Six Tips To Slay At Thrifting

I was born in the aisle of a thrift shop. Okay, that’s a lie. But I had to get your attention, because today I’m talking about my absolute favorite thing in the world: thrifting.

If you know me from my non-internet life then you probably know that I thrift shop a lot. You probably also know that I’m really good at it.

Thrifting is a culture I was introduced to back when I was a wee lass. I remember thrifting with my mom, and spending absolute hours (felt like years) in the thrift store. Thrift stores were wonderous places where me and my siblings were allowed to roam free. My favorite sections? Books, shoes and craft supplies. Even as a kid I didn’t have much of an interest in toys. I wanted to MAKE things.

As a travel blogger, thrifting is a very necessary part of the lifestyle that I’ve chosen to lead. If I’m funneling my money toward plane tickets, it can’t be flying out of my purse for designer handbags. Thrifting is a lifestyle that enables me to live my best life. And today I’m going to be giving you six of my personal tips on how to thrift shop like a pro.

1. Hydrate, Eat and Pee First

For the love of all that is sacred in this world: Eat before you go shopping. Take care of your basic needs before you even think of stepping foot in a thrift shop. Most stores will have a bathroom for you, but to be perfectly honest not even that’s guaranteed. If I had a dollar for every thrifting trip that’s been ruined because someone who was with me needed to pee or got hungry/thirsty, I would be a very very rich woman. Thrifting is a marathon, not a sprint. You don’t walk in and out in 10 minutes. Prep before you go (sometimes I even bring snacks and a water bottle with me in my purse).

2.  Choose Your Thrift Shop Wisely

There are three kinds of thrift shops I look for.

  1. Thrift shops in well-off areas (thrift shops are donation based, yo—do the math).
  2. Thrift shops that are run by charities (usually these are super cheap compared to chains like Goodwill or Value Village).
  3. Buy, Sell, Trade Shops and Consignment (this is where I buy designer items)

Which type of thrift shop you choose to go to really has to do with what you’re trying to achieve. I really like having statement pieces in my wardrobe that are well made (leather boots, leather jackets, leather purses…okay, so I like leather—what of it?) so shopping at #3 type shops is important, but I usually only go into these once every two or three months. #1 shops are my weekly trips because these are where I can find cool vintage pieces that people who don’t value their dead relations give away for free. One woman’s trash is another lady’s treasure. #2 spots are where I shop for furniture and other home items because big things you want cheap, if at all possible. You can also sometimes find other cool nuggets for really cheap at these (like when I found a pair of Frye boots for $20).

Favorite find — List price: $328 | I paid: $20

3. Know Your Brands

Here’s the deal: Unless you rely solely on vintage clothing (which you might—more power to you) you probably have certain brands in your closet that you’ve bought recently from a normal store. Remember those brands. Take a moment to jot them down. If you don’t have clothing that you love in your closet, then go to your favorite store (whether you can afford it or not) and try stuff on! Does it fit? Great, note the tags and brand. While you’re in a thrift store trying new things can be great, but also knowing what works for you will allow you to make smarter decisions when purchasing.

NOTE: I will admit that I have a bit of an advantage here because I worked at a two different consignment shops in the past, but get to know the feel and look of well made clothing and it will take you far!

4. Sale Days are the Best Days

Fun fact: Thrift stores have sales too.

How do you get to know about these sales? A lot of chain stores have email lists that you can subscribe to for updates on when they have sales, but smaller stores will have sales often just based off of how long an item has been in the store. You can’t always ask an employee outright what will be going on sale, soon, but you can pay attention to patterns (for example, if things that have been there one month are now on sale). There are also often sales based off of item categories (ex. all dresses, shoes). Check stores for calendars of sales dates, or check on their website.

5. Shop in Chunks

Here’s a really big insider tip: I never (ever ever ever) shop an entire store at once (unless it’s like the tiniest shop in the world). Why? Because that is just asking for exhaustion to set in, and this is supposed to be fun, remember!? What I usually do is hit my favorite sections (books, candles, shoes and fabric). Obviously, some days, I go in knowing that I need a pair of jeans or a dress for a party, so I’ll look at those specific sections in addition to my regular ones, but like I said, I’m not trying to pass out from exhaustion. How long do I shop for? I usually shoot for around 1-2 hours.

6. Don’t be Disappointed if You Don’t Find Anything

The beauty of thrift shopping is that you never know what you’re going to find. This also means that you never know if you’re going to find something. Do yourself a favor and don’t pressure yourself into finding that amazing piece the first time you ever visit a shop. Have fun with the experience, and realize that sometimes it’s just for the thrill of the hunt.

*Extra pro tip for introverts: Shop with headphones in and your favorite relaxing music playing. 

