What to consider when you’re buying second hand

Second hand can be the treasure of all treasures and a true eye-opener for many in different ways.

I think it’s great that people get to see that you’re actually able to get a lot of nice, good-quality stuff second hand because I feel like there’s this image that in these shops, you’ll only find bad quality and old, unassuming things.

Another thing that I sometimes (not always) think about when I go to second hand shops is the sheer amount of clothes that must be in circulation in the developed parts of the world in order for second hand shops to be filled to the extent they are. It’s frankly ridiculous and I think more people should see this and appreciate what they can get second hand – both cheaper and more sustainable.

Now, there are a few tips I’d like to give you when it comes to shopping second hand. I hope that whoever you are – whether you’re well-versed in all things vintage or just getting started – you’ll find these useful.

As you read through these, try to put yourself in the mindset of “Whatever you’re looking for, the aim should be building a durable home and wardrobe that you’ll love for a long time”. I think that should really be the goal here.

My top tips for what to consider when shopping second hand for a sustainable home and wardrobe

Ask yourself this (and be honest!)

Do I really need this?

I’ve talked about this question before and it is an important one. Before buying something, ask yourself if you truly need it.

Needing could still mean a lot of different things. Most would say that a majority of the clothes we own aren’t strictly needed, but maybe you feel like they are depending on the purpose the serve.

I tend to think ask myself further questions to really make sure I’ll be happy with my purchase and won’t buy anything unnecessary:

  • Do I have something similar already? (If you have three black skirts of roughly the same length, maybe a fourth is not needed. Do you really need yet another pair of jeans? etc.)
  • Will I use this? (Maybe the most important question to answer honestly. If you won’t wear or use an item for more than once a year – don’t buy it).

Be critical

When shopping second hand, it’s good to have a critical eye beneath those love goggles.

Let’s say you’ve found the maxi dress of your dreams but it has a bad stain on there that you’re not sure you’ll be able to get out of the fabric. Maybe sharpen your critical eye and really consider if you would actually be wasting your money.

Check everything thoroughly. Zippers, seams, buttons etc. Are there long threads hanging? Is the fabric still looking good or is it looking pretty worn already? (i.e. will this look good for a long time to come or will I end up wanting to get rid of it in a year’s time?)

Remember that people get rid of things for a reason and while it is usually harmless, there might be a deeper, darker secret hidden beneath those cuffs…

Know yourself

This is so important as well and follows naturally from the previous points.

Be honest and know yourself. How will this garment/piece of furniture be treated when you get home?

Will you have the patience to fix that hole in the fabric? If so, go on – get it if you love it and know you’ll be using it.

If not… well, you know the answer to that one already I guess.

I have made SO MANY mistakes in the past and wasted money on stuff I just never used that I’ve gotten to know myself and what works for me.

For example, I never buy anything that requires hand wash only because I know that I hate washing things by hand with fervor and therefore will never do it.

I also know that – as I have a cat – my clothes and furniture are permanently covered in cat hair and while I remove them regularly, the hairs may not always come out. So super expensive, super delicate fabrics are out for me.

Know what you need and what you don’t need.

Maybe the fabric or color isn’t right for you after all? Maybe you know yourself well enough by now to know that you’re just too lazy to fix that loose button?

And it’s okay to be lazy (I’m a couch potato the majority of the time) – just be aware and don’t add extra work on yourself when you don’t want or need it.

Replace or repair?

This tip is more for your own sake to avoid overcrowding your closet or home.

If what you’re looking at in the shop has the same function as one of your other items at home but slightly better, maybe consider swapping your old item for the new one and give your old one back to Goodwill or whatever is nearby you.

If it’s not that much better – maybe you can upgrade or repair that item you already have at home?

These are my tips for you. Do you have any additional ideas for how to shop more sustainably, please share in a comment below!

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