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5 common misconceptions of buying used goods

From thrift stores to vintage shops, to consignment or antique stores and other secondhand style retailers, buying used goods doesn’t always get the respect and recognition it deserves. We think that’s because shoppers don't always have a clear understanding of how to get the most out of the experience. So we’re here to set the record straight and address these thrifting misconceptions. Hopefully these insights will inspire more people to try buying used – and nab some fun finds.

Thrifting misconception #1:
Secondhand stores only have outdated items

This one tops the list because we hear it so often. While it’s true that secondhand stores do sometimes carry older items, we actually see that as one of thrift shopping’s benefits. You’re not going to find all the same items everyone else is buying. Instead, you’ll discover hard-to-find vintage items, one-of-a-kind pieces, and even furniture that you can take home and refinish to make your very own.

But we get it: Vintage isn’t for everyone. Secondhand stores know that, though. That’s why many of them broaden their appeal by carrying a mix of old and new.

A visit to local consignment shops or high-end reuse retailers will give you a front row seat to current fashions, name brands and more, at a discount. Remember, consignment shops make their money by offering what people want. Items that are outdated or not on trend likely aren’t even making their way to the floor. So not only will you find some of the latest fashions, accessories, and furniture in secondhand stores, but you’ll also be able to purchase them at well below retail prices.

Thrift shopping new to you items

Thrifting misconception #2:
It’s hard to find things in thrift or secondhand stores

We hear this one pretty frequently and are here to ease your concerns. Items in secondhand stores are often organized by category or, in the case of clothing, by type. All the men’s shirts will be in one section and women’s dresses in another. They usually take it a step further and organize clothing by color and size, too.

Home decor, books, music and the like will each have their own section, organized by different criteria. But part of the fun of thrift shopping is the thrill of the hunt – the pleasure of doing a little digging to find that must-have item. That said, secondhand stores want to make it easy for you to find what you’re looking for.

Thrift shopping for tshirts

Thrifting misconception #3:
Buying used goods is only for people who can’t afford to buy new

As far as thrifting misconceptions go, this one is pretty far from the truth. Just because people buy used doesn’t mean they can’t afford to buy new. The love of a bargain, after all, has little to do with income. Plus, thrift stores are typically the only place to nab one-of-a-kind vintage items or unique retro pieces. People who have a taste for the unusual become thrift shop regulars, regardless of how fat their wallet is. That’s also true for people who want to cut waste, preserve natural resources and support local businesses. Many of them can afford to buy new, but they choose to reuse.

Is saving money one of the benefits of shopping secondhand? Absolutely! But that’s just being smart with your money. Part of the appeal of buying used is that in addition to getting a bargain, you’re realizing all sorts of other benefits. In fact, we’ve written an entire blog post on the benefits of buying used.

Related Reading: 8 Things you should always buy used to save money

Thrift shopping for great deals

Thrifting misconception #4:
It isn’t safe to buy used goods from a store

Actually, it’s perfectly safe to buy used goods from a secondhand store. Sure, we suggest looking over your prospective purchases before buying. Whether you’re shopping for secondhand clothes, furniture, tools, you name it, “Try before you buy” is a good motto to follow no matter where you shop. But there’s no need to be nervous. Unsafe, recalled or severely damaged items are typically removed by the stores’ staff and never even hit the sales floor.

If your concern is a matter of cleanliness (see our next thrifting misconception ), we do recommend washing clothing properly after you’ve brought it home. But we make that same recommendation for new clothing as well. For non-apparel items, we also suggest cleaning off before using. Things like toys and dishware can be washed in the sink or dishwasher. Furniture and other items can be wiped down or dusted off.

Find a local reuse retailer here.

Thrift shopping for toasters

Thrifting misconception #5:
Used clothing is dirty and secondhand stores smell

Sure, used clothing has been worn by someone else before. That’s why it’s called “used” clothing. But that doesn’t make it “dirty.” A simple run through the washing machine and these items will be good as new-to-you. Keep in mind, also, that clothes are washed before they’re donated, so any washing you do will likely be a bonus.

Remember, even new clothes have been touched and tried on by other people. You wash new clothes when you bring them home, right? If not, we recommend it, as this reduces the content of chemicals on the clothes, especially any residual chemicals left over from the manufacturing process.

Another misconception about secondhand stores is that they smell. That’s usually not true, however. Yes, thrift stores can sometimes have a more noticeable scent, but that’s primarily due to the fact that they’re smaller shops where many people’s home scents come together under one roof. If you walk into a big-box store, the size of the space allows various smells to dissipate – a fact that has nothing to do with cleanliness. In any case, once you get your purchased items home, whether you wash them, wear them, or just have them there, over time those goods will take on the smell of your home.

Don’t let these thrifting misconceptions stop you from finding some really great, high-quality, even name-brand pieces out there at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

Washing clothes bought at thrift store

These are just some of the common thrifting misconceptions that sometimes prevent people from having a fun experience and finding some really great clothes, books, furniture, home decor and more. If you’ve hesitated to visit secondhand stores because of the concerns raised above, we hope we’ve cleared up some of the confusion. That said, we can provide all the facts in the world, but our best suggestion is to find out for yourself by checking out your local consignment or thrift shop, antique or vintage store. Happy shopping!

Now that warm weather has arrived – and with it, the desire to clean and declutter – this a great time to get serious about donating usable goods that are taking up space in your overcrowded home.