Rónán Ó Dálaigh

July 13, 2020

Going thrift shopping? Here’s how to get the good stuff

Going thrift shopping? Here’s how to get the good stuff

Rónán Ó Dálaigh

July 13, 2020
Thriftify Founder Rónán Ó Dálaigh shares his top thrift shopping secrets, so that you can find gold the next time you go for a rummage in your local charity shop.

I should really start this with a confession… I have a terrible sense of style! I’m more magpie than anything else. Picking out unique, fun, quirky gems is a skill I’ve honed. Putting them together into something coherent is, let’s just go with, not my strong suit. 

Pun intended.

For environmental reasons I gave up buying new things a couple of years ago so I’ve had to learn how to find good quality gems. Luckily I’ve been able to cheat a little bit because working for Thriftify gives me back-stage access to pretty much every charity retailer in the country… So here’s what I’ve learned from my insider knowledge plus my own magpie-ing.

charity shop team
Volunteers at charity shops (they are the best)
  1. Timing

Monday morning, after people have dropped things to the charity shop over the weekend, used to be my preferred scouring hour. However, in the aftermath of Covid19 the charities are preparing for a donation stream of biblical proportions. Some charities are completely changing their warehouses to cope with the expected influx of donations.

*Ca-ching* say the magpies; we’re going to have so many things to browse through! But get your timing right, check when your local charity shop is open and ask them what’s happening with the donations. Many shops will be getting donations via their warehouse so all it takes is a polite ask to find out when the good stuff is due. 

book shelves at charity shops
Second-hand books sell for a fraction of their original price, and are always in plentiful supply!
  1. Make allegiances

Timing is like the screwdriver in your toolbox, but knowing the staff is the power-drill!  Invest in getting to know the managers and if you can. The best way to do that? Volunteer.

You think I coincidentally stumbled upon my favourite silk floral blazer!? Hella no – that bad boy was put aside because they knew I was looking for one (second confession: I may have leveraged the backstage access on a number of occasions to grab gems)! Volunteering makes you feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside, but let’s be honest, also on the outside in your brand new silk blazer #NoRegrets. 

Charity shops are also going to be open to all kinds of initiatives and fundraising ideas to make up for the damage of Covid, so why not see if you and some friends can visit their warehouse or organise a sales event in your local shop to help them raise funds? I imagine any manager will be only more than happy to repay your efforts with a gem or two. 

charity shops
  1. Patience & stock rotations

By far the most important trait of a successful magpie: don’t fill your nest with bottle caps and shiny paper. Invest time, wait, and you’ll be rewarded with real gems. Settling for second best goes against everything Disney fairytales taught us as kids. 


Building on our timing skills and newfound allegiances, we now ask the managers if they do stock rotations (such as Oxfam do), and if so, on what day. Stock rotations will see a whole load of new stock put on the floor, either from donations or from other shops. When you know what you want, visit as many shops as possible, ask what day the stock is turned over and just keep coming back!


My magpie approach has worked the best for me with furniture. All of which are preloved and completely different, but I absolutely love each piece. I should mention that I got pretty much all of them the same day they were put out. What’s more, in the case of my favourite chair, it was only from asking the manager to see what was hidden out the back that I stumbled upon its glory.


The combination of knowing when to visit your local charity shops, having some relationships with the staff or better yet volunteering, and being patient, is the sure-fire way to end up on the quality side of the thrift-life.

Rónán Ó Dálaigh