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The Party Strikes Back – 2015

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There are certain moments in your life that you will hold on to for the rest of your life. Being around 2,000+ other Star Wars nerds was  one of them. From the moment I entered the EMP (Experience Music Project) museum in downtown Seattle I was met with the cutest little sister squad of Princess Leia, Darth Vader and a bounty hunter. They reached about the height of my knees. At that moment I knew I was in for a pretty awesome night.

I’m pretty geeky by nature. I was raised by a huge sci-fi geek family and that has definitely translated over into my adult life. I’ve travelled around the world visiting geek events and I loved being able to be in my home city and have the same kind of beautiful community. If you’re in the Seattle area, this exhibit is only available to see until October 4th! The costumes are beautiful and well worth the trip!

Here are some of my favorite shots from the night – shout out to my friend Ben for putting up with me throwing my camera at him as I ran to ask cosplayers to take pics with them. 

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To Boldly Go Where No Woman Has Gone Before

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The print that I bought. Love love love.

For a healthy chunk of my childhood Tuesdays nights meant two things: Popcorn and fresh fruit/veggies for dinner and piling in the living room to watch Star Trek. At the time it seemed perfectly normal that our family nights consisted of Sci-Fi shows. Another example would be that every Christmas we would marathon a Sci-Fi series (ex. All the X-Men movies, every Batman film ever created etc.). This was our normal. And it wasn’t until I grew up that I realized not everyone had such a geek infused childhood.

Since I was reared on a heavy serving of Sci-Fi and fantasy, it’s no wonder that I’ve always gravitated toward those things even in my adult life. I read comic books. I watch pretty much exclusively Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV shows. I wake up to the Doctor Who theme song every morning on my alarm clock. The ring tone on my phone is the Legend of Zelda theme…dubstep. Have I earned my geek badge, yet?

One of my new favorite girl power geeks is Jane McGonigal, who is a game designer and author. If you want to look her up, I would highly suggest watching one of her TED talks (especially the one about how gamers are going to change the world) – they’re all amazing. In one of these talks she says:

“Gamers always believe that an epic win is possible and that it’s always worth trying, and trying now. Gamers don’t sit around.” 

And while my gaming is definitely not up to par with a professional grade (gaming was always my brother’s thing, and we’ve talked before about how I kept away from things in his corner), I think this quote is fair of geeks in general. Being raised as a geek really shaped who I am because it taught me that, while there are obstacles (black holes, empires to destroy, Klingons) to overcome, there are always ways to overcome them.

Having stories of dragons, spaceships, other worlds, heroes, warriors, heroines and hobbits helped form my own foundation of one of the most important keys to success: grit.

The get back up and try to save the world again mentality.

It doesn’t matter if it takes 10 years of episodes *cough Stargate, you keep fighting for what you believe in. And sooner or later, you’ll make a difference…or die trying (and then having an epic burial where your body, grasping your brilliantly shining sword, soars over the edge of woodland water falls in a hand built elven boat).

Either way, the point is developing the desire to always find a way to conquer obstacles. It’s a skill that I think the instant gratification culture of today misses all too often, and is something that I really hope to impart to any kids I work with/ever have myself.

It’s pretty rare that I really disclose how much of a geek I am to people, but since I’ve been in Paris I’ve been trying to get better about it. Despite popular opinion, I’m actually extremely shy by nature, so it’s really hard to put myself out there and really present the things that interest me.

But this past weekend I got an amazing opportunity to go and hang out with some of my fellow geeks at the Paris Manga/Sci Fi Convention and it was So. Much. Fun.

I can honestly say it was the first time I’ve felt at home in France, because even though everyone around me was speaking French, I was able to share so many other commonalities with the people around me. I got to rock a Cosplay and revel in the panels that were in English (translated in French) and it was so cool to see other Whovians and think, “Wow. These people live 8,000 miles away from where I come from, and they love the same fandoms/TV shows/comics that I do!” It was a pretty bonding experience. Especially when I sat next to a group that dressed as all 12 of The Doctors.

My favorite moment, though, was when I found TinTin (or, rather, his cosplayer) who I actually yelled at in a crowd of people in order to get a picture with him. Like I said, I’ve always loved comics, and TinTin is a series that I’ve read probably 10 times. All 20+ of them. (It’s all about priorities when you’re a kid.)

Another amazing part of the show were the artists who were lined up doing live drawings in the styles of their work, and selling their prints etc. I LOVED being able to watch professional artists draw and illustrate. It’s so rare that I felt like it was such an honor. And I bought, and had signed, a Daenarys Targaryan print which is now hanging on my wall and that I LOVE.

All in all it was a perfectly refreshing experience. I feel like I went on vacation even though I never left the city. And the best part? There’s another one next weekend.

Allons-y! May the force be with you.

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Me and TinTin! I was so happy I have a ridiculous grin on my face. Also I got to hold snowy – win.
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Me and The TARDIS.
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Me and my Cosplay as Mels from Doctor Who.