Monday, 21 March 2016

thrifting with a toddler: simple matters

By now, I got it down how to do thrift shopping with my little one in tow. Things have become simpler as we left the baby days behind and he grew into a toddler. I got to know him (and myself) better. We can communicate more and I feel that we make a better team.

Keeping our thrifting trips simple provides more of a chance for it to be a pleasure rather than a pain. Over the past 18 months I learned what is important for a nice thrifting experience:

Less is more. Going less often but with more planning is better for us. Setting off on a whim can and usually does become stressful, and more often than not I feel guilty about it later. With a planned visit, say once a week there won't be any guilt, and with simple preparations (water and a snack for both of us, nappy changed, etc) there won't be stress either.

Buggy access and child-friendliness. There are only a few places where I go hunting, due to buggy access. Places with a higgledy-piggledy layout with tight squeeze between rows won't do. Places where I'd get the stink eye for bringing a small child along won't do. Dingy cellars with steep stairs and bad air just won't do.

Clarity. Knowing what I want to find is essential. Before, I preferred jumbly, messy, mixed-up places. Now I favour the kind of merchandised tidy stores where everything is sorted into groups and placed in dedicated areas - clothes, kitchenware, craft, furniture, etc. Clear to see, easy to shop. Before setting out, I also consider how we feel - are we both in a good mood, are we well rested? If either of us is tired, we won't find anything and it won't be possible to do any shopping to the soundtrack of his escalating Eeeeeeeeeeee! which means let's get the hell out...

Fair play. It's a given that I like thrift shopping, but it's only fair that my boy feels entertained too. So before I get looking, first I find him a toy car, a book, or something to engage with. At the end we put the distraction item back and he helps me pay for the find (if there is one) by holding my card and giving it to the cashier. I learned to quickly safety check the chosen distraction item - no broken or loose bits, clean enough - once I watched his nappies for a few days for a plastic bead after giving him a play mobile phone, and realising it was missing a part which I didn't know if he ate or was already like that...

Focused. For quick visits I go to the one store that's on the way to the swings. In the shop, I head straight to the bargain bin area, the kilo price area or the mixed stationery area and ignore everything else. If there's nothing to be found I will know it in seconds. If I find something good, it will be so cheap that I won't have to think about it lots before I commit. This way I might bag a bunch of nice envelopes or a useful biscuit tin, I'll get my thrifting fix without stretching my wallet or the patience of my child, and will be able to shoot off to the playground before any complaining would start. Happy all around!


  1. I really enjoy this series, even if I don't have a toddler, but I do have friends with small kids and we go thrifting together sometimes. I especially like the fair play part, with the cute image of him helping you pay :).

  2. You have got this down to a science! I know what you mean about making it fun for everyone so there is no guilt! I don't shop with toddlers anymore but I would love for my grandchildren to share in the joy of thrifting with me....after all, I got my love for it from my grandmother!


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