09/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Top Ten Ways to Get Your Thrift On (Part II)

Last week, we got over our preconceived notions about the world of the gently-worn, and touched on some general secondhand shopping strategies designed to preserve our sanity and our respective checking account balances. If none of this sounds familiar, get cozy with Part I before reading on, because I don't like repeating myself. Also because you must crawl the thrift crawl before you can walk the thrift walk. You heard me. Peace.

Now that the class degenerates have been relegated to mandatory study hall, we can proceed.

Step 4: Wait On The Take
In the course of your Shove 'n' Slide, you will likely happen upon a garment of interest, think Ooh, I should grab that! and attempt to remove it from the rack. Stop!

Did I say it was time to lay claim to the merch yet? Negative. Only after you've completed the Shove 'n' Slide technique are you allowed to go back for the goods. Oh, but what if you don't remember everything you saw? When something is worthy of your wardrobe, you'll remember it; if it isn't, you won't. (Nifty little trick, yes?)

Fail to wait on the take, and you'll end up getting sucked into buying subpar stuff you don't really care about just because it's cheap. Secondhand or no: Buying for the sake of buying is So. Not. Okay. Capeesh? Capeesh.

Step 5: Get Picky With It
Each of your possible purchases must be subjected to a version of the following scan.

Example: You've got a brandtastic, going-out top in hand. Before you try it on, you ...

(i) Check the entire surface area -- front, back, sides and otherwise -- for pit stains (barf), pen marks, holes and/or fabric discolorations.
(ii) Note the fabric. Can potential loose threads can be easily snipped off, or will any snippage damage/unravel the entire garment?
(iii) Test the closures. If there's a zipper, do a few test zips and unzips. If it's a button-down, make sure it's not missing any buttons and/or that none are loose. (Sewing isn't really my bag, but if you've got the skillz, feel free to disregard last instruction.)
(iv) Determine exactly how gently worn the top is. Labels are irrelevant here, regardless of retail desirability: If it's cloaked with pillage and/or looks like it had a previous encounter with the M42 bus, it's time to say buh-bye.

*For an advanced lesson in scanning, observe the buyers at your local Buffalo Exchange. They def have X-ray vision.

Step 6: Try It On Try It On Try It On
I don't repeat things for kicks, people. I repeat things crucial to your ability to shop for you -- your body type, your fabric preferences, your tastes, et. al. You can't know if you're going to wear something until you see and feel how it fits.

Do all thrift shops of the Goodwill/Salvation Army ilk have dressing rooms? Eff no, so assume the worst: Wear a cami under your shirt, don some spandex under your jeans, and/or make like the ladies at the Upper West Side Goodwill, lose the modesty bit and get nekkid in the back part of the store. And I don't want to hear any gaff about your being grossed out or whatever. It's not like you're wearing this stuff out in public before it hits the laundry cycle.

Step 7: You Don't Know Where That Shit's Been
As a precaution, I highly recommend laundering your thriftastic finds on hot after purchase. Here's a super creepy article that explains why. That being said, it's not necessary to wash and dry the stuff on Hot: A hot dryer cycle alone kills anything potentially icky as effectively as hot water. (You're welcome).

Keep your secondhand goodies bagged in plastic till laundry day. And if you're a serious germaphobe, take a post-thrift shower. That Purell should accompany you on excursions of this ilk goes without saying.

Caution: A seasoned thrifter who advocates overnight freezing as a means of sanitizing secondhand goods is a seasoned thrifter who has never had a bed bug scare. Household freezers might be cold enough to kill most things, but they're not foolproof when it comes to these little bloodsuckers. Stick with heat, and it's all good.

Step 8: Avoid the Obvious
Undergarments of any kind are not to be thrifted -- ick. The jury's still out for me on gently-worn leggings, but to each her own. Where secondhand shoes are concerned, leather = good, anything else = questionable. Sneakers are made to absorb sweat. Think about it.

Step 9: Remember What Jimmy Dugan Said
In A League of Their Own, Dottie Hinson quits baseball because "It just got too hard." Jimmy Dugan's response?

"It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great." It's as true in thrift as it is in life. (Sooo deep, riiiight?)

Step 10: Find Your Zen
I came to thrift as a last resort and left empty-handed on multiple occasions, disgusted at the amount of time wasted attempting to uncover brand-name gems among minefields of used shiznat. I don't know why I kept at it. I just know that one day, while browsing a Goodwill, I stopped being pissed off that the uber-cute $7 BCBG top didn't fit, and started appreciating the fact that a brand like BCBG could be had for so little.

The day I finally lowered my expectations was the day I found a Tahari Blazer for $12.99.

How do I find things in thrift stores? By expecting that I won't. It's an obnoxious, pseudo-philosophical answer on par with there is no spoon, but it's all I got.

You can take the red pill and continue to shop in a world that makes blowing your dough on stuff you don't need all-too-convenient, one where material ends trump the means to those ends. Or you can take the blue pill, embrace the unfamiliar, and learn via the lost art of patience how to enjoy the process of finding things, regardless of whether or not you find anything at all.

Summon the gusto to choose the latter, and I'll make it my biznass to be your Morpheus.

Viva la Thrift.