8 Insider Tips for Becoming An Expert Secondhand Shopper

My wardrobe is so extensive that I had to create a second closet in my tiny apartment just to store it all. It’s also constantly growing. When my friends notice my ever-evolving assortment of clothing, this usually leads to inquiries.

Where did you get that? How come it always seems like you’re wearing new clothes? How is it possible that you aren’t completely broke?

The truth is, about 90% of my wardrobe is secondhand. If it weren’t, I’d be living on the streets with the amount of time I spend shopping. Thrift stores are a great way to get more bang for your buck, but many people find them overwhelming or exhausting.

Since I spend so much time in them, I’ve become a expert of sorts. A thrift-store connoisseur*. I’ve have learned some great tricks and shortcuts that make shopping at thrift-stores quicker, easier, and more productive. With these tricks, you’ll be able to compose your own expansive and high-quality wardrobe without breaking your bank account.

*Full disclosure: I just had to ask Google how to spell this word. I’m not that fancy.

1. Shop often and buy seldom.

I know where all of the thrift stores are near me, and when I’m on the hunt for a specific wardrobe item I’ll hit them up at least once a week. I enjoy shopping (even window shopping) so this isn’t a chore for me. There are two huge thrift stores near my house, and they happen to be on my way to work and church respectively, so I stop in when I’m already passing by.

2. Try upscale thrift stores.

The price points at an upscale thrift store tend to be higher, but there are benefits. First, the selection is curated, so you won’t be digging through garbage to find the hidden gems. Second, in most cases the clothing you’re searching through is higher quality.

Maybe you’ll spend $30 on a dress instead of $8, but that dress is gently used and well-made. If you spent $30 on a new dress, the quality would be significantly reduced. It’s the same principle as buying a used car. The value of a new car depreciates the moment you drive it off the lot. You save money and gain utility when you buy a gently used car instead of a brand new one. It’s exactly the same with clothing.

3. But don’t shy away from a messy store.

It might take some extra effort, but a huge mess in a store should excite you. While upscale thrift stores and consignment shops are usually more organized, you pay a premium for that organization. The more you have to dig through clothing, the more likely you are to find that hidden gem for dirt cheap.

4. Inspect every purchase carefully.

Used clothing is far more likely to have damage than new clothing (DUH!). And generally, you can’t return thrifted purchases. So inspect each garment carefully before you buy, keeping an eye out for moth holes, stains, and popped seams. Some damage is fixable, but you’ll have to determine whether the extra effort is worth your time.

5. Browse all sections, including those that aren’t your size.

There are two reasons for this. First, people often will pick something up and put it back somewhere else, so you never know what misplaced items you’ll find. But second (and perhaps most important): vintage clothing often has totally different sizing than modern clothing. For example, I’m typically a size 4 (or size small) in something like a wrap skirt, but recently, while browsing through the extra large section, I found a misplaced vintage size 8 animal print skirt that fit me perfectly. So go to the store with lots of energy, because you really should be looking through everything.

6. Learn to eyeball your size.

I know exactly which cuts work on me and which don’t, plus I can eyeball my size for most types of clothing (except pants and fitted dresses or pencil skirts), so sometimes I don’t even have to try things on. This can really speed up the process. When something fits you right, pay attention to what it looks like on the hanger so you can learn to eyeball it. I still recommend trying clothing on when you can, but avoiding clothes that definitely won’t fit really saves time in the fitting room.

7. Know which size you are in different brands.

I am a size 4 in Gap and Levi’s jeggings, a size 6 in H&M jeggings. If a dress from H&M is fitted, I’m a size 6 or 8, but I’m a size 4 if it’s fitted around the waist and has a flow-y skirt. Knowing this information can make shopping second hand much easier. When I buy jeans, I just scan the racks for the sizes and brands that I already know fit me, and I grab those. If a skirt or dress is from a brand where I’m already familiar with the sizes, I am able to avoid clothing that doesn’t fit.

8. Tailor your thrifted finds.

Clothes that fit always look more expensive. The money you save by buying secondhand often makes up for the cost of tailoring. It’s a win-win!

What are your favorite thrifting secrets? Share them in the comments below!

Things I Didn’t Know About Motherhood

Motherhood is an experience that is both challenging and rewarding. Despite having many friends who became mothers before me, and despite listening to them tell me about their experiences, there was absolutely nothing that could have prepared me for the reality of motherhood. There were parts that were way more difficult than I anticipated, but there are also parts that are so much better than I could ever have imagined.

I’ve only been a mother to baby Alexa for just under two short months, but in this brief time period I’ve experienced so many highs and lows. Here are some of the challenges I’ve encountered in this journey so far!

Postpartum recovery can be lengthy and difficult.

I knew going into my pregnancy that there would be a recovery process after giving birth, but I didn’t realize how challenging that would be. After giving birth, the bleeding can last for several weeks, and everything hurts down there. It’s difficult to move around. Specifically, if I was seated and holding the baby, I had to ask someone to take her so that I could stand up. I couldn’t stand up and hold the baby at the same time.

