Thrift stores can be a bit overwhelming. They're like those machines at casinos that you stand in and try to grab the money that's blowing everywhere, except instead of just money, there are slips of paper with "BUMMER" written on them too. You have to sort through the bummers and grab the good stuff, yo. Here's WHAT I look for when I'm shopping second hand:
1. Shoes. Let's just start with the controversial one right off the bat. Some bloggers that I respect greatly for their second hand shopping ways advocate buying shoes new. I disagree. In fact, I can't even think of any of the reasons behind this thinking, although I'm sure the reasons make sense. I just don't see anything wrong with walking a mile in someone else's shoes. (Do you see what I did there?) For the average person needing shoes to fulfill an average purpose - nothing specialized like shoes that a nurse will stand in for 12 hours straight or shoes that a runner will wear to run a marathon - used shoes should work out just fine. My oldest kiddo will turn four in a few weeks, and the only new pairs of shoes he's ever had are ones that have been given to him by grandparents. And he actually has super cute shoes! Next week we'll look at how to pick used shoes. And in the meantime, check out these Chacos that I scored for myself this week:
2. Books. Brand new books cost a fortune. And it's way more fun to have pre-loved books (bonus reading material: the inscriptions on the front cover - "To Dylan with love on your 5th birthday. Fondly, Grandma Sally") I think St Vincent de Paul has the best selection of books for the best price. They are so well organized, and kids books are just $0.50 each. Here are the books that we picked up on two recent trips to SVDP.
4. Educational toys. My favorite brands are Learning Resources, Educational Insights, and Ravensburger. These toys are super expensive brand new and are so awesome. Look for them!
5. Quality clothes. Okay, to preface this one, let me just say that I'm sort of picky about how I dress my boys. Since I have to shop for, wash, and put away their clothes, not to mention look at them all day, I figure I have earned the right to be a little choosy about what they wear. So forgive me.
Here are my picky-pants style rules
(also known as how to put the smack down on overly complicated wardrobes for children):
-If everything I buy matches everything else, then my preschooler should be able to pick out his own clothes and have them look reasonably put together. Here's how I work that out:
---I buy all similar colors. Mostly blues, greens, greys, and browns, because that's what makes my eyes happy. :)
---I avoid patterns. Except for stripes. I love alllllll the stripes. #allstripesallthetime
---I don't buy anything with words or characters on it. I know, I know. Just go ahead and label me a no-fun killjoy mom. But here's the deal: my littles are going to be smacked with consumerism craziness for the rest of their lives. I see no reason for them to be walking around with ads on their clothing already. Now that being said, my preschooler has a Lightning McQueen shirt that he would wear Every. Single. Day. if it were up to him. His uncle bought it for him (Lightning t-shirt gift = instant hero uncle status) and sometimes I hide it just so that his preschool teachers know he has other clothes and that I actually do my laundry.
---You know those super cute outfits that have matching tops and bottoms? Or even multiple pieces (like how Gymboree has the shirt, overalls, pants, bib, sweatshirt, vest, hat, socks, and sweater with the matching lady bug or puppy dog design?) So cute right? Especially on somebody else's kid. I don't want to have to worry about matching everything, or about arguing with my preschooler about why he has to/can't wear something in particular.
---Since I'm allergic to ironing (It's a thing. Check with your doctor. You might suffer from it too!) my littles don't have anything with collars or buttons. Okay, I make exceptions for Christmas and Easter. My condition allows me to iron twice a year, but no more.
-So basically my kids end up in the same thing every day: a striped or plain shirt, and a pair of pants. Might sound boring, but in my head it sounds simple and easy.
Shopping second hand is a great chance to look for brands that I love, but can't afford to buy new. Zutano or Hanna Andersson? Oh man! I snap those babies up! At thrift stores you can expect to pay $3-$5 for items of kids clothing.
6. Special occasion clothing. That fluffy Easter dress? That dapper sweater vest? You know some kid only wore that once, grew out of it, and their mom donated it. Don't buy fancy dress up stuff new!
7. Brand new things. You would not believe the stuff that people give away without using. Two of my recent finds - these awesome photo cubes and this book. The photo cubes make FANTASTIC grandparent (or whoever) gifts. And this book! I cannot overstate my excitement for this book!! It's a 3 year journal for you and your kiddo (super optimistic, I know), but what a wonderful concept right? It has zero writing in it. The sales tag inside says it cost $16.95 at Anthropolgie (please oh please let me live in that store).
Also! Before I forget! Two totally unmentioned yet awesome sources of clothes and toys and all things stuff for your littles are consignment sales and...drumroll please...my all time favorite: hand me downs. BOOM. Hand me downs are always the best. Giant high five for passing things amongst friends. But getting into those topics would open a whole new can of worms. Also, look for a special post around May dealing entirely with how to shop at garage sales. It's an art.
Next week we'll look at HOW to sort through all of the...ahem...less appealing stuff that fills the aisles of thrift stores (and trust me, there is a lot of unappealing stuff) and find the gems and jewels that are just waiting for you to find them and love them and take them home! Sort of like a puppy. But less work and mess.
How awesome was that?
If you're all inspired to get out & find some first class deals Megan listed some great shops to start with at the end of this post. Have fun!
Megan Defferding is the mom to two super fun boys who love to find great stuff to do all around Lane County! Check out her blog series, Happy Adventuring, weekly on GoMomGo.