5 Tips for Thrifting: Sustainable Shopping 101

5 Tips for Thrifting: Sustainable Shopping 101
7 Minute Read

Thrifting. It’s never been my cup of tea. In fact, it can be freakin’ exhausting with all those racks and the overwhelming abundance of styles. Not to mention the suspect idea of knowing nothing about the former life of your clothes. I get especially overwhelmed because instead of having an entire section dedicated to one style and color, no two items are alike. This means you have to do a lot of sifting.

But it’s not just thrift shopping that I don’t like; shopping on a whole has never been my forte. As a kid, when my family would go to the mall, I would opt for venturing to the electronics store with my dad instead of trudging through a million shops with my mom and sister. My idea of shopping is to go in for a specific item, get it, and leave. No maybes. No pondering. Just get it done. Anything else just feels like a waste of time and energy.

But despite my aversion to shopping, I am always looking for ways to live more sustainably. Most recently, I’ve been trying to get on-board with the idea of secondhand clothes shopping a.k.a. thrifting. Did you know: Buying your clothes from a thrift store is one of the most sustainable ways to shop since no new resources are needed? Plus, you are giving a second life to something that would have otherwise been sent to the landfill. PLUS PLUS! Since they are often donated by locals, thrift store clothing has a low carbon footprint compared to new clothes that have traveled across the globe to get to you.


When in doubt, call for backup.

To overcome my thrifting aversion, I enlisted the help of my friend, Jenn, a badass Aussie with an exceptional eye for thrift finds. She’s so good at thrifting, she built an entire business out of it with her eBay store, and professionally styles people who need a little extra help . . . like me! Not to mention the fact that she hasn’t bought any new clothing for her entire family in years . . . with the exception of undies of course. We all gotta have limits! 😉

After showing Jenn a pinterest page I had created of my ideal style, she concluded that I was going for (and I quote!): “classic, understated, and sophisticated.” Well shoot! Who knew that’s what I was aiming for this whole time. I thought I was barely achieving “casual,” so I’ll take it! Now—to find clothes that actually reflect my vision!


The Plan of Action:

Jumping into the deep end of this thrift pool, we checked out a neighborhood thrift store, and started sifting through the racks. Who am I kidding? It was all Jenn . . . I was like a fish out of water. Jenn started to share her insider tips for how she always found gems amongst the racks. It’s funny how we all interpret things differently. Jenn walks into a thrift store and gets a shot of adrenaline. I, on the other hand, feel instantly overwhelmed and am ready to pull the eject button at any second.

Jenn said it was important to have a specific item (or two) that you were looking for, so you didn’t get lost or overwhelmed. Her advice made me realize that I never had a game plan when going into a thrift store. I always just went in with the hopes that something would jump out at me. Little did I know: I had been approaching it wrong all this time.


Image of a woman walking down the aisle in a thrifting store


Like anything worthwhile, you gotta try and try again:

We picked out a bunch of outfits to try, and off to the fitting room we went! For each outfit, we first evaluated the fit. If it didn’t sit right, we contemplated if it was worth taking it to a tailor. That’s the thing about thrifting; you can often get fantastic prices, which then allow you to get things tailored without breaking the bank. We definitely had to go through options that simply didn’t accentuate or compliment my body, but that was also part of the process of getting to really know what I liked, what worked, and what didn’t.

These, for example, may have worked wonders for someone else, but for me, they just didn’t fit right and I didn’t love them enough to get them tailored. Truth be told: one of the downfalls of thrifting is that you can’t just ask for the next size up or down. Each piece is one-of-a-kind.


Three images of outfits I found while thrifting


Throughout the whole process, I picked up a few insider tips, and wanted to pass them along in case you’re willing to try your hand at it. So without further ado, here are 5 Tips for Thrifting from Jenn.


5 Tips for Thrifting:

  1. Before heading to the shop, write down 3 items you are looking for. This will keep you focused and prevent you from making unnecessary purchases.
  2. At the front desk, ask if they participate in a loyalty program. Many shops give you up to 50% off after an allotted number of visits.
  3. Focus on Quality, Not Brands. Instead of picking items based on their brand, feel the texture of the fabric. You will soon be able to pick out better quality items based on the way they feel.
  4. Size Doesn’t Matter. Different designers, brands, and countries use different sizes. I can be anywhere from a size 0-8 on a given day!
  5. Ask for Help. Don’t be shy to ask a store assistant or fellow thrifter for advice on how your outfit looks. Thrift-storians are usually very friendly and helpful.

Another great resource for thrifting is Swap.com, which is an online thrift/consignment shop. They have a ton of variety, since they source clothing from all over, and they are extremely affordable for shoppers on a budget.


Here are a few of the winning styles we came up with:

Image of 3 outfits that I found while thrifting

Can you tell I’m into black?

So, I’m gonna be honest with you: I’m still not 100% on board with thrifting, but I am willing to keep trying until I get there. A big part of this is also knowing that I may not be perfectly sustainable in all aspects of my life. In the clothing department, I fall a bit short since I usually don’t buy secondhand. However, I do try to support sustainable brands that ethically produce their clothing and apparel. I also try to avoid synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and spandex, by opting for natural fibers that are less harmful to the environment (e.g. organic cotton, hemp). Lastly, my laundry routine is completely zero waste and chemical free, which cleans and preserves my existing wardrobe in the most sustainable way possible.

These are all very intentional decisions on my part, and I’m proud of that commitment to sustainability. So even though I may not be there yet, maybe the next step in this trajectory is to become a mastermind at thrifting! Who Knows? At least I’m willing to give it a try 🙂

And of course, clothes shopping is a total waste if you can’t giggle and have some fun with it. Let’s just say, we laughed a LOT!


3 Images of outfits found while thrifting


Jenn had some laughs too with these crazy visors she found:

3 Images of a woman wearing visors and sunglasses she found while thrifting

Do you have any tips for thrifting that I didn’t mention?

Drop me a line below. I’d love to hear from you.



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