How to shop at a thrift store

Many times when I get complimented on items in my home people are surprised when I say they were found in a thrift store. I think a lot of times people think that things in a thrift store are just dirty junk and sometimes they are, but most times they are full of treasures. Here are some of my personal tricks for shopping a thrift store. Hope they help you on your latest outing.

unique

{Love a store with customer appreciate days!}

1. Pay attention to special sale days: Most thrift stores have special days with either the entire store in on sale or certain colored price stickers are on sale. Make sure you call the store you want to go to before hand and see if they are running on specials. One of the closest thrift stores near me always has 25% off the entire store on Mondays and then 25% off on Thursdays for VIP members. What do you have to do to a be a VIP member? Just fill out a form for a loyalty card. So easy! Now the perks of going on sale days is that you get a discount, but the negatives is that everyone wants to get the deal so the store is typically packed.

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2. Go on off times: I try to never go right at opening or during lunch time, because I find that to be when most people shop. I love popping in around 6:30pm/7pm. It’s normally pretty quiet and I have the shop to myself. Did I miss out on something by shopping later in the day? Maybe, but I find that normally when I’m out no one is looking for what I’m looking for and the stores continually stock the shelves all day.

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3. Go Alone: I know for many shopping is a team sport, but when it comes to thrift shopping I like to either go by myself, with Jon or with my sisters who are more interested in the clothing section. Ideally I go with Jon, because in going with me so often he now knows what’s good/bad in my eyes. If you go with a friend that likes to thrift in the home decor area you could always reach out for the same thing and while I don’t foresee a tug and war occurring because of it, but I do foresee a constant feeling of regret for missing out on a potential favorite piece because of a friend.

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lamps

{ I love picking up thrift store lamps. It’s so easy to give them so new life with a new shade and just a clean up or a coat of paint. Even if they aren’t working it’s typically really easy to pick up pieces at Home Depot and re-wire them.}

4. Hit your favorite section first: Thrift stores are typically large and filled to the brim. It’s easy to get sidetracked by something sparkly on the shelf and miss out of what you were actually looking for. I love looking for furniture and lamps so I always start off there and then loop the rest of the store.

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rows

{ With all of the mess and row after row of product you can often miss things the first time around.}

5. Do a couple of laps of the store: I never see everything on my first walk around so I always start at the beginning again and gave everything another look or two or three. Often times people may be carrying things around and then drop it later when they realized they don’t like/need it.

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underneathproduct

6. Check for labels: Now I’m never a label snob. I love what I love regardless of the label, but if you are shopping a thrift store to stock an antique booth or etsy shop you want to make sure the cool vase you are picking up and are claiming is vintage or handmade, etc isn’t from and FTD flower arrangement or a freebie from Bath & Body Works.

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ball
{ These Ball mason jars were priced at $3 a jar. You can pick them up for around $1.80, which makes these a horrible deal.}

7. Use the internet: I always search on my phone for brands to see if I what I think is vintage really is, but it’s also good to use google in order to see if your really getting a deal. Sometimes items in a thrift store are priced the same as a new version of the item. Often times questioning this sort of pricing with an employee doesn’t really get you anywhere so I always just leave it alone and leave it behind, but it be worth it to speak with something at a managerial level and try and get an adjustment.

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frame

{ Hate the actual artwork, but really loved the solid frame and dotted matting.}

matting

{ Close up of tiered matting}

8. Think outside the artwork: Typically thrift store artwork is pretty horrible. I’ve found some good pieces in my time, but I find that 90% of the artwork is something you wouldn’t put on your walls. Don’t by pass artwork section though because that section is full of amazing frames! Vintage artwork has typically been custom framed so you will nice solid frames made out of actual wood and often times some nice matting.

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fabric
{ Fell in love with these dark green and coral color combo on a pair of drapery panels. No need for panels? No problems just make some pillows instead.}

9. Vintage fabrics: The sheets and comforter section of a thrift store always make me a bit nervous so I’ve never picked anything up from that section, but I do like looking through the curtain section. Now a lot of the curtains I find at thrift stores go to a matching window track for proper hanging and can’t actually be used for a window, but curtains are a great way to find vintage fabrics. I’ve used many vintage curtains solely for pillow or light upholstery projects. If I really want to use them for window treatments I simply my clips and use that for hardware.

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dresser

{I liked the interesting doors on this piece, but with the heavy shine on the piece it would have needed some sanding, primer, wood filler in places where it was nicked and some work on the door hinges. Overall it was just way too much time for me so even though it was only $20 it was smarter to just leave it behind for someone else.}

10. Time versus cost: The furniture section is always one of my first stops in a thrift store, but lately my house is like a furniture hospital with a whole amount of pieces that need to be given some TLC before I can even prime them for paint. Not fun. I now have to be really selective with furniture that I pick up.

Are you feeling ready to tackle your closest thrift store?

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6 Responses to How to shop at a thrift store

  1. Great post. Totally agree about going alone. The one time I went with a friend that very scenario happened (not a tug of war but lots of regret) Never good.

  2. Evie says:

    LOVE this…I totally agree about going by yourself…I’ve gone with friends before and it’s no bueno. Also, how disappointing is it when you flip an awesome vase over and see bath and body works label etc?

  3. I shop at Unique in my town, too. It’s funny– looks like the same selections!

  4. Great post! Definitely agree that taking a second (and third) lap can be very helpful in preventing you from missing a gem you may have overlooked the first time around! I also love your tip about picking up frames. I actually did a post on this very thing recently. Here’s the link if you’re interested:
    http://anneworthington.blogspot.com/2013/03/making-it-work-framing-art.html

  5. Bonnie Z says:

    Great post! I love thrifting.

    If it is okay with you, I plan on referencing this post in my own blog.

    Thanks for the great article.

  6. kay* says:

    these are really good tips! i actually have my own thrift store tips post going live soon and many of our tips are the same!

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