isabelle.jpgIsabelle O'Carroll writes...

When Gemma asked me if I wanted to take the morning off to go charity shopping I squealed inwardly. Had someone been reading my secret diary? The one with unicorns on it? Charity shopping is my most favourite thing ever, if I go on holiday or visit relatives the first thing I have to do is find out if there are any charity shops around and if there are, visit the crap out of them. It’s my duty in my self-appointed role as ‘keeper of the treasures’ to find the precious things and take them back to my lair house for safe-keeping. Because I’m nice I’ve compiled a guide to charity shopping that should have all you CQers dressing like insane pensioners before the night is due. See after the jump for my best tips.

Successful charity shopping isn’t the same as normal shopping; treat charity shopping as a day out. All the best charity shops are in remote backwaters or sleepy suburbs anyway, so get a hearty breakfast down you and head off on the train or bus to your nearest cluster of "chazza shozzas" (as I like to call them). I chose Croydon as it’s not a very studenty or trendy place and there seemed to be a healthy amount of charity shops, you want at least four or five to make it worthwile. Like cherries in a fruit loaf or emo kids outside shopping centres charity shops seem to stick together, finding them is easy especially when you can Google Map the name of your town and “charity shops” to give you a handy map with the chazzas dotted all over like mushrooms in a field. The Association of Charity Shops is another good website with a search feature, so between them you should be able to find some near you.

I quite like godforsaken places like my home town of Greenford for charity shopping. Stop and have a jacket potato in the local caff before you head home; better still if the place is really backwater-y have a burger at Wimpy, the UK’s oldest burger chain after Starburger (I just made that up). The burgers come in wholemeal buns so it’s healthy, right? Wear comfortable shoes and clothes you can easily slip on and off as you’ll be pounding the pavement for an hour or two and trying things on left, right and centre. After a while you’ll start to develop an eagle eye and things will just pop out at you, congratulations, you’re in "the zone". You also have to learn to love the crazies who you will inevitably encounter; be friendly and make conversation but remember, don’t touch their cuddly toys or they will turn nasty. It’s always better to go charity shopping on your own, or with someone who has completely different tastes to you or there could be a fight, but I will elaborate on this in my next charity shop column “The dark side of charity shopping”. Feel free to add your comments and hints, have I missed anything out? Am I totally wrong about Wimpy? (clue: I’m not).

Keep your eyes peeled for Gemma's video of all my charity shop booty tomorrow on Shiny Fashion TV

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