Have you ever watched a thrift with me or other secondhand shopping videos and thought “Sweet I want to go thrifting!” Then you go, it’s absolute mayhem, stuff is stacked everywhere that you’re afraid you’ll knock over,  and you’re ready to throw in the towel? It’s also hard to visualize how something could style or look in your home with all the stuff around it. Leaving you to sometimes overlook something great. That was me, and it wasn’t until I shifted my mindset and learned what to look for I was able to transform items to create amazing home decor! 

Come along with me on a thrift store run and I’ll share what I found plus tips and tricks to help you find some gems too – and I’ll show them styled in my house. You can either watch the video below, or scroll through this post to read about my tips.

My #1 Thrift Tip…

First, I say this in every thrifting video, but I’m super passionate about it. I swear by the 1-in-1-out method. I pack up a box of items we’re no longer using to donate when I go in to shop. That allows me to still enjoy the process and not pile on stuff when I get home. Speaking of donating, if you can, go to a more affluent area – items tend to be more disposable and the level of donated items is just better in my experience.

So maybe you aren’t scoring because you’re house is too cluttered and you can’t see the potential.

Also while we’re talking about donations, you don’t have to donate to Goodwill or Salvation Army – you can also donate to women’s shelters, schools, churches, or senior centers. You can find those options locally with a quick Google search.

The type of store you’re shopping at and the location of that store matter.

First – you need to know the difference between thrift and antique stores – and sometimes you can find hybrids – but most of the time it’s one or the other. 

Thrift stores like Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Savers offer a variety of secondhand items at generally low prices, though costs can vary. Antique stores, on the other hand, provide curated selections at higher prices due to the owner’s curation efforts. While both options have their merits, don’t expect thrift store bargains at antique shops.

And you know how the saying goes – location, location, location! Affluent areas tend to have more finds, because folks with more money tend to turn over their items more frequently. Think clothes, furniture and home decor – they can afford to do that. And that’s where you can score! So maybe you aren’t scoring because you’re in the wrong area, or at the wrong type of resale shop. Just some food for thought.

Start in an area of the store where you can score, because that sets the vibe for your entire trip.

Those for me are baskets or vases/glassware because I’m always looking for those and I can usually get lucky. Another area I’ve been loving to thrift lately are the scarves, they make great staging and decor pieces without all the bulk and weight of blankets. I drape them on chairs, lay them over the edge of baskets, and even put them on my blanket ladders for seasonal color and texture without needing multiple $30 blankets. These were just a few dollars and are super easy to store as well!

I also love finding containers I can fill with faux foliage, especially in the spring like this ceramic teapot or this woven textured planter. And remember – you’re not just looking for those turnkey pieces, and that leads me to….

Always remember, you can DIY your thrifted finds!

I’ve made over tons of items to get the look and feel I wanted. Think beyond color in the store because you can always change the color and you can even change the texture. If you’ve got a shape that you love grab it bring it home and you can DIY it to fit your home quickly and easily. 

And I’ve got a TON of videos showing you how to do that with common items including:

  1. Vases/pitchers
  2. Anything wood, brass, terracotta, or amber glass
  3. Fabric/linens
  4. Seasonal items
  5. Crocks – you can remove the paint
  6. Platters/Serve wear – plates can be used as plant stands
  7. Baggie section
  8. Records/sheet music
  9. Candle holders
  10. Glass wear 
  11. Books – like hardcover ones, remove the jacket to see what the cover looks like
  12. Mirrors
  13. Unique trinkets
  14. Craft blanks
  15. Artwork
  16. Photo frames – great for printables or photo ledge with thrifted frames – bonus points if it already has a mat it’s way easier to fit a print to it

How I find the best items at the thrift store

Go open-minded and pack your patience! You typically see all my awesome finds, but sometimes I walk out empty-handed. If you go in thinking we’ll see how this goes it’s a much more enjoyable experience.

Always be sure to grab a cart when you’re thrifting!

There are people on both sides of this but I always get a cart and put items in if you’re deciding. If I’m on the fence, it goes in the cart and then I can always put it back, but if someone snatches it while I’m deciding I’m out of luck.

A great tip is to look from above and see if everything is matching in your cart, if something (other than season) is off then it might not be for you. 

When is the best time to go thrifting?

I like to go on Mondays and Fridays because of restocks – you can also ask an employee when they restock.  I try to avoid weekends if at all possible because it gets crazy – especially if you go somewhere that has alot of resellers, they can get intense. 

