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Long Island thrift store shoppers share best tips

Melissa Margaria, of Levittown, and Julia Zindman, of

Melissa Margaria, of Levittown, and Julia Zindman, of Bethpage ,shop at Savers in West Hempstead. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Whether it’s the Marie Kondo effect or simple spring cleaning, Long Islanders are clearing their closets and homes of unwanted items. And the happy heirs of this decluttering frenzy: Thrift shoppers.

While thrift stores accept donations year-round, the start of spring is particularly busy. “When the seasons change, we start getting more business,” says Ana Lopez, district manager of Island Thrift, which has three stores in Suffolk County. “We’re seeing a lot of clothing donated.”

The decluttering movement got a jolt this year, thanks to the Netflix show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” The Japanese organizing guru’s emphasis on getting rid of things that “don’t spark joy” has many taking a second look at what’s in their closet.

“Someone said they watched the show, and they cleaned up,” says Karen Connolly, who runs the Hope for Long Island Thrift Shop in Oyster Bay. “I think a lot of people are doing that.”

Then there's the rapidly approaching peak moving season that, Connolly says, also helps stock thrift store shelves as homeowners purge excess clothing and unwanted items like home decor and furniture before changing addresses.

For those looking to reap the benefits, there’s no lack of thrift stores offering everything from brand-name clothing to baby items to home décor and furnishings as well as jewelry. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of your thrifting experience:

HAVE AN OPEN MIND Thrift stores can often conjure up images of old mothball-scented sweaters, but these shops hold so much more than knitted cardigans. Huntington Station’s Alexis Newell, 30, says she has loved thrift shopping since her college years, but as a new mom, it’s been especially helpful. She purchased her daughter’s vintage wood high chair at Island Thrift for $10 and does most of her clothes shopping there, too.

“It’s really inexpensive there, compared to other places. I find a lot of new things for kids and babies,” says Newell, noting that on a recent shopping trip, she purchased seven new pieces of children’s clothing for $25.

Caren Donatelli, 46, says she’s gotten everything from brand-name clothes to books to vintage Pyrex bowls at Unique in Westbury. Among her prized finds are a $500 pair of shoes for $7 and a pair of $50 Nike sneakers for $5.

“You can get anything at the thrift store, it’s great,” the Mineola resident says. “As a single mom without a big budget, you can get good stuff without spending as much as at the mall.”

KNOW WHEN TO GO Every store has a different day (or multiple days) when they restock merchandise. Find out when the store puts out new items and try to get there early before everything has been picked through.

STAY IN TOUCH Shoppers at Unique, which has locations in Westbury and Levittown, swear by the store’s app, which not only alerts thrifters about sales (such as 50 percent off day) but also allows them to earn reward points. The store also offers customer appreciation days on random days of the week, with items 25 percent off.

Savers, which has multiple locations across the Island, and AMVETS in Copiague both offer programs  in which shoppers receive email alerts about sales and exclusive offers.

Stores are also using social media to their advantage. Plato’s Closet in Commack and Island Thrift both post their deals to Facebook, with the former also advertising items for sale on Instagram.

INSPECT EVERYTHING While most thrift stores are discerning about what they put out for customers, you’ll still want to give items a good look over. When it comes to clothes, ensure there are no loose strings, holes or stains. Make sure the zipper works and keep the quality of the garment in mind. Julia Zindman, 19, of Bethpage, advises shoppers to give clothes a sniff. “If it smells, you can wash it 30 times and it’ll still smell," she says — don't buy it.

HAVE PATIENCE Thrift store shopping is rarely a get-in, get-out kind of deal. Finding the diamonds in the rough takes patience, but it does pay off.

“I recommend doing two stores in a day, maximum, otherwise if you have your whole day set up to go thrifting, you might be exhausted,” advises Jessie Valentine, 30, from Port Washington. “And if you’re exhausted when shopping, you won’t be enthusiastic about it.”

Make sure also to give yourself enough time to try items on, said Newell, as many stores have a no-returns policy.

FIND INSPIRATION Valentine notes she’ll often look on Instagram or Pinterest before shopping for fashion inspiration and items that will fit her bohemian style.

“The clothes you see at the thrift store are not things that are going to be in magazines or that everyone else is wearing. If you see a cool shirt and think it’s beautiful, and realize you have nothing to wear it with, it’s a waste of money,” she says. “It’s helpful to go in with an idea of what you’re looking for.”

BE CREATIVE If you’re the kind of person who can handle a glue gun or sewing machine, you’re opening yourself up to a whole lot more when thrifting. Many household items or clothes might not look like much in the store, but with a little bit of TLC, can be redone to look like new.

“I found this dining room table at Island Thrift that was this beautiful mahogany and had two leaves and these beautiful turned legs and came with chairs. It was $40 but it was this horrible mauve,” Newell says. “But we sanded it and painted it and distressed it and now it’s beautiful. It’s one of my favorite things in the house.”

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