My Op Shop Purchases
This week on Instagram I shared these pictures of my op shop purchases (Some people call them thrift shops but here in South Australia we call them op shops). I asked in my Instagram stories “Have you been to an op shop lately?” and 20% of respondents said yes. I would LOVE for that number to be higher so I’m on a mission to demystify op shops and open your minds to shopping in op shops rather than just dropping stuff off at them.
If you don’t shop at op shops, I need to start by staying I was one of you not long ago. I used to call myself an “Op shop Dropper Offer-er” (that is a completely made up word but I think it works)! I would regularly drop things at op shop but I didn’t make an effort to shop in them.
My deep dive journey into understanding more about op shops and second hand items started in 2018 when my dear friend Emma went a year without buying anything new for herself, her husband and her two young children, a newborn and a four year old. Emma’s journey really opened my eyes to the beautiful pieces she found for her home and her family’s wardrobes from op shops, Gumtree, Buy Nothing groups and Facebook Marketplace and also the environmental impact of our “Buy all the things” and “I NEED it now” culture.
The marketing world sucks us into a “You must buy this” vortex particularly when you have children. It was eye opening to see Emma navigate having a newborn during her buy nothing new year. Kids really do not need as much stuff as we think!
[Side note: Emma is also the Port Environmental Centre Coordinator and I’m trying to convince her to write about her year of buying nothing so jump over to their website or Facebook page and encourage her to do it! She has so many gems of knowledge and op shop gold to share.]
Environmental Impact of Fashion
It takes a lot of resources (water, energy, cotton, transport etc) to make our clothes. In fact, it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce one item of clothing. That is three years of drinking water for someone! Have a look in your wardrobe. How many years worth of water consumption are hanging in your wardrobe?
In the past, clothes were made to last. We had less clothes and we had the skills to mend them when they got a hole. With the advent of fast fashion, many people will throw out an item with a tiny hole rather than fixing it and it can be cheaper to buy a new top then take one to the dry cleaners to be cleaned.
War on Waste
If you haven’t already watched it, I encourage you to stop you Netflix binge tonight and watch ABC’s War on Waste. Some facts from their episode about fast fashion are:
- Australia is one of the most wasteful countries in the developed world.
- 6,000 kilograms of clothes are thrown out every 10 minutes in Australia which goes straight to landfill.
- 36,000 kilograms of clothes are thrown out every hour.
- This could fill the MCG with clothes over two and a half times every year.
- According to the National Association of Charitable and Recycling Organisations, last year Australian charities paid $13 million a year to dispose of 60,000 tonnes of unusable donations.
- 85% of the plastic pollution in the ocean is due to microfibres from synthetic clothing.
- Three-quarters of clothing purchased is thrown out within a year.
WOW! Do those statistics scare you? We have become such a consumeristic society that we purchase clothes and then throw three quarters of them away within a year, much of it into landfill.
The Wardrobe Crisis
I was fortunate enough to meet Clare Press, the founder of The Wardrobe Crisis at the 2019 Institute of Professional Organisers Conference. Clare is a Sydney-based sustainable fashion journalist, author and presenter and was the first ever Vogue Sustainability Editor (for Vogue Australia, 2018-2020). Clare wrote a revolutionary book called Wardrobe Crisis: How We Went From Sunday Best to Fast Fashion. Add it to your library “To borrow” list or buy a copy here*.
Clare shared some pretty mind blowing stats. Did you know in the last 15 years clothing production has doubled and that 40% of purchases are made on a whim? We have stopped critically thinking about our purchases and shopping has become entertainment rather than a need. Clare reminded me that “shopping” and “therapy” are two words that don’t belong together and her final comment of the day was “We are cluttering up the planet and we need to stop”.
Stop, Focus, Notice
So what can you do to help? STOP, FOCUS, NOTICE.
- Firstly, STOP BUYING SO MANY CLOTHES! I’m a declutter coach. I see the amount of stuff everyone has. You probably don’t need it and statistics say you are likely to throw away 7 out of the last 10 things you bought in the next year.
- Secondly, FOCUS on understanding what colours and styles of clothes look good on you.
- And thirdly, NOTICE what you truly need in your wardrobe rather than buying what you want in that moment. Remember “Retail” and “Therapy” should not be in the same sentence.
My Op Shopping Tips
So my tips for getting started with op shopping are:
- Know what colours and styles of clothing suit you.
- Look at your wardrobe and notice what pieces are missing.
- Make a “Wish List” note in your phone of what you NEED in your home and wardrobe.
- If you are shopping for others, include a section in your “Wish List” note to list the clothes sizes for your partner and children (including shoe sizes) and dimensions if you are looking for items to fit in your home.
- Understand you won’t always find what you are looking for. Yep sometimes you will walk out with nothing.
- Know it is ok to buy new but try and look for a second hand option first.
- When you do find a second hand gem, please share it with others on social media to normalise buying and using second hand things. Your hip pocket and the environment will thank you.
Share the Love
If you find an op shop gem please tag me @be.simplyfree in your instagram stories.
Want to learn more?
Here are a few articles and websites that may be of interest to you.
- Caitlin Fitzsimmons et al. October 6th 2019, Second-hand clothing to overtake fast fashion
- Shannon Corvo, March 8th 2020 How second-hand stores are adapting to increasing fast-fashion donations
- ABC’s War on Waste
- Fashion Revolution – a Global Movement calling for fairer, safer, cleaner, more transparent fashion industry.
- Port Environmental Centre
- Clare Press’ Website The Wardrobe Crisis
* Heads up: This post contains affiliate links! If you buy something through one of these links, you won’t pay any more, but I’ll get a small commission. You can rest assured that I only recommend products that I truly love and use.