I lost it. I did. Looking back, it must have been about a year of proper loss, and a year more than that of listlessness. It was absent. I lost my charity shop mojo. Gone was the characteristic fervor of searching in each shop, certain that treasures would reveal themselves to me and confidence in my discoveries. Not to say I didn’t go, I didn’t look or didn’t buy anything, but there was conspicuous lack of thrill in the chase or treasures uncovered.
Then, a weekend ago, with an unusual free Saturday afternoon, I decided to go charity shop shopping in a way I haven’t done for years. I popped the headphones in, the boots on and headed out, beady-eyed, with a purpose and a desire to find. And I did.
I think I’ve identified what happened to my mojo and how I got it back.
Last year, just living off Moll and Mostin and my savings meant my disposable income was nil. Anything over £3.00 that wouldn’t feed me or become part of a Moll and Mostin product, was definitely defined as splashing out. This lead to a couple of things – firstly, I was a little less willing to risk an unusual pattern or fabric, and secondly, to save money, I was looking for my basics in charity shops. But these would wear quickly and be misshapen, unflattering.
Since then, I’ve come to the conclusion that you should spend as much you can afford on the basics. Those T shirts, long-sleeved tops, leggings and jeans that you wear everyday are not the best thing to buy from a charity shop. T shirts and long-sleeved tops, especially in black and white, will suffer most from repeated washing and fade and lose their stretch. Good basics will be worn every day and earn their keep. Whether you can afford Gap, H&M, or Cos and American Apparel, or, blimey, proper real life designer goodies, buy good basics. Of course, there is many an apocryphal story of someone finding their perfect jeans in a charity shop. If this is the case, rejoice and dine out on the story for many years. But don’t go to a charity shop looking for them.
So Charity Shop Mojo Advice No. 1
- Go to a charity shop and look for the things that you can’t find elsewhere. These are the things with unusual patterns, fabrics, and vintage (if you can find it). Scarves, cardigans, jumpers, little skirts, blouses and belts are generally good charity shop buys. They can be colourful, patterned, lose or tight, and will be complimented by good basics, your favourite jeans or boots, without you looking like you’ve fallen into a jumble sale. Some of you will be confident in rocking the jumble sale look. If not, this is the way to go.
The other thing that has helped me re-gain the charity shop mojo was, ironically, sending a lot of things to charity shops. I have a history of hoarding. Not a Channel 4 documentary level of hoarding, thank God, but just an inclination towards keeping things, clothes, books, tiny objects, rather than getting rid. However, several things have started to challenge this inclination.
In the first year of university, I turned up with a HUGE amount of stuff. Honestly. Loads. A full car. Completely full. But then, in my second year, my parents rented out our house. My home room, the traditional holder of stuff for adults until the age of…I don’t know…35, was reduced to a few boxes of keepsakes. These keepsakes have since been gnawed at by mice, and reduced further.
At the end of my second year, I moved abroad. I threw away and gave away a huge number of books and clothes, kitchen things and other items. Even on the way to my final destination, I shed books and clothes as I went. I then, during my year in Mexico, had a merry time accumlating new things, before I realised that, going travelling before returning home, everything would have to be, literally carried on my back. Clothes and books and objects all went to the skip near my flat. Bearing in mind, I hadn’t really bought any clothes or books since I’d been there, this was a great shedding of possessions. This would seem a little wasteful, but I can assure you that the skip was well sorted; everything of value, any metal, clothing or resaleable item was taken within hours of being left there. It was the Mexican equivalent of a charity shop.
On my return to London, factor in two small single rooms, and the more recent move into a one-bedroom flat with Mr Moll, and it’s easy to see that I have regularly rid myself a lot of needless items. In fact, as we are tight on space, Mr Moll has implemented a ‘One in, One out’ policy on everything in the flat. This means, to earn new clothes, old clothes must be taken to the charity shop.
But how has all this revived my charity shop mojo? I am not exactly sure, but it has. There is something about regularly sorting through your clothes and being realistic about their fit, their colour, or just your desire to wear them, that really focuses your mind. It prevents you from buying similar things repetitively, or because you’re convinced you’ll wear it this time, and it means all your clothes, and your possible combinations, are easily recalled, as you hold up a coat hanger with a possible charity bargain. You can assess the clothes you are looking at with a great deal more information. It reminds you what you don’t need, as well as what you are actually going to wear.
Charity Shop Mojo Advice No.2
- Before you go to a charity shop, sort your own wardrobe. Be realistic. Take things out that you are not going to wear again. Note what they are – if you love big slogan T shirts, but you find yourself getting rid of three of them before you go, they’re probably not the best thing to get excited about in your charity shop search. The things you don’t want or need anymore can be taken to the charity shop too. Two birds, one stone.
Finally, I have some things in mind that I’m really looking for. In my previous shared house, we had a mystery leather jacket. It had been left there at some point by a house party attendee or other visitor. It was great – small, cropped and fitted brilliantly. However, I left the house, and therefore I left the jacket. There are other people in the house who love the jacket too.
I am always looking for my own to replace it. It’s a meandering search, not a desperate one, but one that keeps me hopeful and beady-eyed when I enter a charity shop. Similarly, I am always convinced I will find a selection of beautiful brooches. These are possibilities. Jackets and coats tend to last well, and are a charity shop staple. Brooches too, are often found in the display boxes near the till. I will find some gems.
Charity Shop Mojo Advice No.3
- Keep in mind some things you might be likely to find, and that you really want. It might take some time to find them, but, again, it’ll keep you focused and interested. And you never know, you might find ’em!
And now, ladies and gents, that has made me very excited about my next charity shop visit. Tomorrow might be the day! Hmm…so now to find some things for the ‘out’ pile, so I can bring some new clothes in!