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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Five tips for getting the most out of your local op-shop

Me wearing my favourite op-shop find

This is me wearing my favourite op-shop find. The top is from a well-known department store, but I got it for just $5 and wear it so often.

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You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get kitted out in eco-friendly clothes. If you buy secondhand, you’re helping save perfectly good clothes from going to landfill, giving them a second chance at life.

I love to spend a day browsing the op-shops near me. There’s so much variety, I’m always surprised by what I find. But there’s a bit of a knack to finding what you want in among the racks of things that aren’t your style at all. Here's my top tips to make the shopping trip a success:

  1. Before you start, make a list of things you’d like to find. In my opinion, there’s not much point looking through the t-shirt racks - the thin knit material is often too worn to make it worth your while - however there are others who prefer them this way. Jackets, skirts and trousers are usually in excellent condition, there are plenty of near-new kids clothes, and you can find things from some really nice labels in there too. My next op-shop shopping list will include button-up sleeveless tops and summer skirts.
  2. Dress appropriately for the occasion. You might have to try a lot of things on, so choose shoes that slip on and off, skirts or shorts and casual tops rather than things that are difficult to get in and out of.
  3. When you get to your op-shop, take a second to figure out where everything is. Some places sort the clothes by colour as well as type, which makes things even easier. Make a beeline for the section you need, and flick through every item on the rack. You never know what gem you’ll find in among the stuff you don’t like.
  4. You’ll be suprised at how little you’ll pay for excellent quality clothing. People give away things that are just the wrong colour or size, if they can’t be bothered returning them to the store. In the March/April 2009 issue of G Magazine, you’ll see a photo of me in the cute top I got while op-shopping for the “save money by going green” challenge. That particular expedition got me two tops and a skirt for just $21!
  5. Cleanliness won’t be a concern in a well-run op-shop - if you think there may be an issue, take your business elsewhere. But if it bugs you to wear something that isn’t brand new, give your new treasures a vinegar rinse instead of fabric softener when you wash before wearing. It doesn’t leave a vinegar smell, and removes the scent of anyone else’s laundry powder.

Finally... have fun! Op-shopping is like searching for buried treasure. You’re not just helping the planet and saving money, you’re having an adventure too. Bring a friend and stop for a cuppa or a snack when you get tired. And when you find something awesome, leave a comment here so we can admire your hunting skills!