Getting thrifty for National Op Shop Week

Op shopping is one of the best ways to consume sustainably. Here's how to get the best out of these treasure troves, both as a shopper and donor.

I'm often asked what it means to shop sustainably, "so where do I start?".

The best place to begin is to decide whether you actually need something in the first place:

Consuming less.

But step two is to seek what you need second hand. This is something that can often be forgotten in the journey to become more ethical shoppers.

And where better to start than op shops. These stores have a dual benefit - we decrease the demand of brand new things by shopping second hand, and we stop valuable things ending up in landfill by donating our good quality stuff.

The added benefit is most op shops are run by charity organisations, meaning your dollars and donations are going to a worthy cause.

Here are some handy tips to arm you when tackling your local thrift store.

Open mind, open eyes

Op shops can be a little overwhelming but there are some easy ways to know where to start.

My number one piece of advice is to go in with an open mind, but sharp eyes.

You never know what you're going to find, so going to an op shop with something specific in mind can equal disappointment.

But that doesn't mean you can't have some ideas in your head. Keep an eye out for the sorts of things you want to add to your wardrobe, be it stripes, denim, a woolen knit or a certain colour.

This will help your eyes when scanning the racks. You might not find something tailored to your size but could it be altered? If you've got sewing skills, or know someone who does, there's not a lot that can't be done to make something perfect for you - while still staying below retail cost.

Quality over quantity

This applies across the board when it comes to conscious consumption.

But when we're talking op shops sadly fast fashion has left its mark here too. Charities and op shops do their best to sift through the best of the donations they receive but still a lot of poorly made, synthetic stuff ends up on the shelves from our addiction to a quick fashion fix.

Keep an eye out for quality pieces - think leather goods, vintage clothing and quality, natural fabrics like silk, linen, cotton, hemp, Modal/ Tencel and bamboo.

Don't throw - donate responsibly

Don't need that foot stool anymore? Own too many wooly jumpers when you move to the tropics?

Op shops are always asking for good quality used items they can either sell and profit from, or give away to those in need.

The key here is quality though - we can't go dumping stuff we know wouldn't sell or is broken beyond repair. Consider fixing something before donating, and if all else fails, seek out your council's resource recovery centres for things like electrical goods.

Discover your inner hunter gatherer

Though I'm trying my darnedest to live with less, sometimes the lure of a good op shop score gets the better of me.

The best bit is you never know what treasures you might find - from expensive labels to vintage furniture, jewellery to roller blades.

Heed step one and go in with an open mind - and I know you'll have a blast while doing it.

-  Ash


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