The holiday season is officially upon us! How that happened, I have no idea, but here we are. Along with all the festive lights, the gingerbread, the cozy fires, and warm drinks, the holiday season always brings one more thing with it – waste. Lots and lots of waste.
It’s estimated that Americans will spend over $1 trillion this year on holiday gifts alone. That’s a LOT of shipping and packaging waste, wrapping paper, and ribbon waste, and not to mention, the waste of poorly thought out, unwanted and uncared-for gifts that get thrown away or donated as soon as the holidays are over.
Choosing Sustainable and Zero-Waste Gifts
There are plenty of ways to avoid this cycle of wasteful gifting – choosing sustainable or zero-waste gifts, for example, or choosing to give experiences over material items. Or, one of our favorite sustainable gift-giving hacks: gifting second-hand or pre-loved pieces instead of new!
There are plenty of reasons second-hand gift shopping is a great option for the holidays: perhaps you’re shopping on a smaller budget, looking for something truly unique for that quirky friend of yours, or just wanting to bring less waste into your life and the lives of your loved ones. Regardless of the reason, shopping for pre-loved gifts is a great way to keep perfectly good products in rotation and give them a second life!
Things to Keep in Mind
As with any gifting, matching the gift to your recipient is key. Thoughtful gifts, whether new or pre-loved, will always be enjoyed and cherished more than something we just grabbed off the shelf in a rush! Keeping a list of what your loved one is interested in or what they might need is a good way to start, and if you have a great idea, try to find it second-hand first! Of course, the whole idea is not to overload your loved ones with more “stuff”, rather, to find the special pieces which you purchased just for them.
Another thing to keep in mind when shopping for second-hand gifts is the time! Patience is a virtue when you’re shopping for the perfect pre-loved piece. But nothing compares to the rush of a treasure hunt, right?
Get creative and use that big, beautiful imagination of yours! Shopping pre-loved allows for mixing and matching galore, or, try to create a theme to your gifts! Also, never doubt a good coat of paint to spruce up a pre-loved piece and make it feel just like new! DIY and second-hand gifting go hand-in-hand after all!
Our Favourite Secondhand Gift Ideas
Below, we’ve put together a list of our very favorite secondhand gift ideas, plus, we’ve reached out to our community to find out why second-hand gifting is the way to go. And, because we all love a good success story, we’ve also shared some of the best second-hand gifts you’ve ever received! Enjoy!
Hey, it’s the holidays! Who doesn’t love a little festive decor to brighten up their space during the longest days of the year? However, the sad truth about our society’s consumption habits is that beautiful, lightly-used holiday decor often ends up in the landfill or thrift shops after the season is over – and this is true for every holiday (just think of all the Halloween garbage you’re seeing around this time). This can be anything from a kitschy mug or an “ugly” holiday sweater to a stunning Menorah. Holiday decor is a beautiful way to commemorate a special year or just to bring some extra cheer into your loved-ones home this season!
“With the holiday season upon us, I want to encourage you to shop locally, sustainably, and small! My most favorite gift ever given to me is a 1978 painting of the Beatles gifted to me from my then-boyfriend, now-husband purchased at a small vintage shop in Tacoma, WA. Buying secondhand gives life to old treasures, is environmentally friendly, supports real-life humans running small businesses and by shopping locally, you’re directly putting money back into your own community! And one of my favorite reasons: vintage is unique!” – Andrea, Monday Morning Vintage
Have an audiophile on your list? Why not take some time to explore your local vintage record stores or garage sales for the perfect record to add to their collection? Trust me, there are worse ways to spend an afternoon than oogling cover art!
“Some of the best secondhand gifts to give are vinyl records, unique books, vintage clothing/decor, and jewelry. If there is a thrift lover in your life, some thrift stores also offer gift cards!” – Tyler, Thrifts and Tangles
“I keep a list on my phone of things people say. For example, I know my mom loves lavender, is looking for a 6″ planter and is interested in trying macrame, just from our casual conversations so keeping note of these little things can be so helpful for the future!” – Emily, Make and Mend
Scour your local second-hand bookstore, the library (often they have sales to raise money!), or the second-hand shop in your neighborhood for the perfect book for the avid reader in your life. Often used books cost less than a dollar, so you could even build a stack of books you think they would love – heck, pick a theme! This is a great option for parents and young children as well – you know there are never enough books around when there are kids in the house! This secondhand gift is one worth giving time and time again.
“I’m a big fan of secondhand gift giving. For my kids, I’ve bought them like-new books, beautiful wooden toys, and stylish clothes. My sister and I also love to gift each other amazing thrift finds. A couple years ago, I gifted her a working, indoor, pottery, mini water fountain. She loves it and uses it to keep her at home yoga space zen.” – Jennifer, @jenpistor
We all have that one person in our lives who collects seemingly random items – for me, it’s my father-in-law with kaleidoscopes. It’s not something anyone in our family understands but hey, it’s his thing. Garage sales, auctions, bazaars, or estate sales can be the perfect place to find that most sought-after piece – and it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg either! Many people don’t know what they are dealing with when it comes to collectibles, so if you have something specific in mind it’s always worth a look – you might get really lucky!
