Hello my name is Oonagh and I’m an OPSHOPAHOLIC! Sad but true folks. I can honestly say that I have a healthy addiction to Thrift (Charity or Goodwill as it is referred to in some countries) shopping and yes, those of us with this affliction now have an official name it seems! How utterly Cool! I am not ashamed of my penny-pinching ways and I can proudly say that I have scored many a bargain through hours of parsimonious research!

There is no feeling like the sheer thrill you get when you fall upon that coveted item (he exact same one you saw in the main stream stores or online for an exorbitant price) for an embarrassingly low amount. Like an animal stalking its prey, you pounce upon your prize, squinting at the price tag to make sure you read the number correctly, eyes darting manically around the store in fear that anyone else may stake their claim. Grabbing and clutching this pound of gold to your breast with a vice like grip…hands clammy, brow sweating. A pounding heart. The feeling is truly euphoric! Better than sex? Maybe not, but not too far from it I can assure you! But maybe that’s just me…

Seriously though, why on EARTH would you ever pay retail again? I am fortunate enough to have five Op-Shops (opportunity shops) within walking distance from my home and two others in the city centre. I cannot go a week without accidentally popping in for an innocent browse on my way home from the gym or supermarket, sometimes not even armed with my wallet (Lord Hail the restraint) to just see what treasures lie in wait just ripe for the picking!

I have found and bought (over time) many items in perfect condition. Designer leather jackets, shoes, sunglasses and jewellery, vintage clothing and bags, popular brand name gym gear and kitchenware, glassware, bric a brac, furniture and some amazing books. For example, I have not purchased a new book in about 2 years. Why pay $30 for a book that has been read once when you can find it and many more for less than $5! Winning! See what I mean? It’s truly ridiculous just how many bargains are out there, squashed in amongst the masses of stock and all these can be yours too! All you really need is a trained eye, a basic knowledge of your favourite brands and labels, time and, this is the best bit, not a lot of cash! Now who doesn’t enjoy shopping for a steal hey? Welcome to my world!

Thrift shops all over the globe will offer a multitude of choice and wherever you are residing, make the most of your country’s trash to treasure havens! It would be one of my fantasies to to be let me loose in the world with an empty suitcase! I’m positive I will land back here with thousands of dollars worth of stock for a fraction of the price and I would have contributed to various charitable organisations at the same time! Move over Outlet stores, OpShopping is the new Orange!

Hunting for bargains in this way is much easier and a hell of a lot more interesting and challenging too, as anything and everything your little heart desires can be found under one roof! Yay! Gone are the days of dimly lit, stuffy little shops that smell like camphor balls and damp. These (sometimes avoided by everyone except your grandma) charity stores of old are now the hippest spots to shop around town and have undergone a well needed makeover! Upon entering, you are presented with colour coded racks, well stocked and organised displays, professionally styled mannequins and you even get to bop around to some funky tunes whilst you browse!

Sometimes, if you are lucky, there might even be locked glass cabinets in which the more pricy or rare items are kept..Bonus!

Think of it, if you must, as a mini department store. Just imagine, no more traipsing around in the snow, rain or heat getting blisters from your expensive designer shoes that you have worn once (and wished you had never bought as you are still paying them off) whilst searching in vain for that elusive item. NO MORE I hear you cry! Your one stop treasure trove shop of endless possibilities begins here! Those of us who adore markets, street stalls and garage (yard) sales will adapt quickly to this purchasing style, unfortunately without the added benefit of haggling! But, remember, Goodwill Hunting is all about giving back too…’one mans trash is another mans treasure’… AND you are also giving to a particular charity or cause, so that is an immediate feel good gesture to boot! Banish that purchase guilt for ever!

I do, however, have some rules by which I stick. I do not buy underwear, towels or sheets, damaged, broken, chipped or cracked items, stained items or electrical goods. However, that being said, if you happen to fall upon, for example, a Nespresso machine in perfect condition (trust me it could happen) make sure you check it whilst you are there to see if it is fully functioning and operational.

The store should normally have already done this before it arrives on the shelf, but this is a safety issue. Ask if it can be returned if there are any problems. If the answer is no, abort the mission immediately or take the risk! Only you will know if it’s worth it!

Don’t get me wrong…it’s not all about designer labels! That’s just one of the perks! I have filled my kitchen cupboards with unique glasses, bowls, plates and cups and all of the dry goods in my pantry are in various jars found in these stores. Picture frames, mirrors and gorgeous jewellery boxes adorn my home. It is individual, stylish, practical and unique decorating on a budget. I love it and am proud of every piece!

Because I want to spread the word and educate the masses on the joys of thrift shopping, I would like to share some Basic Guidelines for all those novice Op-shoppers out there!

** ALWAYS read the labels. Look for designer names that resonate with YOU! It’s amazing what you will find!
** ALWAYS turn the pot, vase, plate or cup upside down and read the underneath brand…sometimes they are rare and should be on an episode of Antiques Roadshow or up for sale at Christies in London! It could be worth those extra few seconds.
** ALWAYS thoroughly check clothes for rips, stains, broken zips etc. Check for wear around collars and underarms and pilling. Don’t buy if it’s not in excellent condition (unless you really love it or it’s a pair of vintage Levi’s!)
** LOOK UP. Many stores have so much stock it’s overwhelming and you forget to look on top of the racks and shelves. Lots of larger items (such as baskets and hats) are put there so it would be a crime to forget this small detail.
** TRY STUFF ON. Unlike regular stores, Charity shops don’t refund or exchange so make sure you try on all your gear before buying. Don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit well or needs mending or adjusting. If doing this will cost you more than it would have to have bought it new, in my view, it’s not worth it. But it’s your call in the end!
** HAVE CONTROL. Easier said than done and I’m the first to admit that I’ve gone a bit fossick frenzy at times! Slow down! Take the time to search the shelves, look through the racks and rummage through the books. Only buy what you can carry home in one session and don’t get it unless you LOVE, WANT or NEED it and it’s in good condition.
** BYO BAG. If possible, think ahead and take your own bag or basket (unless you buy one) with you so that you can carry your goods home. Some stores sell recycled bags, but some do not provide any.
** DONATE A BAG OF YOUR UNWANTED ITEMS. Before you venture into your nearest Op-Shop, stop and make a bag (if/when possible ) of YOUR OWN pre-loved goods to take and donate. Give a bag and then take a bagful home. That way, you can say you have paid it forward even before you’ve begun!
** SPEND TIME sifting through the racks and shelves. Ask to look in the cabinets or under the counter. Just remember to enjoy the moment, as a little bit of patience can unearth some items that you will treasure forever.

So there you have it my friends! I hope you have a new found appreciation of these Sustainable Shopping Secrets!
In this wasteful, throw away society in which we currently live, every little bit helps. Buying from or donating to any goodwill store will assist in maintaining the re-cycling circle whilst, at the same time, giving back and lending a helping hand to someone in need.

In my honest opinion, isn’t that what being human is really all about?

…”We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give”…Winston Churchill

**This blog is dedicated to my special friends and fellow OPSHOPAHOLICS Anna F, Jennifer HB and Hilary from the bus stop**

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