Monday, July 23, 2012

My Top 10 Thrift Shopping Tips

With my latest trip to the thrift shops in Nebraska and the Randolph St. Market coming up this weekend in Chicago, I thought it was time for a post on thrifting tips.  Not that I consider myself an expert in the area, but I've bought enough of other people's junk over the years that I have learned a thing or two!


My Top 10 Thrifting Tips


  1. Be mentally prepared - thrift shopping can be overwhelming if you're not in the mood for an adventure.  Especially if you are heading to a Goodwill, Salvation Army, etc. where the organization can be lacking and things are piled to the ceiling, be expected to have to do some digging to find what you want.
  2. Shop with a plan - I always seem to have more success (and fun) if I am shopping with something particular in mind.  It helps to direct your shopping a bit and avoid endless meandering and lots of impulse buys.  For instance this past weekend I hit up the local Salvation Army specifically for some glass vases for an upcoming DIY night.  However, I have also had my eye out for a dollhouse to fix up, which I hit the jackpot on this past trip for only $20!
  3. Get to know your local stores - Your chances of finding good stuff can vary greatly depending on the day of the week you go.  I know to avoid my local Salvation Army on the weekends if at all possible because it is often a zoo.  I also recently discovered that Wednesday afternoons are a great time to go as they have a whole staff of people restocking and organizing shelves during that time.  That means you are there when the new stuff is being set out, not after it is already picked over.
  4. Have a space for everything - this is the hardest rule for me to follow, but you will do yourself a favor by trying to limit your purchases to things that you already know where you will put them in your house or how you will use them.  Try not to buy things that would be perfect for that dream lake house you hope to have someday. ;)
  5. Avoid "projects" - Try to avoid pieces that have a lot of potential but need a lot of work to get there (e.g., reupholstering, stripping and repainting, etc.).  This is another hard rule to stick to, especially if you are like me and love a good DIY project.  However unless I have an immediate plan for the piece, too often I find I end up with a lot of unfinished projects that make their way back to the Salvation Army before they are ever used.
  6. Buy things in pairs - any time you can find a pair of something you want, snap them both up.  This is the case particularly for items like lamps or framed art as these things are always better and pairs (and hard to come by in pairs at thrift stores).
  7. Avoid pillows, cushions, mattresses, etc. - there is always the chance that these things could contain bed bugs, and that is the last thing you want to bring into your home. In general, I try to avoid any items that look dirty, but if I can easily wash them down with soap and hot water or throw them in the wash and put them out in the sun to kill any germs, I feel pretty comfortable buying things like tablecloths, etc.
  8. Come prepared - it is always helpful to have cash (many thrift stores will only accept cash), a camera, pictures of the space you are looking for furniture / accesories for, a tape measure, and hand sanitizer!
  9. Leave the kids at home - I often have to bring Stella and Hazel along when making quick trips and as much as I love them, it just takes all the fun out of thrift shopping! Stella typically has her own agenda and immediately drags me over to the toy section the moment we get there. In general it is very difficult to casually peruse things with kids, so if you have small children at home, find a time when you can break away without them.  I promise it will be a lot more fun.
  10. Have fun! The next time you find a treasure from thrifting, send Design Improvised a pic.
Now for some pics! 

Here's what I mean in Tip #1 - this is where I dig around for my favorite vintage tablecloths:

Thrift shopping tips

One of these wicker chairs would look awesome in a sun room paired with a graphic cushion.  However, I unfortunately don't have a sun room (but will in my dream lake house!).  See tip #4.

Wicker Chairs

Similarily, I loved this pitcher but really don't have an inch of cabinet space left in my kitchen to house them so had to pass it up:

Thrift Shopping Tips

I also didn't purchase this guy for $6 (because of tip #4) however I am kicking myself a bit because it is really cool and would look great on a desk. I just don't have a desk!

Thrift Shopping Tips

Here is a pair of framed vintage Mexican feather art (see Tip #6) that I recently bought as I happened to have another pair at home.  I love them, but still have no place to hang them yet... oops.

Vintage thrift shopping

Vintage thrift shopping

Finally, here is my latest treasure.  It is a project (see tip #5) - clearly I don't do a great job following my own advice.  However, I'm really looking forward to doing some small scale interior desgn work on this to make it one chic dollhouse for Stella and Hazel when they are a bit older.  Stay tuned!

Doll house

Doll house

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