When I first discovered the wonder of charity shops, admittedly I kept it to myself. My friends saw them as shops full of ‘dead people’ where the clothes smell of old ladies. Because of this, I visited them alone, conspicuously slipping into one on the way home from school. Yet it got to the point where I’d be head to toe in charity shop purchases and I had to break it to people that West Norwood charity shops were my equivalent of Topshop.

Now older, more mature and poor (student life – sigh) given the current financial climate, charity shops are more pertinent than ever, and there certainly isn’t a shortage of them in Brighton. One reason people often pass a charity shop by is the overwhelming jumble of clothes, found in unorganised smelly heaps on the shop’s floor, making it difficult to find anything of value. However, these are the types of charity shops one must visit as they are far cheaper and contain many more unique items.

In contrast, Oxfam, for example, bumps up its prices and creates its own range of products, making your donation to charity of less value. Don’t get me wrong, Oxfam is still great but for the real deals, head toward the charity shop with murky windows that haven’t been cleaned for 17 years. The one whose owner wasn’t even the last one to clean them and instead has practically become part of the worn out musty furniture. The key to uncovering gems in these circumstances is patience and a lot of wading through crap. But in the end it is worth it as you will find something unique that you will treasure, and only for a few quid. Perhaps give it a wash before you wear it though.

Why people spend extortionate amounts on clothes from high street shops that everyone else has already baffles me. Remember the faux fur coat phase? Perhaps it was just a south London thing, but there was a time when almost every girl owned a Topshop or Urban Outfitters (if you’re lucky) fur coat. It got to the point when groups of girls would walk around at lunch imitating a herd of yetis – pretty menacing from afar.

Buying and donating to charity shops is basically recycling. Just as you recycle (or should do) your rubbish, think of clothes in the same way. In the extreme consumerist society we live in, the last thing we need is more ‘stuff’, nor should we encourage the production of it. This is somewhat hypocritical coming from a shopaholic who buys clothes frequently, but if it’s either the bin or my wardrobe then it’s allowed right?

As skint students and the next generation of leaders in a society where capitalism has gone a little crazy, (hence the protests) this is certainly the time to have the attitude of ‘waste not, want not’. Further, let’s not forget that the money you spend in charity shops goes to…charity. Therefore, you can purchase a unique vintage velvet jacket that you treasure forever while also helping a donkey, or even a blind man – it’s a win-win situation. Fabulous. Happy charity shop shopping!

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