“One of my favorite gifts to give secondhand are coffee mugs. You can find so many funny, unique coffee mugs at secondhand shops that you couldn’t find anywhere else. These make great gifts for all my caffeine loving friends. It’s an easy item to wash and become good as new. Plus, sometimes you can even find brand new mugs at the secondhand store.” – Emily, The Honest Consumer
The perfect handbag is hard to come by, and when you do, it can often be way out of your budget (especially if you only have eyes for Louis). eBay, Vestiare Collective, or thrift stores are a good way to get your hands on that dream bag for a little less! If you’re going name-brand, some will even come with certificates of authenticity.
Just make sure you don’t get duped – there are some really impressive fakes floating around and it can be difficult to tell one from the other if you don’t know what to look for. Look closely at the quality of the stitching, lining colors and material, hardware that might feel plastic instead of metal, a logo that isn’t *quite* right, and, if it’s leather, check for any peeling and wear around the corners of the bag – this is a tell-tale sign that you aren’t getting the real-deal.
“Thrifting gifts is great for the environment, your wallet, and creativity. Thrifting gifts doesn’t necessarily mean that the item is used. There are many brand new items already in circulation at secondhand stores or on online marketplaces so you can easily find something new for anyone on your list. Some of my favorite gifts to thrift include toys, home decor, and gifting accessories like boxes, tins, and baskets.” – Dina, Shop Dina’s Days
Maybe you have a friend or family member who just moved and is in the process of furnishing their home? Depending on their personal style, second-hand and vintage stores can be a treasure-trove of gifts for the home! Things like a vintage vase, a funky lamp, a mixing bowl or even an interesting piece of art can make the perfect gift!
A great tip from our friend Kayla, owner of Second Chance at Joy: “While in the home section you can cross a few other people off your list too! Look in the knick-knack section to see if you can spot a set of bookends to pair with a book for your friend who loves to read or a pair of candle holders for your friend who enjoys lighting candles and soaking in the tub (include some candles with this gift and some homemade bath salts!)”
“I’m always on the hunt for pre-loved jewelry boxes! They make great accents anywhere in the home and can be so versatile. This one, in particular, would make a great gift for someone’s entryway, and maybe even hold keys.” – Michaella, Vignieri Vintage
Have an avid baker or aspiring chef on your list? There are always interesting cookbooks to be found, and paired with cooking supplies like a pre-loved mixer, cast iron pan or vintage tea-towel, this can make a thoughtful, themed secondhand gift.
“I love creating “bundle” gifts that are intentional for people. Say I am shopping for a foodie friend. There are so many incredible cook books in great condition at the thrift store! You can even get more niche with cook books – vintage cookbooks, paleo, mixology, vegan and gluten free — I have seen them all while out in the shops! Pair your perfect book find and then head to the homewares section to see if you can find a complimentary item like a cute set of cocktail glasses, a unique pair of salad servers, a wooden fruit bowl or some storage jars for baking essentials. These are items commonly donated that just take a quick run in the dishwasher before being regifted.” – Kayla, Kayla’s Joy
Stuck on what to get the Sporty-Spice on your list? Have a friend who is interested in learning a new sport but doesn’t know where to start? Pre-loved sports equipment is always a great way to test gear before going full-in on a sport, especially one they have only tried a few times! This can be a tricky gift, so it might be best to forgo the surprise element on this one and check with the receiver to see if an item like this would work well for them first. Also, these can sometimes be big ticket items (surfboard, anyone?) so it might even be worth going half-sies (or third-sies) with someone else. There are plenty of stores dedicated to selling pre-loved equipment, and sometimes even community centers (think ice-rinks and community gymnasiums) will sell off pre-loved rental equipment for next-to-nothing prices. Craigslist and dedicated athletic community pages on Facebook are another good place to look for pre-loved sports equipment.
“Personally, I love to find unique, personal gifts for people. Usually an accessory or home decor item I know they’ll love. Most recently, I got a friend a beautiful vintage Japanese floral vase for her new home. With gifts, I try to be as intentional and practical as possible. The reality is that most of us don’t need more stuff, so I prioritize gifting what someone would actually want and use. Typically this means gifting money, experiences, or allowing them to tell me what they actually need— it may not be a glamorous way to gift, but I think it’s more thoughtful and less wasteful! And I definitely prioritize secondhand sources for that! Also, I’ll shop from my local vintage sellers so that my gifts are supporting local biz and have a pit more personal, storied touches!” – Brooke, Secondhand Sustainability
We’ve all got a plant-person in our midst. You know who they are. You know they will always be ecstatic about more plants. But no need to rush to your nearest florist – there are always plenty of plants for sale on local buy and sell pages! Everything from starters to mature plants can be found – bonus points if you can also find a cool second-hand plant-pot to gift them in!
