Nova Scotia is a rural province with a small city centre and a declining youth population outside of Halifax. Know what that means? Awesome second-hand loot for everyone! (Image: Best winter hat ever, via Value Village. I’m told it’s made out of bear.)

10 Rules for Successful Thrifting: 

1. Leave the downtown core. Most of the people that frequent the Salvation Armies outside the city (read: not hipsters) aren’t picking out the stuff you want.

2. Prepare and take your time. Come fed and watered, check the bus schedules and don’t plan to be home in time to catch Judge Judy. Combing every dusty crevice of the Value Village can be time-consuming, but you’re guaranteed some treasure if you make the effort.

3. Go in the mornings or afternoons on weekdays. Weekends aren’t worth the crowds or the disappointments.

4. Look everywhere. Accessories bins, men’s clothes, electronics and children’s wear are worth checking out even if you’re not in the market for bow ties, aren’t a man, don’t need a new clock radio or are an adult.

5. Know what kind of shop you’re in. “Vintage” is selected and curated second-hand stuff. You might be able to find the same things at VV or the Sally Ann, but you’re going to need time and stamina (sometimes months and serious re-focusing exercises). If you’re looking for something particular, visit a vintage shop like Elsie’s, Dress In Time or Lost & Found.

6. Keep an open mind. If you’re fixated on a particular item you’re trying to find, you’ll be blind to all the other nuggets you come across.

7. Only bring friends who are committed! Dead weight will just slow you down on your way to the top (of a bin of unsorted clothes)!

8. Never not buy anything. If you don’t know if you’ll use it or wear it, buy it and sell it. If it’s too big but too awesome to leave behind, get it anyway. You can make clothes smaller but you can’t make them bigger, and when you come back it will be gone. Then you’ll see your worst enemy wearing it with a belt and you’ll feel like an idiot.

9. Don’t go to VV in October. Everyone in HRM will be there getting a costume. (If you don’t heed my advice and go to VV in October, check the second-hand costume rack. Sometimes they save crazy things throughout the year — like marching band uniforms — and put them all out for Halloween.)

10. And for pete’s sake, don’t go with someone the same size as you! You’ll fight over things and come away with only half the loot.

Therewith I impart my wisdom. I also maintain a public Google map for the best second-hand and vintage spots in Nova Scotia. Check it out for locations and reviews of shops in Halifax and around the province. Road trip soon? Don’t mind if I do!


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