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The Ultimate Guide to Thrifting: Clothes, Furniture and More

Like most college students, you’re probably on a pretty tight budget – but if you’re anything like me, nothing feels better than a little bit of retail therapy. Your shopping habits don’t have to hurt your wallet or the planet, though. Thrift stores can feel overwhelming and the pieces you find may be underwhelming, but there’s an art and science to thrifting. 

Note: Thrifting to resell items or thrifting from underserved areas where people may rely on stores as their only source of clothing or furniture is not always the best move. Make sure that you’re cognizant of that– but also remember that thousands of tons of donated items end up in the landfill every year, and buying secondhand reduces negative environmental impacts. 

1. Look through Every. Single. Section.

Yes, even the little boys! You can find something from any section of the thrift store – I love finding my hoodies in the men’s section, the women’s usually has fun jackets and sweaters, and the kids’ section even has some hidden gems if you look closely enough. You can always put your sewing skills to the test and spruce some things up to fit your style if you find a fabric or design you really love. 

2. Furniture will probably need some TLC

Donated furniture was usually donated for a reason – sometimes you’ll find that rare brand new desk or couch, but typically what you find will need a little bit of fixing up. It’s actually a blessing in disguise because you can do anything you want to the piece to make it match your space exactly how you’d like it to. You can paint, sand, stain, reupholster or find any other creative way to fix your furniture to look brand new, usually for pretty cheap.

3. Expect to spend a decent amount of time there

If you’ve tried thrifting before and failed, you probably weren’t spending enough time in the store. Thrifting is a sport, and to find the hidden gems, you’ll have to hunt for a while. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find anything in the first store you go to – chances are, you’ll definitely find something if you hit at least two or three stores. 

4. DIY is easier than you think

There are so many ways to DIY or otherwise spruce up your finds, and it doesn’t take a professional to make things look good. Scroll through Pinterest or YouTube for a while to find inspiration for the types of items you’re looking for, and then think of the general aesthetic you like while shopping– this applies to everything from clothing to home decor. Things as easy as cropping, hemming, restitching, dyeing or painting can transform something you didn’t love into something straight out of your Instagram explore page.

5. Have fun and be mindful

Thrifting is so much fun when you learn what you like and how you can be creative with it. As I mentioned earlier, though, it’s important to keep in mind the communities you’re shopping in and how your actions can directly affect others. Reselling a toddler shirt as a “cropped fitted retro 2000’s tee” on Depop? Just…don’t do that. Take what you truly love and leave what you don’t. Most importantly, know that your monetary support is helping local communities, your secondhand purchase is keeping things out of the landfill, and your creative side is being fed. 

Have fun thrifting, collegiettes!

Lexi Reyes

George Mason University '21

Lexi is a senior at George Mason University majoring in Communication with a double concentration in journalism and public relations. She has an interest in online journalism as well as social media, and is the social media editor for the school newspaper as well as a small business in Northern Virginia. When she's not writing, you can find her at the thrift store or in the Chick-Fil-A drive through!
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