stocked self-serve bar cart
Styling Tips

How The Pros Shop At Thrift Stores

Let’s face it, new furniture is expensive. It’s made with cheap crappy materials, farmed out to every big box retailer, and requires deciphering a NASA-approved blueprint filled only with hieroglyphics and smiley faces just to get the thing put together. Then you nail on a cardboard backing, put it in place in the room, add one book, then cringe in fear that it will come crumbling down. 

diy thrifted bar cart makeover via @lelaburris of In The New House Designs

Get Some Personality

The new furniture struggle is real, my friend. And if that desk actually did hold up to the weight of your computer, books, and a picture frame (if you’re lucky) and you pop a photo on Instagram to show off your handiwork, you’re instantly flooded with comments saying “I have the same desk!” I don’t know about you, but I want my house to look like my house. It’s straight up hard to find pieces that define your personality, don’t look like every other Target shopper’s online cart, and are easy on the wallet.

So how are you supposed to find something that checks all those boxes? I introduce to you, The Thrift Store. Yep, it’s not just grandma’s curio cabinet and kids’ outgrown sweaters anymore. As people are becoming more environmentally conscious, they’re getting into the habit of donating furniture and decor instead of just throwing it away. This gives good quality, well-built, unique furniture a chance at a second [third, fourth, or even fifth] life.

Learn The Thrifting Secrets

Every single time I scroll through Instagram and find a gorgeous piece of furniture or decor, I ask the homeowner where it’s from. Nine times out of ten, I’m told it was a thrifted item. That was such a wake-up call for me. As I’m starting to shop for new items for my new house, instead of online retailers, I’m turning to local thrift stores, secondhand sites and apps like Craigslist and OfferUp, and even yard sales.

Since I’m still pretty new to secondhand shopping, I brought in the big guns. I hit up some of my favorite designers (professional, hobby, and just naturally awesome) and asked them to share their best tips. These ladies are beyond talented and can walk into a thrift store like they own the place. And in all honesty, they pretty much do. Their websites and social feeds prove it, and today they’re sharing all their secrets!

thrift store dresser into buffet via @domainelayne

Remember, not everything has to be used for its original purpose.

“One of the most important tips to thrifting is consistency/frequency!  Inventory changes hourly at thrift stores so you have to commit to the hunt! The thrift store employees  should know your name because you stop by so often.  Another important tip is trust your gut!  If you like it, get it! If you can see it in you home, get it! If you’re not sure what it is but it just speaks to you, get it! Do not leave “to think about it” because 9 times out of 10, it won’t be there when you go back for it. Just get it! Also Remember, Not everything has to be used for its original purpose, a little elbow grease can make an old piece sparkle and paint gives everything new life!”

-Layne @domainelayne

thrift store furniture shopping tips from @blissfully_eclectic

I get to thrift shop in my pjs at home in my spare time!

“My favorite way to shop secondhand is Craigslist or the LetGo app. I get to thrift shop in my pjs at home in my spare time! With my crazy busy schedule, this is the way to go for me!”

-Jen @blissfully_eclectic & jenstreeter.com

how to shop for furniture at thrift stores from @abluenest

I always check to make sure it’s real wood and not pressed board.

“When I’m going thrifting, I find it’s easier if I, at least, have an idea of what I’m looking for, whether it be a specific piece of furniture or more general like decor pieces. That helps me stay focused and not get overwhelmed, which can happen easily at a lot of thrift stores! Also, check the quality. For example, on wooden furniture, I always check to make sure it’s real wood and not pressed board. You want to find quality pieces not something that’s just cheap for cheap’s sake!”

-Jordan @abluenest & abluenest.com

thrift store dresser makeover and shopping tips from Sherry Petersik Young House Love

We ask if they would accept an extra fee to drive it over.

“When shopping through Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, whenever something is large we ask if they would accept an extra fee (like $20) to drive it over. It often saves us time/gas/money spent renting a larger vehicle, so it can be very worthwhile in many cases.

-Sherry Petersik @younghouselove & younghouselove.com

PS: Sherry wrote a whole blog post on four of her best tips for thrift store shopping! You can check out her other awesome secrets at the full article here.

thrift store living room and diy wall hanging from @salvagedior

Create a curated unique look for your home.

“My best thrift tip is to go on a regular basis to create a curated unique look for your home.”

-Kate @salvagediorsalvagedior.com

thrift store dining room from @banyanbridges

Think outside the finish/color/fabric.

“My best tip would be to go early and to go often. And to think outside the finish/color/fabric. Some of my favorite pieces were hideous in store (and I was hesitant to buy), but once I brought them home and put some time and effort into them, they became amazing!  Also I always recommend stopping and taking a breath while walking through the aisles. Slowly look around and try to consider the items. Most thrift stores are cluttered and chaotic and if you’re overwhelmed it’s easy to miss something good.”

-Racheal @banyanbridges & banyanbridges.com

thrift store shopping tips from @luvewant

Donate before you thrift! You’ll often get a discount card to shop.

“Try going at different times of day to figure out what works best at your local shops. Keep in mind lots of people donate on weekends but every store has a process to putting items out.  Also, donate before you thrift! You’ll often get a discount card to shop & don’t be afraid to ask staff if you see something that hasn’t been processed yet. Chances are they can sell it to you before it goes on the floor.”

-Regina @luvewant & @luvewantshop

thrift store shopping tips from Marilyn__mcc

Go to different thrift shops in places where you admire their style.

“My tip is to go to your local thrift store often! Inventory is constantly changing and there are always hidden gems. It’s best to find out the days or times your thrift store restocks and you’ll get first pick on all their latest items! Also, pay attention to the neighborhood or city. Thrift store inventory comes from the surrounding community, so feel free to go to different thrift shops in places where you admire their style!”

-Marilyn @marilyn__mcc

Read More: Antique Store Shopping Tips

Your Turn!

Seriously, how freaking awesome are all those tips?! I’m fan-girling quite a bit that they were willing to work with me on this post, and I’ve got a feeling you probably are too. I’d love to invite you to go check them all out and drop them a comment or DM letting them know how helpful their tips are!

And if you’re a secondhand shopping veteran, don’t hold your secrets in! Get in on the conversation and share what works best for you in the comments below. Or if you’ve got a question, you can leave that, too. One of these awesome ladies will have the answer for sure!

If you know someone who needs some thrifting advice, share this with them! It’s packed full of goodies that are too great to hold in. Let’s get the word out to stop filling our houses with poorly made products and start giving the good stuff some love!

how to shop for secondhand home decor and furniture at thrift stores

2 Comments

  1. I have been thrifting for years—long before it became popular to do so. I just love the hunt. My hubby used to complain about me thrifting, he would say, “We can afford to buy new, why are you buying used?” Now, he’s adjusted to the fact that it’s just my ‘thing’ and will even come with me–HA! My greatest tip was one that was shared, “Don’t second guess yourself and not buy something, because it will NOT be there when you go back for it!” I have done this more times than I can count. Now, I buy it and if I don’t use it, I donate it back..

    • Lela Burris

      I love that your husband just didn’t get it. That’s so funny! Mine is the opposite. He scowls when I buy something new that has to be put together. He always reminds me that we could’ve bought an older piece that’s made with better wood and will hold up better. But in all honesty, I think he just prefers those because he hates assembling furniture… haha! And you’re so right! Good things never last long in thrift stores. They’re snatched up in an instant!

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