I love pottering around charity shops, with the hope of unearthing treasure amongst other people’s discarded clutter.
Some people hate the idea of second hand goods, preferring to buy everything new, and would never darken the doors of a charity shop.
In contrast, I entirely support the opportunity for unwanted possessions to be put to good use elsewhere, rather than clogging up homes or landfill.
Buying stuff I need for less, while simultaneously raising money for good causes, seems like a win win situation to me.
Most charity shops nowadays have realised that to make more money, they need to be selective about the items displayed, and weed out the broken, chipped or ripped.
In today’s disposable society, I quite often find brand new clothes with tags attached, or unwanted items still in their original packaging.
Charity shops on Hadleigh High Street
Fortunately Hadleigh is well provided with four charity shops on the High Street, from the topsy turvy chaos of the Hadleigh Thrift Shop, with furniture spilling out onto the pavement, to the enormous East Anglian Children’s Hospice mega store, with neatly arranged displays that are priced accordingly.
Meanwhile the St Elizabeth Hospice shop is particularly selective about clothes, all carefully grouped by colour, while the Sue Ryder shop contains regularly rotated stock in a small space.
Tips on what to buy from charity shops
I suspect if you’re reading this far then I’m already preaching to the converted, but if it’s any help, the kind of things I buy from charity shops include:
Toys and games for children, especially branded items like Littlest Pet Shop or Moshi Monsters that are briefly in favour and hideously expensive new. When pocket money is burning a hole in my children’s pockets, charity shops provide a great opportunity to buy something other than sweets
Books, whether children’s books or reference books on cookery or gardening, although nowadays I do try to use the library a lot more.
DVDs on occasion, after checking they’re not scratched.
Clothes. I tend to focus on familiar brands which I couldn’t afford elsewhere, and always try them on first. Charity shops don’t just stock polyester blouses and discarded suits. Recent acquisitions include a silk Laura Ashley blouse, linen Planet jacket, stripey H&M T shirt, beaded jacket from EAST, cotton shirt from Joules and an Anokhi kaftan to survive the heat.
Fancy dress. All those requests from school to wear a red T shirt / spotty outfit / onesie for particular occasions? Try a charity shop first. My friend Heidi found it distressingly easy to put together an outfit as a UKIP candidate (‘dress as your worst nightmare’ for a Hallowe’en party she was attending…)
Household items, like my big cream tea pot, the extra crockery when loads of people came to stay or a recent weakness for Alfred Meakin serving bowls. We also bought a pair of lined curtains to help with draught proofing during the winter.
Material and craft supplies. If you’re into knitting, sewing or needwork, charity shops can come up trumps.
Of course the stock in charity shops will always depend on your local area, and hence the donations received. Well-heeled Hadleigh is particularly strong on outfits for mothers of the bride, and sets from once-best china, for example.
On days when I have library books to return, I can drop the children at school, scan the Co-op for reduced items, and do a quick check of the charity shops while waiting for the library to open at 9.30am.
Some days I come away with nothing, some days I find a few things. Sometimes I’m just browsing and sometimes I’m searching for a specific item. It surprised me how long it took to find a useful plain teapot, amongst the Coronation Street replicas, ornamental oriental versions and “teapot on top of odd mug” sets. If you’d like to see the tea pot I finally purchased, it’s perched on the mantelpiece above the Aga in this post.
Some of my favourite finds from charity shops
To give you an idea of my acquisitions during June, I got over-excited in the EACH shop and spent £10 in total on a set of windowsill herb pots, still in their original box, Christopher Lloyd’s “The Well Chosen Garden”, a Groundhog Day DVD for movie night and a nostalgic trio of Ladybird books (note “Lost at the Fair”, in an attempt to keep my son nearby during our budget trip to Legoland).
Another day I was feeling robust enough to try on clothes in the St Elizabeth Hospice shop, and came away £11 lighter with the practical H&M T shirt, fun EAST jacket and Mini Boden child’s dress (later rejected, returned and refunded. Trials of being a tomboy, apparently).
Best of all, when I returned to the Sue Ryder shop for a £2 set of Tupperware lollipop makers (after checking they were small enough to fit in our freezer compartment) I also found a beautiful Folio Society box set of Mapp and Lucia books for £5.
All this is a very long way of saying that when last week I wanted a pie dish to use up some leftover roast pork, I didn’t turn straight to the internet or the local (and amazing) hardware emporium, Partridges.
Instead, I started by scoping out the charity shops. And sure enough, at the bottom of the Thrift Shop shelves, I found not only an oval Pyrex pie dish but a pie funnel to go with it, all for £1. Perfect.
What do you think about charity shops? Trash, treasure or a temptation to spend money you shouldn’t? I’d love to know your views.
(And if you’re interested, here’s the post about what I cooked in the pie dish)