Don’t get me wrong: I love a good thrift store day. There’s nothing like getting ready to stroll through the aisles of one of your favorite haunts in search of treasure. Some of my best secondhand finds over the years have come from local spots like Goodwill and neighborhood consignment stores.
That said, it can be incredibly frustrating to spend time getting yourself out the door and through a crowded shop only to arrive back home empty handed. We’ve all been there, but that doesn’t make the feeling any worse! Personally, there’s nothing that irks me more than feeling like I’ve wasted valuable free time for no good reason.
And that’s where the power of online thrift shopping comes in.
Even prior to the pandemic, I enjoyed shopping for secondhand goodies on the internet, but since the spring of 2020, my love for online thrift shopping has really skyrocketed. Back when only essential businesses were open during the early days of the pandemic, it became a way for me to scratch my decorating itch without worrying about supply chain issues or feeling guilty about spending a ton of money.
I quickly realized that being able to sift through countless gems without having to change out of my pajamas or worry about transportation was also a game-changer. Sites like eBay, Etsy, and Poshmark, just to name a few, were already favorites of mine but really became my BFFs during the pandemic!
Shopping online can be an excellent way to educate yourself about types of pieces that tend to catch your eye. For example, one of my favorite things to thrift shop for is glassware. Once I took to shopping for vintage glass pieces online, I began to learn a bit more about different manufacturer and style names, which helped guide my searches. At the thrift store, you most likely won’t find a detailed description next to that pair of candle holders you’re eyeing, whereas on eBay or Etsy, you may actually be able to learn quite a lot about an item.
This information can be extremely valuable in informing future searches, which is great if you’re looking to build a collection of matching pieces. I discovered that I really like Orrefors, Murano, and Mikasa glassware, and I don’t think I would’ve learned as much about what my favorite pieces are called if I had sourced them all in person. And now when I do secondhand shop in person, I love the feeling that comes with being able to reference the glass item I’m eyeing by name, particularly when visiting higher end stores!
I will note that one aspect of IRL thrift shopping that I particularly enjoy is the whole “not knowing what you’re going to find” component. While this isn’t as prevalent online, it still happens! Sometimes, I’ll find an item I love on Etsy, for example, and click over to the rest of the seller’s listings only to stumble upon several other things that are totally my style.
In fact, in a way, it’s almost more likely for this type of situation to happen on Etsy. There, sellers are presumably selling items that fall within a certain design aesthetic, whereas a thrift store is truly a hodgepodge of donations from all different times.
Another fun part about shopping online is that inventory truly changes every day, especially if you’re looking at massive sites like the ones I mentioned. With people still spending more time at home and decluttering their spaces, secondhand listings are skyrocketing, meaning you’ll never run out of browsing material!
Last but not least, I appreciate how online, it’s easy to put something “off to the side,” so to speak, by saving the listing or even emailing a link to yourself to check back on later. Maybe an item will even go on sale over the course of a few days, and your patience will be rewarded! While popular items will of course move quickly online just as they would in a thrift store, it can still be nice to not have the same “now or never” feeling we often experience when shopping in person.
In fact, I think a lot of this has less to do with a fear of an item being purchased by someone else and is more about not wanting to make a trip back out to a store in a few days’ time if we find ourselves longing for something we left behind. Online secondhand shopping has made it easier for me to sleep on an item—if I find myself thinking about it for a few days and it’s still listed as available, then it’s meant to be.