HAVING moved house three times in less than two years, I’ve had more clear-outs than Ant and Dec have won TV awards.

I'm practically on first name terms with the staff in my local charity shop. I've taken so much stuff there I'm sure they must be sick of unloading my overflowing bin-liners, so I've started leaving it a few days between dropping off more clothes, shoes, handbags, kitchen utensils, CDs and other flotsam and jetsam I no longer want.

I considered doing a car boot sale, but it's too much hassle. I did one years ago and found it a bit stressful. People came out of nowhere, stumbling towards us like zombies, pulling things out of the car before we’d even unpacked or set up the trestle table. It was my first and last car boot sale (I used to think they actually sold car boots. I’m not the brightest star in the sky).

Since I have neither the inclination nor the packaging to sell anything online, a charity shop seemed the best option. But it has occurred to me that I only ever use a charity shop when I’m dumping my unwanted possessions in one.

For shoppers with tenacity and beady-eyed bargain-spotting skills, they can be hip places. I have a couple of friends who regularly root out fabulous, funky clothes in charity shops, some barely worn, some with designer labels. “It’s ‘Sharetey’...” they say, giving their second-hand top/jacket/shoes a Parisian flourish.

I don’t have the knack. All I tend to find in charity shops are old lady beige slacks, fussy blouses and stained suede coats with that oddly familiar fusty smell. If I unearth anything vaguely ‘vintage’ it’s so tiny a Barbie doll could wear it. I usually give up on clothes in less than a minute and head for the bookshelves - you can find half-decent titles among the Top Gear annuals, Mills & Boon paperbacks and D-list autobiographies. So I'm envious of people who can walk into a Sue Ryder or Oxfam outlet and effortlessly hunt out some "pre-loved" chic.

In her book In the Jumble, stylist Victoria Lochhead offers tips on how to approach second-hand clothes shopping. Lochhead, who runs styling agency Frankie and Ruby, gets her clients’ outfits from charity shops and offers these pearls of wisdom:

* Pick your shop wisely. You might think charity shops in posh areas would have rich pickings. Not always so, says Lochhead, who recommends instead places with at least five shops in a small radius - for as much choice as possible.

* Chat to the volunteers. They know how to navigate the layout, so you can avoid the naff knick-knacks, chipped teapots and Catherine Cookson video box-sets.

* Try it on. Don’t just buy something because it’s cheap - "Pre-worn fabrics may have shrunk,” says Lochhead.

* Look at the label - check if it's a good-quality name and if you’re not sure, look for where it was made. France and Italy get a thumbs-up.

* Check the fabric. “Avoid man-made and go for quality (fabric) labels such as wool, merino or silk,” says Lochhead.

* Look at the washing instructions. If it’s dry-clean only, it could cost a tenner to get it cleaned. Ask yourself: “Is it worth it?"

* Scan every inch for holes or bleach marks - you’d kick yourself if you later found a tear at the bottom of your cute new dress.

Armed with this advice, next time I visit a charity shop I'll scour its contents with new eyes. Although, since I'll probably be dropping off at least two bin-liners full of stuff I no longer want, accumulating more stuff kind of defeats the purpose...

* THERE'S something delightfully bonkers about the Winter Olympics.

When it comes to the rules of sports like luge, curling, skeleton and bobsleigh, I haven't a clue - but they're great fun to watch. I lose myself in the grace and beauty of figure skating, the anarchy of freestyle ski-ing, the slick energy of speed skating, the sheer nerve of ski jumping and the audacity of big air snowboarding. Watching these super-humans defy gravity makes me feel like an alien newly landed on Earth. Yet it's the extraordinary athletes who seem most otherworldly.

* NORMALLY I love a juicy celebrity spat, but the bitter Sex and the City feud has left me feeling a little sad.

It's fair to say that Kim Cattrall, who played man-eating Samantha in the show, isn't exactly BFFs with former co-star Sarah Jessica Parker. There have long been rumours of a rift, and Cattrall added fuel to the fire with comments she made on a chat show last autumn. Now Cattrall, who is grieving for her late brother, has attacked Parker on social media, after the latter sent her condolences. Cattrall called SJP a ‘hypocrite’ and accused her of ‘exploiting her tragedy.’

I loved Sex and the City (even the awful second movie). Strip back the fashion and the fantasy, and at its core was a celebration of female friendship. What a shame this has turned out to be fantasy too.