As people declutter their homes while sheltering in place, now is the opportune time to shop secondhand. Follow these tips to help you safely strike vintage gold.

By Jessica Bennett
July 29, 2020

Before the pandemic, thrifting was one of my favorite weekend pastimes. I'd hit a few local vintage shops and spend the afternoon combing through aisles in search of discarded treasures. I haven't been back since the stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines of COVID-19, but, as vintage shops and thrift stores reopen across the country, it's one of the best times to score one-of-a-kind treasures.

kohlhepp house living room wall art
Credit: Erin Kunkel

One compelling reason to thrift right now is the sheer volume of secondhand items pouring in as Americans declutter their homes. Along with baking sourdough bread and stripping sheets, clearing out clutter has become a popular activity for those spending more time at home since the start of the pandemic. As people bag up their extra stuff to donate, some thrift stores have reported donation increases by up to 40%, according to reporting from TODAY.

This increased supply can significantly boost your chances of finding something special, whether that's a vintage bar cart or pretty knickknacks for your shelf display. And if you're looking to redecorate in budget-friendly fashion, secondhand stores are filled with affordable options, which could be marked down even further due to a surplus of items. Plus, thrifting is environmentally friendly, giving new use to discarded items and saving them from the landfill.

Shelf white and wood dishes
Credit: Robert Brinson

Another reason to shop secondhand? Many local vintage and antique stores have struggled amid mandated store closures and reduced revenue during the pandemic. "I am going out of my way to frequent these locally owned businesses because they are obviously really taking a huge hit," says Courtney Warren, a Dallas interior designer and frequent vintage shopper. "If I can support them in a hard time by shopping, you don't have to ask me twice."

If you're ready to start hunting for vintage scores (and support small businesses while you're at it), follow these tips to shop secondhand safely.

1. Wear your mask and follow social distancing guidelines.

As with any public outing, practicing safe social distancing is a must while shopping at thrift stores and vintage shops. Be aware of any guidelines imposed by your state or the individual store before you head to you destination. Wear a face mask and do your best to maintain six feet of distance between you and other shoppers. Apply hand sanitizer frequently while you're out, and don't forget to wash your hands when you arrive home.

2. Clean items thoroughly before use.

It's generally a good idea to wash secondhand items before using them, and that advice still applies during a pandemic. Although COVID-19 is thought to spread primarily through person-to-person contact, it doesn't hurt to disinfect items when you get home as an extra precaution. Hard, non-porous surfaces, such as plastic, glass, and metal items, can typically be cleaned with disinfecting spray or wipes. If the item is machine-washable, toss it in the machine on the warmest cycle recommended for the fabric type.

3. Opt for contact-free pickup options.

If you're not comfortable shopping inside right now, some vintage and antique shops now offer contact-free pickup. Although this might not be an option at larger secondhand stores such as Goodwill, many locally owned businesses allow you to browse their selection online, make a purchase, and schedule a time to collect your items. Check the store's website or call ahead to see if pickup is available.

4. Shop online and ship to your door.

"You don't have to be in-person to score a great find," Warren says. Purchasing an item online and having it shipped allows you to shop secondhand from the comfort (and safety) of your own home. This also gives you access to vintage shops located beyond driving distance, which greatly expands your options. Just be sure to check the condition of the item and the return policy before you click "purchase."


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