If you follow my spirited shenanigans on Instagram, you already know that I *might* have gone thrifting twice this week.  I had to.  I have been solo parenting and dealing with Texas homework and having a wee bit of adjustment difficulties.  This was not the first time I’ve gone thrifting a few times a week and I’m sure it won’t be the last.  For me, thrifting is not about “need” – at least, my need of clothing or goods;  I have clothes for all seasons and now live in perpetual summer, and have been collecting more summer options since arriving in Houston.  Nope, I don’t need to thrift for clothes but I do need to thrift for self-care.  Self-care has become a buzzword, kind of like mindfulness was/is and I think they’re both part of the same thing called self-regulation but don’t get me started on that because it’s been a long time since I practiced as an Occupational Therapist and I could go on for hours.   Seriously though, we are all driven to do things that keep us able to function and though it looks a little different for everybody, it’s hard-wired, neurologically based truth.  The next time your husband asks why you went thrifting just say, “I needed some dopamine.”  You’re welcome.

No matter the thrift store, I’m happy to see it!

For me, thrifting is regulating; it makes me feel better, it relieves my stress, it inspires my creativity, it gives me peace.  I hope everyone finds their self-care self-regulation thing!  I wish mine was cardio, I really do, but it isn’t.  Thrifting is my sure thing whether I buy anything or not, and just in case you’re wondering if it’s your thing and how to give it a go, here are some thrifting tips that have served me well over the years.

1. Wear easy clothes.  

I usually wear a layering tank so that I can try on shirts in the aisles, a skirt in case there is no fitting room and I have to try on some bottoms without flashing anyone, slip-on comfy shoes, my great big panties practical undergarments, and some simple accessories so I can get an idea how my selections might be styled.

2. Take sustenance.

Be it drive-through daiquiris or a granola bar in your purse, some bevvies and snacks can make the thrift trip more enjoyable.

3. Start in the shoe section.

Wear any maybes around the store while you shop so you can gauge comfort and wearability.  This strategy has saved me from countless bad purchases.  (And others I bought anyway out of pure love.)

4. Have a thrift-hunting list.

I have been looking for an a-line-ish chambray skirt for a long time and I’m 98% sure this doesn’t make me look like a Duggar. Bonus: it was $2.80.
I’ve also been looking for a denim jacket for my daughter since she lost her perfect one just before we moved – I’m not ready to talk about my feelings about that.  Anyhoo, I found her this one which was missing some of the button jewels. I used a glue gun to add some gems then she added the pearls to the collar and has plans to add emblem patches on the back. This girl….oh my heart.  Her whole ensemble is thrifted, ‘natch.

A list can help direct your attention when you have a limited time to thrift and can help you make good purchasing decisions when you finally hit the till.  On my list right now: red shorts, red cardi, green cardi, replacement olive dress, replacement navy shift dress, red sandals and a sleeveless chambray.  Okay, there’s more but that’s my short list!  Use your list as a guide but be open to whatever the thrift store sends your way!  I wasn’t looking for shoes when I found my Prada loafers!  Great thrifting is in the balance!

I keep a list on Work Flowy and Pinterest and that is how I knew what I needed for my kids’ Halloween costumes yesterday.  (Is it my fault I also found two skirts and a couple tees for me???)

5. Scan for quality then labels.

I didn’t need to look at the label to know this was an Anthro brand skirt! To small for me but soooo pretty!!

I do have, e-hem, a little thrifting practice but even for the untrained eye, it’s not hard to spot good quality in a sea of average.  I usually handle the garments as I sift the racks because quality tends to have a better feel.  If something catches my eye (or touch!), I check the label and do a quick Google search if I’m not familiar with it.  You don’t need to thrift only designer goods but knowing the regular retail value informs your purchasing decisions.

6.   Select first, edit later.

Put everything that catches your eye in your cart.  You probably won’t get back to it and even if you do, it could be gone and most thrifted pieces are one-of-a-kind.  Better it ride around in your cart and be cut at the last-minute than end up with a severe case of thrifter’s remorse!  And don’t feel you have to shop the whole store.  If you have half an hour, shop one section, checking the size above and below your usual.

7. Try on.

Value Village Houston, this is totally unacceptable. If you don’t have fitting rooms, get more mirrors and please don’t put them in the men’s section. (Rant done.)

A bargain is not a deal if it doesn’t fit.  Here in Texas, I’ve discovered a few thrift shops that don’t have a fitting room.  In that case, you do your best (see my IG story!!) and decide if the risk is worth it.  I bought a couple of pieces for 25 cents that did not end up working out – totally worth the risk!

8. Have some wipes available.

I think my past 5 years of thrifting have debunked the myths about thrift stores being dirty and gross… That being said, handling all those hangers, garments and goods does warrant a little freshening up!

9. Wash before you wear

This is true of any garments – secondhand or regular retail – because you just don’t know.  My purchases go immediately in the washing machine with a good cup of vinegar to remove any scents.  For any stains, I pre-treat with bar Sunlight soap and stain spray.  I rarely dry clean a thrifted piece unless it is really special and I’m not sure if washing will wreck it.  I recently thrifted a dry clean only Theory dress for $5.60 and washed it… turned out just fine.

