This weekend I headed to Chiswick in West London for a charity shop spree. There are so many charity shops filled to the brim with great donations from locals. Home to a number of famous people, Chiswick High Road and Turnham Green are my number one place in London to score some second hand steals. But when it comes to charity shopping, how can we make the most of it? Where do we begin when faced with shops that are less boutique and more broom cupboard? You’ll be pleased to know I’ve done the hard work for you so in no time at all, you could be walking out of your front door in Clare Balding’s coat or Colin Firth’s corduroy trousers.

1. Be prepared

Committing to a day of charity shop hunting is an effort. It will definitely be worth your while, but it helps to be prepared. Firstly, fill up your reusable water bottle and make sure you’ve got snacks – you’ll need to stay hydrated and energised. Secondly, think about your outfit. You’re about to do a lot of trying on, so consider the ease of getting dressed and undressed over and over again. I recommend slip on shoes and a comfortable jumper. Take a friend for opinions or line up enthusiastic pals on whatsapp for approving mirror selfies.

2. Know what you want…

Having a clear idea of what you’re looking for will help you focus and save you a lot of time. Charity shopping is exhausting, especially when you have lots of places to get through. My favourite area for charity shopping has almost 20 different shops! Whilst this means the selection is incredible, it also means that a bit of strategy goes a long way in getting you through the course.

3. …but avoid expectations

On the other hand, one of the greatest joys of charity shop hunting is that you never know what you’ll find! While it’s good to look for something particular, it’s also great to stay open minded as some of the very best finds just turn up. Use discernment in these instances. Ask yourself: Do I love this item? Does it go with my wardrobe? Does it fit? Will I wear it 30 times? Then, and only then should you take it to the till. My husband likes to buy items in charity shops to try out a new style he’s not sure about. Then if it’s not quite his style he can re-donate it knowing it hasn’t cost a huge amount. Or if he loves it but it doesn’t last very well, he can look for a better quality, ethically made item that he will get loads of wear from.

4. Remember it’s not just clothes

Charity shops have such a large range of items that you can buy second hand nowadays. Many have specific shops for furniture, books, children’s clothes and homewares. Buying second hand gives unwanted items another life, reducing the demand for resource-intensive production of more products. It also reduces the number of items that end up in landfill. Whilst we know that fast fashion is a huge problem, over consumption has filtered into many areas of our lives. Nearly everything we need can likely be bought second hand, donating to charity and saving us money at the same time.

5. Consume carefully

In these days of minimalists and Marie Kondo, we’re getting better at curating our spaces and realising that for many of us, stuff has become an idol. I’ve been really inspired by AW Tozer who wrote of materialism;

‘Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God’s gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution.’

It’s easy when items are cheap and charitable to consume without thought. But if it’s surplus to our needs and purely for the sake of consuming, it’s not a worthy use of our money. While charity shops provide an opportunity to buy more consciously, we should be careful as Christians to use our resources in a way that honours God. We should avoid buying things we don’t need and instead care for our possessions as gifts from God, rather than things necessary to our existence.

Now, I’m going to google some pictures of Clare Balding to see if my new coat actually did belong to her…