Trying to keep up with things while I was recovering was incredibly difficult and overwhelming. The first night I came home from the hospital I started crying hysterically. I was sore, exhausted from the lack of sleep in the hospital, and I felt like my husband, Juan, was doing a much better job than I was of taking care of the baby. Fortunately, I had some great friends and family members that came over during this time to help clean, bring food, and hold the baby. I have no idea how I would have gotten through this without Juan’s paternity leave – and I have a newfound admiration for single mothers, because this was challenging, even with all the help.

Once I had fully recovered, taking care of things got a lot easier and I began to find my groove. Parenting still has its difficult moments, but it’s much easier now that my body has healed.

Taking care of a baby is incredible, but it can also be isolating.

During my maternity leave, I got to experience what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mother. Juan’s paternity leave was shorter than my leave, so I had about three weeks of taking care of Alexa on my own during the day. I had some absolutely incredible moments, but I can definitely see that taking care of a baby is isolating. It’s easy to get sucked into the baby vortex and fail to spend time with family and friends. It’s easy to get stuck in the house all day, as taking the baby with you can turn even a simple outing into an event.

I definitely recommend scheduling visits with friends and family and taking your baby out of the house, even if it’s challenging. Being able to spend time with others and go places is an important part of self-care. Don’t neglect your self-care just because of the baby. And make sure that you take some time away from your child to do some of the things you used to do for yourself. For me, that means leaving Alexa with my husband on Saturday for a few hours so I can go thrifting and grocery shopping on my own. It also looks like taking the time to write and journal in the morning before she has woken up for the day.

Breastfeeding can be incredibly hard.

In the hospital, I had a difficult time getting Alexa to latch. The nurses had me waking her up for feedings, and she was so tired that she had no interest in eating. She latched exactly two times, and both of those were times when the lactation consulting helped her do it. I wasn’t able to get her to latch myself, which led me to decide that I wanted to pump and feed her through a bottle.

I was advised to pump every three hours around the clock. This alone proved to be a difficult struggle – who wants to sit there with a breast pump all day, especially when no milk is coming out yet?

At the pediatrician’s office, I started crying when he asked me how I planned to feed her. We talked and it became clear that I didn’t really want to give up breastfeeding just yet. Since Alexa was over 9 pounds, he told me to take her home and for the next two days offer her nothing but breastmilk, even if she cried and refused to eat. We would check in two days later to see how she did.

Fast forward to later that night – Alexa is crying uncontrollably and refusing to breastfeed. I’m falling apart because I feel guilty letting her starve. Juan wanted to cave in and give her formula. Finally, my mom came over to help and with the aid of a nipple shield, we finally got her to latch.

Once she latched, there were still many challenges. The first challenge is cluster feeding. She tends to sleep pretty well at night, but that means that during the day she is making up for it with extra feedings. She can feed for 45 minutes and then half an hour later she’ll be ready to feed again. Making this even more challenging is her love of using me as her pacifier – she loves to comfort feed, and she could do this for hours on end. All of this leaves me feeling like a human milk machine.

Since I’m planning to go back to work, I had to figure out how to pump as well. To make pumping less of a hassle, I invested in a hands-free portable pump, which was a game changer. I hated pumping, but with this pump I am able to get some chores done at the same time. The only challenge is that I’m supposed to pump after each feed, but Alexa is often awake and requiring attention. The one thing I can’t do while pumping is hold my baby, so right now my pumping is a bit sporadic. When I return to work and she is in daycare, I’ll be able to adhere to a consistent pumping schedule.

I’ve grown to love breastfeeding her – especially since I learned to how to feed her while lying down in bed. I often will lie down in bed the afternoon with a tv show on and allow her to comfort feed a bit, which helps her fall asleep for a late afternoon nap. This has become one of my favorite parts of the day.

Leaving your child at daycare is super emotional

As of this writing, I have one week of maternity leave left. I am dreading having to drop off baby Alexa at daycare next week. We really love the daycare we selected, but I still feel the dread. I’m going to miss the long hours spent with her during the day, and I don’t want to pass her off to someone else who will get to enjoy her while I’m at work all day. Before giving birth, I didn’t think this was going to be difficult for me to do — I thought I might enjoy the break. But now that I’ve met my child, I have no idea how I’m going to be able to be apart from her during the week. Since I work from home, my plan is to prepare dinner during my lunch break so that I have the entire evening to savor my time with her.

Your Motherhood Journey

What are some of the challenges you have faced in your journey with motherhood? Do you identify with any of the ones I shared? Let me know in the comments!

On Weight Gain and Body Acceptance

Over the past few years, I’ve put on a lot of weight. It actually started with a medication that I had to take for bipolar disorder. One of the side effects was that I put on a few pounds. But it wasn’t until recently, when I got pregnant with my first child, that the weight really started to pile on. During my pregnancy, I was a bit overwhelmed at the rate at which I was gaining weight, and it was hard to prevent it from happening. I was constantly hungry, and as my pregnancy progressed, I replaced going to the gym with more leisurely walks because I was constantly winded and tired from my workouts.