Check out these top 10 things to look for at thrift stores, charity shops, Goodwill stores, and more! From timeless home decor to unique finds that'll add character to any room, thrift stores can be a treasure trove of amazing finds.
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Shopping at thrift stores ("thrifting") has been one of mine and Brian's favorite things to do throughout our relationship.
When we were dating and first married, it was a cheap date and way to spend time together.
After we bought our first home, it was a way to furnish and upgrade our old house (my $10 chandelier remains one of my best finds from that era!).
Now thrifting is a fun activity that we like to do on a random Saturday or when we're traveling - visiting thrift stores in a new city is always fun!
So I thought I'd share the top 10 things I look for in thrift stores as a way to help cut through the "it's too much" sight that often greets you when walking in a store.
My hope is that you will check out thrift stores (or estate sales, garage sales, tag sales, or wherever else you can find used items) and will be inspired to look at all the
junk items there in a whole new way!
Two Important Things To Think About When Thrifting
Before we get to the top 10, there are a couple of guiding points to have in mind that I want to share with regards to thrift shopping:
- It's important to have a running list of things to look for in your mind because the amount of stuff can be overwhelming if you feel like you have to look at everything.
- BUT this list should be generic - like "old books" and not a specific title, because if you go to a thrift store with something specific in mind you will come up empty-handed. Really- it's like an unwritten rule or something! I've learned this lesson many times.
Having this generic running list in my head (or on a phone note, etc.) allows me to walk the aisles with intention - quickly if I'm in a hurry, or a little more slowly if I've got more time.
Top 10 Things to Look for in Thrift Stores
1. White Pottery
I'm not particular - it can be a platter, urn, vase, whatever - but I do look for a classic or fun shape that I can use somehow.
All of the pottery I have or display is used at some point as vases or for serving food. I rarely buy anything that can't be used.
2. Vintage Boxes (or suitcases, etc.)
Talk about useful - I use old boxes, crates, and suitcases to hold everything from recipes, to photos, to blankets, to craft supplies. And they add a unique decor look at the same time.
3. Flatware & Utensils
I've collected cheap stainless that I keep in a caddy to use at large gatherings instead of plastic, and I always look for vintage bone-handled pieces as well as cool silverplate to add to mismatched place settings, as well as use for photo props.
My favorite serving utensils are almost all thrift store finds.
4. Decor Items
I've been collecting amateur oil paintings for years to inexpensively add fun art to our walls, like the landscapes pictured above. Some of these were found while traveling because a small painting is something I can easily fit in my carry on.
I think it's accurate to say that most of my decorative items like candle holders have some from the piles of junk you find at thrift stores.
5. Garden Items
Cement statues and urns, metal watering cans or tools - they all have a wonderfully worn patina that we just can't get if we buy new.
These aren't as easily found as some of the other things on this list, but I'm always keeping my eye out for them.
Admittedly, I don't have as much luck with clothes like others seem to, but what I've found I really love - especially the prices.
I have the easiest time finding sweaters, coats, and shoes - and less luck with pants and skirts.
7. Red Transferware
addiction collection has grown slowly but surely with pieces I pick up here and there at thrift stores because I won't pay the Ebay prices (cough...).
I've also been gifted some of the pieces shown above. I use the little plates often for salads and desserts and use the more of them to set our holiday tables.
8. Lamps & Lighting
If you're looking for single lamps or floor lamps to use as-is or to makeover, you should find something fairly easily. Finding a good pair of lamps is another thing, though, and they are harder to come by.
The key with lamp bases is to look for a classic shape that you can paint AND to note the type of shade it can hold (harp, on a lightbulb, etc.) to make sure you can find a shade for it.
9. Old Books
What's a shelf without a book? And if it's old books with wonderful bindings, it's that much better.
(Yes, I like a good green color scheme on some shelves - no I haven't read The Republic of Plato, lol.)
We found most of our furniture at thrift stores in the first years of our marriage and I still always look, even though I don't need a lot now, because there might be that one item- kind of like this one (pictured above in it's thrift store cover, which you can guess I made over!).
Oh, here's a bonus because I couldn't keep it to just 10!
We have purchased a lot of small appliances like the almost-new panini maker shown here and of course, cappuccino makers, but we have also occasionally bought larger appliances like a freezer. It's definitely something to check out, though you want to plug in to make sure it works.
That's it for me - now I'd like to know, what do you like to look for at thrift stores?
And if you'd you like to see how I transformed lots of thrifted things into home decor, gifts or something new, head to the "Makeovers" section of the site that shows all kinds of things that can be made into something else, many of which are thrifted items!
This article has been updated- it was originally published in September of 2012.