This may feel woo-woo, but I like to visualize and manifest what I’m looking for.  I keep a running list in my notes app of what I’m looking for to help keep me on task – if you’re looking for shelves, furniture or other things keep measurements there too! I’ve even been known to toss a small measuring tape in my purse so you can measure in the store.

I also love to get inspo before I go from Pinterest and TikTok or IG reels showing what people bought vs styled I also like to say “what’s meant for me will be” before I walk in. I heard that on TikTok and it helps me not to stress and just see what is waiting for me.

It’s a long game. I also like to try and hit up multiple stores in a day if I can, that helps with my odds.

Don’t let the prices lead you to over-buying! Looking at super cheap things can give us a dopamine hit and cause us to buy more that we don’t need. Tag days can be amazing for saving but it can also lead to a ton of add-to-cart moments. I try to be aware and not let that impact me.

Only purchase second-hand items you know you can fully clean. Also always fully inspect the item before buying. You’re the quality control here.

One of the biggest apprehensions I hear about shopping secondhand is ‘If someone else has owned it, how do you know that it’s clean?’ and the straight answer is that you don’t. However, there are a lot of easy ways that you can clean the items to ensure they are clean and ready to be used in your home. 

When you find something you like, thoroughly check it, make sure there isn’t anything hiding in it, and keep in mind how you’re going to clean it when you get home.  I steer clear of soft foods because I don’t know what has seeped in and I’m never sure I can get them 100% clean. I always

I like to clean my baskets one of two ways one is with warm soapy water. Don’t leave them in for too long because it can warp the shape of the basket weaving. Once it’s clean I let it air dry and it’s ready to go.

A picnic basket I found last year was bigger than my sink so I instead took it outside and give it a really good spray with this Lysol disinfectant spray it’s aerosol so it doesn’t drench the material and ruin it but it does kill all of those germs – like I wanted.

For artwork and photo frames, I use Lysol spray, remove the glass, and use a Windex spray.

For soft goods like clothes, blankets, scarves, etc I use this Lysol laundry sanitizer and it’s a game-changer! It kills all the germs without any bleach so you’ll get everything clean and it smells good too. That’s also great for smelly clothes and other germy messes you need to launder.

I typically steer clear of things like stuffed animals and pillows that don’t have removable covers because they’re hard to clean.

All other hard surfaces either get cleaned with Lysol spray or warm soapy water. Sometimes you have to take it case-by-case, but don’t let the fear of getting something clean stop you from getting the deal – especially if it can easily be done with the laundry sanitizer or the disinfecting sprays!

Be Ready To Work! Look all over.

Squat down low, get on your tippy toes and also be sure to look under things. The workers at these stores are busy and have so much going on, so they aren’t doing any merchandising or making it easy for you to find anything. It’s all part of it. So look up, down, left, right and all over for those great finds! Which leads me to my next hack…

Double Back – especially on the aisles you’re interested in! You may have things that you missed the first time, or there may in fact be new items. At my stores, employees are constantly restocking the shelves as I’m shopping and you have other people who may have items in their cart that they no longer want and then those are back on the shelf too!

Big Reminder: Thrifting is a muscle, not something you just know how to do (In my experience)

When you first start thrifting, I won’t kid you, there is a bit of a learning curve. Give yourself time to learn how to see potential in everything. Give yourself time to learn which stores are your favorites and which days and times work best for you. After a few times, you’ll start to get the hang of it and love it for more than just a shopping trip. Thrifting is like self care to me, I love it and love the thrill of the hunt. I promise you can learn – you just have to be willing!

And finally, visualize and manifest your amazing finds!

This might feel a little woo-woo to some of you but I do like to visualize and manifest what I am looking for.

Like I mentioned, I find it does work I keep a running list in my notes app of what I’m looking for to help me keep on task.

I also like to say right before I walk in what’s meant for me will be it takes a lot of the stress out and you can just go in and see what Treasures you find. Sometimes I get caught up in the rat race of it all, especially when there are other people right by you looking at the same thing, but honestly, it’s not that serious. 

Also, if you’re trying to furnish anything from a whole room up to a whole house you gotta remember that this is a long game. I do like to try and hit up multiple thrift stores in a day if I can that helps with my odds but you’re not going to go in and hit the jackpot of everything that you want but little by little you can find curated pieces and it really helps make a house a home. 

I hope this gave you a ton of tips and tricks to get you into the thrift store or back if you’ve been frustrated before and help you find those gem-unique items that are going to set your space apart

I have a Christmas-specific version of this video linked here for you in case you’re ready to start hunting for those items too! 

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