I aim to look a little happier when I’m wearing mine.

10.  Get ready for thrifting to change how you shop.

When I started thrifting, I had no idea I would never be the same again!  Now, I hate the mall.  I can hardly stand the noise and the overall atmosphere.  I usually have to go to a thrift shop after to recover!!  Then there’s the prices!  And the fast fashion… sigh, that’s now the biggest reason to thrift IMHO.  It would be irresponsible not to warn you that thrifting can be a little addicting regulating and chances are, you’re going to want to do it again and again!  If so, welcome to the #thriftingsisterhood!  It’s real and it’s growing and we are a pretty awesome community!

You’re not going to see this awesomeness at the mall, no sirree!

If you are looking for more tips, be sure to check out the Thred Up blog.  They recently posted a series of tips, featuring yours truly and several other fab bloggers!  If thrifting isn’t your self-care, no worries.  Maybe reading blogs is your self-care, maybe just being with your friends out on the town!  I’m curious though – what IS your self-care go-to?  I love hearing what other women are passionate about so share in the comments and let’s all agree that whatever it is, self-care is a need!


  1. Cory McInnis

    Well said, self care is different for everyone, love that! For years and years growing up could never figure out why mom would buy the top name brand for cosmetics, perfume, she loved to shop through the Bay cosmetic counters, and always came home with her newest eye colour, etc. For her that was her “self care” and still is. I couldn’t care less about makeup, and all perfume now gives me either a rash or headache! But I too have some “self care” patterns, reading decorating magazines cover to cover, just the visual helps me feel creative. Going to a garden centre, whether its the Home Depot garden centre, or any independently owned Nursery puts me in that happy place. Over the past 8 years, I have now worked seasonally at a greenhouse and feel blessed to be recharged everyday (most of the time I am working for free, as my wages go towards plants), but isn’t that what counts, being content, refuelled and letting our creative sides show. I too love the hunt through a thrift, vintage, second hand store, just never know what treasure will show itself 🙂

    • nicole

      I didn’t know that about your mom but that’s pretty neat! I can certainly appreciate it as a fellow makeup enthusiast (!) but really, I can appreciate everyone’s self-care hobbies. Plants aren’t my thing but I enjoy hearing about how YOU love them. It’s inspiring in fact! To each her own, for our our own benefit and the collective good!

  2. Pam Scott

    I enjoy thrifting and garage sales. I love the thrill of a great find for only a little bit of money. It is my way to unwind after a workweek. With three kids, it is also a great way to save money and keep them in the latest styles and name brands. It would be hard to pay $30 – $40 for a Polo shirt but I can get them for just a couple of dollars by thrifting and garage sales. When they get tired of an item or out grow it then I sell it at my garage sale so it like it is practically free.

    • nicole

      Indeed!! I thrifted a Nike hoodie for my son for $2.50, perfect condition. They don’t care so I’m certainly not going to foster an attitude of “needing” regular retail things. I’ve also been thinking of other things I never want them to hear about – like cellulite! If you’ve never heard about you’ll never think you have it!! Interestingly enough, I don’t love garage sales as much as thrift stores but my husband loves them! I guess we were mean to be! Lol

  3. This has been a hard thing for me to accept about myself – but yes, thrifting is the best way for me to de-stress and get back on balance. I used to feel so embarrassed about the constant flow of “stuff”, as if I were bringing contraband home and should hide it. Evidence of my addiction. But, my family has helped by making it a point to tell me when I score something wonderful for them or for myself. I have saved us so much money as I am able to mentally recharge while also filling clothing needs for myself and my family. It’s okay. I still have to say that to myself over and over. But, it’s okay to have a hobby/skill that is also frugal and valuable. And sometimes I throw away $20 on bad thrifting decisions because I needed the mental process to stay afloat. And that’s okay, too. I appreciate your clinical thoughts – it reinforces what I’ve been feeling.

    • nicole

      Thank you so much for your comment!! I’m so glad to hear I’m in good company! Thrifting is WAY cheaper than therapy (! I know, I’ve had plenty of both) but I hear ya. I don’t want it to be a true “addiction” so I’m careful, as I am with other potentially addicting things!! (Hello margaritas) Thaf is why I refer to myself as a thrift ENTHUSIAST! May we keep it in the light, appreciate it for what it offers and seek what else we need from our families (and Jesus, for me!). I always appreciate hearing about a good score so feel free to share your finds with me!!

  4. Iris Needleman

    My self care involves meeting a group of friends for a 2 mile walk every morning. We live near the ocean and meet on the boardwalk regardless of the weather. If it’s not raining or snowing we are out there walking. What a wonderful way to start the day.

    • nicole

      That sounds amazing. Now that I’m not rushing off to work in the mornings, I have been taking my dog for a walk every morning while listening to podcasts. I’ve come to cherish that time!! It would be even better by a beach!!