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How to Shop Secondhand Online

Since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown over a year ago, most of us have switched to online shopping for the majority of our needs. Even as brick-and-mortar stores worldwide slowly began to open back up and allow visitors, many people realized the benefits of online shopping. They chose to continue using it more heavily than they did pre-pandemic. For those who prefer to buy items secondhand, getting the same quality experience online can be challenging. But with the right tools, knowledge, and practice, the internet can actually expand your secondhand horizons and offer a wide variety of options that you might not otherwise have access to in person. In this article, we’ll provide you with a few tips that will help you access this vast world of secondhand shopping online.

What is Secondhand Shopping, and Why Does it Matter?

Secondhand items are ones that are pre-owned or pre-used. Not only are these items almost always cheaper since pre-owned items lack value in comparison to a brand-new version of the same item (even if the items are the same quality), but the practice of buying and selling secondhand is one of the most environmentally friendly individual actions you can pursue. Each step of producing a new item has a carbon footprint, but the only carbon footprint secondhand buying leaves is due to shipping and packaging, which you would also incur with a brand new item purchased online. Buying and selling secondhand items, instead of purchasing new items and throwing out your old ones, can prevent a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions and landfill waste.

How to Shop Secondhand Online

Sometimes the internet has so many abilities, and it’s difficult to know how to use them or where to start. The vastness of the web commonly contributes to the struggle of people shopping second-hand online. With a few easy steps, though, you’ll be able to simultaneously narrow down your search and expand your shopping options beyond what in-person shopping can offer:

1. Find The Market for Your Item

If you’re looking to buy clothing, check out apps like Poshmark, Depop, and Curtsy. These are online spaces where people can buy and sell pre-owned clothes, among other fashionable items, online.

Etsy is a marketplace full of artisan crafts, so it’s chock full of upcycled products reinvented by creative minds. It’s also a certified B-Corporation, which means it meets high standards of social and environmental consciousness, accountability, and transparency.

Social Media is also a great place to find secondhand items. Consignment, vintage, and thrift shops have started to post their products for sale on their social media pages like Instagram. Following these shops and keeping up with their feed can allow you to snag the item of your dreams. Facebook Marketplace offers the opportunity to find items for sale near you, so you can forego the carbon-emitting shipping process and just get the item yourself.

If you’re unsure where to start, a quick internet search for the kind of product you're looking for with “secondhand” at the end can find helpful online spaces for the buying and selling of those items. eBay is also a catch-all; you can find people selling pretty much anything on that website.

2. Know What You Want

Browsing can be fun, but if you don’t have the utmost self-discipline, it can also be costly. To avoid impulse-buying items that don’t have a place in your collection, envision more specific ideas of what you want. Honing in on your search specifics will also help narrow what can otherwise be a very extensive browse. For example, knowing that I was looking specifically for a colorful, waterproof tote bag helped me find the Torrain Aldi Tote on Well-Made World’s site quickly and easily.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what we are looking for, and that’s fine. Working on honing your personal style, your interior decoration aesthetic, or the kind of kitchen products you like to use can help you immensely in all of your shopping pursuits, whether online or in-store. Apps like Pinterest can help you discover your visions and preferences. You could also create mood boards or do a little soul searching. Think about the items you have that are your favorite or the ones you use the most. Look for patterns among them and go from there.

3. Get Your Sizes Straight

If shopping for clothing, knowing your measurements is crucial. Most online postings will include the measurements of the item or the model wearing them, and if not, you can contact the seller and ask for them.

Similarly, the sizes of other secondhand items are usually provided in item descriptions online. Make sure you have a measuring tape, or at least a ruler, to envision these measurements in real life. Pictures can be deceiving. Whether you’re buying a fish tank or a new couch, measure it out to ensure it will fit in/on the space you plan to place it.

4. Do Your Research

And do a lot of it. The internet is a wonderful resource not only for shopping but for research. Check the seller’s ratings from previous sales to make sure they’re not a scam. Make sure the pictures of the item for sale are of good quality and taken by the seller. Deep dive into the details of what you want to purchase. If you’re buying a designer piece, compare pictures of authentic ones and make sure it comes with whatever authentication certificates the designer brand provides for its products. Essentially, make sure the online item comes with every nut, bolt, and screw that it’s supposed to.

You can also use research to compare products and prices online. Make sure you’re getting the best deal, or the most eco-friendly packaging, or whatever details align best with your values for that item.

5. Prioritize Hygiene

While a thorough laundering is enough for most clothing items, avoid purchasing pre-used items worn on particularly unhygienic areas. For example, you might be better off purchasing new swimsuits and underwear made new or recycled from sustainable brands. Pact, for example, is a clothing company that uses organic cotton and Fair Trade Certified factories to make their affordable undergarments (in addition to a myriad of other comfortable clothing pieces). There are also people out there who get swimsuits as gifts or buy them without trying them on and don’t return the piece until it’s too late. If a clothing piece for sale online is “new with tags” and you can get good pictures of the piece from the seller, it might be worth taking the risk and purchasing it.

Make sure you properly disinfect any other non-clothing item. And if it looks unsanitary in any way, just don’t get it. There are so many options on the internet. You’re sure to find something else even if the first option turns out to be a bust.

Alternatives to Secondhand Shopping Online

While secondhand shopping online can be a rewarding experience once you follow the steps listed above, there will be times when the internet just won’t have exactly what you need. There are many situations in which you should purchase new items. In these cases, Well-Made World’s site makes it easy to find sustainable and ethical products from all over the internet. We know it’s difficult to rummage through the endless list of brands’ claims of eco-friendliness and transparency, verify them, and find the products you need from them. That’s why Well-Made World does that work for you and acts as a one-stop-shop for a plethora of products derived from equitable, clean, and green organizations.

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