I am an avid thrifter and absolutely love to spend a Sunday touring around any city I am in looking for the greatest in second-hand shopping. In fact, I created a map to my favourite places in Calgary to take a 1-day shopping journey!
Unshelf Boutique– The absolute best second-hand pop-up shop in Calgary! What makes Unshelf’s Decor so unique (and needed by Calgarian’s) is that we only sell decor that is newer, modern, and in good condition. What’s more, since I am an interior designer and stager, I use my expertise to curate the second-hand items into styled vignettes that take the guesswork out of decorating your home.
We buy from Calgarians who are looking for a change, thrift stores, and garage sales – supporting local and designing sustainably.
All decor that is not sold is donated to the Women In Need charity, or similar.
Consignment Gallery – These guys have been around for a long time. Since I don’t consign large furniture, I usually recommend them for that. They do have a decor and art section as well, but it is not their focus. They have a large showroom with styled ‘rooms’ using their consigned furniture, which makes it easy to shop. Their prices are higher, but their quality is too. This is not where you go for cheap furniture – but it is where you go for quality furniture for less than new.
For consigners, they will pick up furniture for your home. They are very selective in what they take, but are a good first call before selling on your own (annoying) or donating (losing money).
Zoe’s Store – Zoe’s store is half clothing and half decor. Most of her decor was found through thrift and garage sales and she just recently opened up for consignment this year, like I did. Her store is on 14th street downtown and is easy walking distance from 17th ave. Her store has a variety of pieces spread across shelves and tables, including lots of lamps, vases, and small furniture.
Fair’s Fair Books – I decided to add books to this list because books are so often used in styling (they act as great props for decor to sit on). You can consign books with Fair’s Fair and also pick up others for cheap. For styling purposes, look for thick hardcover books with neutral covers (and you can check under the dust cover too), or the pages-side-out can be used as well.
Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories
Clothing Bar – This is my absolute favourite clothing consignment in the city – it is what I based much of my inspiration on for the Unshelf Design decor consignment. They, too, select only modern, trendy, lightly-worn clothing (in season) to sell in their Marda Loop shop. What’s more, they donate what they don’t keep/sell to Women in Need.
(Hot tip: The Clothing Bar has lots of affordable lulu-lemon gear!)
Wilders Consignment House – This consignment ‘house’ focuses heavily on luxury and brand name purses. So if you have bags in your closet that were worth a pretty penny, you may get more back through this consignment house than any other.
VSP Consignment – Vespucci is a higher-end clothing consignment store. I find that their prices are higher than many other consignment stores in the city, but so is their quality, and they are a good place to drop off your larger name brand pieces. They also have bags, shoes and accessories and are housed in a large store on Elbow Drive in the SW.
Other consignment stores worth mentioning:
There are 3 estate sale companies that I subscribe to and shop. Many have converted to online sales, making it easy to shop online and page through the many items. They are normally organized by type (so of course, I go right to the ‘decor and furniture’ filter. Estate sales are often more pricey than regular consignment or thrifting, however, when you are the one holding the sale you can make more money for far less effort (since these companies take care of it all for you.
Online Marketplaces are where you have a better chance at making the most money selling your items. The problems people face when selling themselves online, however, are that you (1) may underestimate the value of your products, (2) need to store everything until they sell, and (3), have to reply to many messages and set up a time to meet people either at your home or drive to meet people at saver locations. It really is a hassle – but if you have the will and the time, you don’t need to split the commission with anyone.
Calgary Thrift Stores – Donation
I love thrifting and it is where I find the majority of the pieces for my Styled Vignettes (especially in the winter when garage sales are non-existent). I often record my finds on my Instagram stories, and for larger haul’s I have been updating my Unshelf Design youtube channel with the recaps. Below are some of my favourite Calgary thrift stores.
Decor / Furniture
Habitat for Humanity Restore – Restore, with a little patience, is amazing for saving costs on redesigning your home. They have construction materials, lighting, windows & doors, paint, furniture, decor, artwork – the list goes on. I do find that their decor is not thrift-friendly in their price so I never buy decor here, but I often find lighting for my own home and Airbnb’s I redesign, as well as the occasional artwork or mirror.
For donation, check their website before donating as they do have some limitations for what they take – but for construction left-overs they are great for saving things from the landfill that are still in good condition or when you have. a little bit of something left over that cannot be returned.
Women in Need Society – This is by far my favourite Calgary thrift stores. They are local and do amazing things for women and families in Calgary. What’s more, they have a good selection of decor and artwork for me to thrift for my curated vignettes. While their decor sections have been getting smaller recently, you can still find lots of great stuff for your home. I once outfitted an entire Airbnb with only thrifted decor and artwork, and much of it came from here!
For donations, when any modern trendy items come across my plate that I cannot sell, I donate it here. I try to give them only my nicest stuff because I have gotten so many wonderful pieces from them in the past.
Fun story: Because I posted so much about my thrifting escapades with them, they brought me on to do a segment about thrifting decor for National Thrifting Day on their behalf on the news, and I did an Instagram takeover creating styled vignettes in their stores. It was wonderful!
Touching story: When my mom passed away we found a note in her jewelry box asking us to donate anything her friends didn’t want to Women in Need. I had a private ‘open house’ for her belongings, and whatever was left we brought to Women in Need. I have supported them ever since.
WorldServe Thrift Store – I have found some true gems here and it is definitely worth adding to your calgary thrift store rounds. They did downsize in the last few years and used to have a large furniture warehouse section which I miss, but they still do have a few pieces within their store. I found an awesome pair of lamps here for the thrifted airbnb I did.
Goodwill – Goodwill is a great place to drop off in bulk. If I have an assortment of things and only want to make 1 stop, or I don’t think those things are particularly ‘trendy’, I will bring them to the local goodwill drop off by my house. For shopping, I have found items that I just saw at Women In Need for double the price. However, it is also a great one to add onto the Calgary thrift store route because they do get a lot of donations and you can often find something you are looking for – even if it isn’t the cheapest. I have gotten a few good decorative throw pillows here.
Funny story: A long time ago, my friend lived in a typical bachelor-style apartment with no art or soft goods and it was very depressing. So one day when he was out in the field for work my other friend and I went shopping at Goodwill and picked up a bunch of really random funny art and an area rug and decorated his apartment. There was artwork like the ‘blue boy’ that we put in his room to be creepy, veggies dancing on pots for the kitchen, a jocky getting weighed by an old-school doctor for the hallway (my favourite), and a few other silly pieces throughout. The area rug we put in his living room. He actually loved it and it all stayed with him until he moved in with his later-girlfriend years later.
Clothing, Shoes, & Accessories
My speciality is not clothing stores, but when I help clients go through their stuff before moving we inevitably end up with clothes they are willing to part with. I like to donate to the following:
Drop in Center – All clothes, including winter gear
Calgary Humane Society – Linens, towels, and pet supplies
Optometry Clinics – Eye glasses
Making Changes – Business attire
There are a number of various city-funded recycling depots in Calgary (including for electronic waste), as well as recycling partners (Ikea, London Drugs, Canadian Tire, Best Buy). Use Alberta’s Recycling Hotline for a complete list: firstname.lastname@example.org (FREE)