“If you have a friend who has become a plant-obsessed parent this past year, swing into the garden area of your thrift store (this is usually in the housewares section). Look for a cute pot or vase and then head to a plant nursery to fill it!” – Kayla, Second Chance at Joy
“With the excessive amount of consumer goods on the market, it’s easy to find something you’re looking for secondhand. Gifting secondhand items is a little controversial for the holiday season, but why? It’s easy to find gently used or new items secondhand and it’s one way you can support someone in your neighbourhood versus buying brand new from a big boxed store. My tip for shopping sustainably during the holidays is to start early and be patient. Build out a shopping list like you’d normally do, and keep an eye out for those items on websites like Poshmark and Facebook Marketplace. Although thrift stores are great, I find it’s easier to find items on these platforms versus heading to the thrift store.” – Erin, @lifew.erin
This is another great option for kids and adults alike, but with the number of bikes, scooters, skateboards, etc. that every kid has received for Christmas and subsequently grown out of, there are especially tons of second-hand wheels out there for kids of all ages! Check your local Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or even Ebay. Sometimes just a small tune-up and a coat of paint make even the most well-loved bike feel brand-new!
More and more second-hand stores are building art-supply sections, and some cities even have entire stores dedicated to donated, pre-loved art supplies! This can be anything from paint brushes and an acrylic paint set that was only used once, a vintage easel, or bags full of fabric scraps just waiting to be quilted. If you have an artist in your life, gifting second-hand art supplies could be the perfect way to keep these supplies out of the landfill and keep your loved one inspired all year!
“So I’ve always tried to shop secondhand when gifting items and usually end up looking for holiday gifts starting in the summer. One year, I took a bobblehead of a random hockey player that looked similar to my husband and just made a little shirt and hat and turned it into him. It took a really really long time and it probably cost me around $6 but it’s something we’ll never forget.” – Emily, Make and Mend
Fashion / Winter Essentials
Clothing/Cold Weather Essentials can be great (and much needed) secondhand gifts for your loved ones. Personally, I will seek out secondhand items that my loved ones need to stay warm, safe, and cozy. A few ideas would be secondhand snow jackets for your children/neices/nephews, a secondhand knit or scarf for your mother or father, some cozy secondhand cotton sweats for your teen, etc. These gifts may not get the sheer excitement of many other presents, but they will be used over and over again – as a gift should be!
**Note: Please remember that the over-consumption of secondhand fashion is still over-consumption. A list of items you need (with specific details) will help you to stay on track!
Top Online secondhand stores we recommend here at SKL:
Vestiare Collective: helpful filters to shop as close to home as possible to reduce carbon footprint.
Etsy: Many amazing secondhand boutiques from around the world – just adjust your filters!
Facebook Marketplace: I have found 90% of my secondhand items from my own neighbors through FB marketplace
Patagonia Worn Wear: giving second life to outdoor wear – this is our go to shop for family outerwear
Hello Jackalo – Pre-loved quality children’s clothing
Son de Flor– Pre-Loved sustainable high-quality linen dresses
eBay– I have had great success here. With options for making offers, you can get some great deals!
For children-specific secondhand shopping, check out our full guide here!
Plus-Size Secondhand Shops
Many times, secondhand shops will not have enough sizes to suit our needs. The average size of women in America is around a size 16 and yet most of the secondhand shops carry mainly sizes 2-10 – which is unhelpful and ridiculous! Here is a great list of amazing secondhand shops that carry a wide arrange of sizes, cuts, and options.
Luvsick Plus Size Vintage (Chicago, IL)
Curve Conscious (Philadelphia, PA)
Ethical Bodies (St. Louis, MO)
The Plus Bus (Highland Park, CA)
PlusBKLYN (Brooklyn, NY)
Fat Fancy (Portland, Oregon)
Secondhand Curves (Rockford, IL)
Now it’s Your Turn!
I hope that this secondhand gift list has inspired you to get out there and try your hand at second-hand gifting! For the full list of our favorite 101 preloved gift ideas, click here!
If you’re really keen, bring your friends in on it too, just like one of our favorite thrifters, Tyler from Thrifts and Tangles, did:
“One year I asked my friends if they were interested in celebrating “Thriftmas!” They all were on board. Basically, I bought each of them a ton of thrifted clothes that matched their style. It was a huge hit because everyone walked away with a huge bag of thrifted goodies!”
Just remember these three tips to secondhand gift giving: give yourself plenty of time, second-hand doesn’t always mean used, and always match the gift to the receiver!