a skirt might seem daunting if you’ve never done it before, but thrift store finds are a low-risk place to start building your skills. You’re only spending a little bit of money, “so it’s OK if you mess it up,” Plato said.
• Shop often. Thrift-store merchandise changes frequently, even daily. “If you don’t find good stuff, go back,” Ward said.

You just never know what you might find.

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