A cornucopia of charity shops

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.

A picture of the front of the Hadleigh Thrift Shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

Thrift shop: a jumble sale in shop form


A picture of the front of the EACH shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

Enormous EACH Shop

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.

A picture of the front of the St Elizabeth Hospice shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

Stylish St Elizabeth Hospice shop


A picture of the front of the Sue Ryder shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

Sue Ryder shop: small but perfectly formed

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).

PIcture of ladybird books and herbs pots bought at the EACH shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

Shopping spree at the EACH shop

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).

Picture of tops and child's dress bought at the St Elizabeth Hospice shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

Clothes from St Elizabeth Hospice Shop

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.

Picture of Folio Society Mapp & Lucia books and lolly maker bought at the Sue Ryder shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

Books for me, lolly maker for the children

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.

Picture of the pie dish and pie funnel bought at the Hadleigh Thrift shop, one of the charity shops on Hadleigh High Street

A pound for a Pyrex pie dish and pie funnel at the Thrift Shop

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)

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  1. 3rd July 2015 / 11:37 am

    When Col was working as a Bridge inspector I often went out with him for a day out and gradually got to know where all the charity shops were in most Suffolk towns, but back then Hadleigh only had 1 shop so it's useful to know there are now 4 as we could call in there next time we go and visit our friends in Finchingfield.

    • 4th July 2015 / 6:41 am

      Sounds like a good reason for a return trip to Hadleigh. Do come round and try out the teapot while you're here!

  2. 3rd July 2015 / 4:55 pm

    Oh I love charity shops, it's amazing what bargains there are to be had. We bought our double bed frame, bedside drawers, wardrobe and mirror, all in antique solid pine, from charity shops….and all for less than it would have cost us to buy the wardrobe new. I think you get better bargains from the shops that support independent local charities…..the major charity ones are often overpriced, in my opinion.

    • 4th July 2015 / 6:47 am

      Brilliant finds for your furniture. Do agree about the big difference in pricing – not all charity shops offer bargains. The Hadleigh Thrift Shop is usually better value than the others. However, the prices depend on whoever is on the till, so if one particular lady with higher expectations is working, I tend to come back another time…

  3. 4th July 2015 / 2:37 pm

    As one who has volunteered in charity shops and then had a career managing them, BHF, Oxfam, Scope, and a pair of Hospice shops, I have seen them from both sides of the shop counter and I still love them.

    Working in them you never know what stock you will be selling from day to day or week to week (or if you will have anyone in to help you run them) and shopping in them you never know what delights await you. as you step through the doors, it's a veritable treasure trove and if you wait long enough and visit often enough you will nearly always find just what you are looking for.

    So many of my lovely things have been bought from charity shops, and most of our large Dvd collection once lived on a charity shop shelf, and indeed they have been known to go back there once watched.

  4. 4th September 2015 / 2:10 pm

    I've really enjoyed reading this article, thanks for sharing! I've recently discovered Listen limited fundraising blog – you should check it out.

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