Get Your Thrift on: How to Embrace Second Hand

by Ashleigh Stallard

I'm a long-time second-hand fan.

Ever since my childhood I've trawled op shops and garage sales (thanks Dad!) and along the way I've added markets, vintage stores, tip shops, salvage yards and Gumtree to my pre-loved list.

What started as a search for my next teddy bear turned into a life-long quest for unique and affordable fashion, furniture, fabric, supplies, jewellery and even wood panels for a restoration project.

At least half of my wardrobe is pre-loved, and I couldn't be happier. So often when I'm wearing a second-hand find I get compliments from co-workers, friends, the barista, complete strangers - and I proudly tell them where I found it.

I'm usually met with, "Oh of course!", or "You're so lucky, always finding good things".

But not all of it comes down to luck, my friend. As we gear up for Australia’s big weekend of garage sales, I thought I'd share some of my tips to embrace second-hand adventuring.

Start with an audit

When was the last time you actually went through everything you own and had a good, hard think about what you actually enjoy wearing? This can be so therapeutic - it creates space (physically and mentally!) and it makes it easier to see what you want to wear.

This goes beyond the wardrobe too. That salmon mousse mold you've never used? Someone else will love it! I find it helps to separate your cull into a few groups:

  • I could sell this: Set aside the things you could photograph and stick on Gumtree, or if you have a lot of stuff to sell, consider hosting a stall at a local second-hand market - or your own garage sale! There are more second-hand fashion markets popping up all the time, like the Suitcase Rummage.
  • Corporate/ workwear: Consider donating gently-used corporate wear to an organisation like Dress for Success. They operate worldwide to help women and men get prepared for job interviews.
  • I could swap this: I've hosted a clothing/ accessories swap in my office before, and it worked a treat. Everyone was excited to rummage through the haul, and what was left we donated to charity. Free shopping, al-desk-o!
  • Op-shop-it: This pile is for everything that is still wearable, but not really worth taking the time to photograph and list for sale.
  • Rag pile: Ok, sometimes you need this pile too! It's always handy to keep a few old shirts to use as rags for housework, painting, craft, gardening - the messy stuff. They sell bags of shredded clothing at Bunnings, so why not use some of your own when all else fails. Global brand H&M also has a clothing collection initiative, taking any garment, any brand and in any condition to save them from landfill.


There's no use setting out on an op-shopping trip or garage sale hunt if you're not willing to get in there and rummage. If you're short on time then op shops, markets and salvage places are not for today - you need to let yourself get a little bit lost!

I'd recommend combining these first two points - why not drop off a bag of donations and check out what's in-store at the op shop?


There are so many markets popping up, with many of them focusing on second-hand wares and locally made items. Find out what's happening in your area - often markets like these are on fortnightly or monthly.

Ask around, do some Googling and find out the best op shops in your town. Some definitely have more gems than others - particularly the ones that label themselves 'boutiques'.

This kind of thrifting will see you finding more labels but at a higher price. It's up to you!


If you're just not in the mood to hit the second-hand haunts, there are plenty of pre-loved goodies to find online. And of course it works both ways - I've sold clothing, shoes and accessories easily on Gumtree.

One obvious benefit of online shopping (other than the do-it-in-your-pajamas factor) is the ability to search for exactly what you want, using keywords and sizing.

I personally love the idea of not knowing what I'm going to find - some of my favourite items have surfaced from a good rummage.

Happy second-hand adventuring!

Ashleigh Stallard is a professional communicator by day, striving to live lightly. You can find her on instagram at @shift_style and read her blog here.