The Secret to Thrifting

This chair showing off it’s back side was $35, the slipcover chair $13 with a $50 slipcover, the sofa table was $20 {all thrift finds} are you so sick of me telling you the prices?  This room is turning into my second hand room.

Last week I dropped off a few things to my local Goodwill.  And, I never just drop off, I always go in as well.  I didn’t find much, a pair of uniform pants for my son {$3 compared to $15-25 new} and a pair of flippers for my boys to swim with also $3.  On the way home I passed the Salvation Army.  I’m pretty sure I haven’t found anything there for the last 6 times I’ve been in.  However, I have found stuff there in the past.  I almost didn’t stop because I didn’t want to waste my time, but the thought of passing up something great was enough to get me to stop.

I’m glad I did. This coffee table caught my eye.  It was marked $49 but, I could see the date it arrived on the tag and knew it had been sitting around for a little while.  I also know that my Salvation Army will discount items after they’ve been there a few days.  Especially things that are showing a lot of wear.

It had two great pair of legs complete with casters and a sheet of beveled glass on top.  The wood was in bad shape but, now that I know how to paint furniture, I wasn’t concerned about that.  $35 later it was mine.  And I was SO glad I walked into that store.

Ideally, I wanted a small round table.  But after looking for one for months, I figured this one would be worth the risk.  I knew I could fix it up and live with it for awhile and if it doesn’t work I think I could sell it at a yard sale.  But so far I really like it.

Yesterday, Sunday, my husband and I needed to run out to Target.  We passed the Goodwill on our way home and decided to stop in.  He’s a great thrifter in his own right only his finds usually are books, Carhartt and golf stuff.  I found this great lamp.  I saw it from afar and knew I had to have it.  It had a great drum shade and a glass bottom and was marked $10.  I grabbed it and quickly looked around to see if someone would yell “hey you can’t buy that” or give me a standing ovation.   Nothing like that happened but, I found that it still had the Home Goods price tag on it. Home Goods is part of the trilogy where pretty much all of my lamps are from {Home Goods/TJ Maxx/Marshalls}.

That’s right. $60.

The shade was a little dirty and the lamp looked like it had sat in a dust storm for a year but after I cleaned it up, it was perfectly acceptable.  Here’s the thing, I’ve never been to the Goodwill on a Sunday.  I didn’t even know they were open.

Value Village Thrift Store Dresser:: $80

When it comes to shopping thrift, the biggest secret to finding great stuff is persistence. Are you willing to pass by a ton of junk that you would never buy to find that one gem?

You have to keep going. Sometimes when I show off my great finds, I think people think that I find something great every time I walk in.  Not true. I’d just have a even more boring blog if I wrote about every time I walked into the Goodwill and found negative nothing.  I think I find something super great on every 20th visit on average.  I find something good enough to buy about half the time, but many times it’s something small like a book or a silver spoon or a white plate, or shorts for my boys. But for me, it’s fun to go.  And that great find is worth going and finding nothing. You can see that as an impossible feat or, look at it as an adventure and decide that every time you pass the thrift shop, you’ll peek in really quick and see what they have.

tall vase: $5, table: $7,  big basket: $6 :: all second hand

Depending on your season of life, you may or may not be able to simply drop in a thrift store every time you pass it.  It’s still worth going, even if you can only stop in once a month.  That’s 12 times in a year, odds are you’ll still find something pretty good after a few times and you’ll be glad you went, you can use that high to get you through the times when you find nothing.

I’ve never gone to a thrift store looking for a certain item and found it.  I go with a little cash and an open mind. 99.9% of the stuff  I see is stuff I don’t want.  You sift through a lot of junk.  When I do find something, I buy it because I like it, I can afford it, and I think I can make it work in my home.  I usually don’t know where I’ll put it until I get home.  But, I like the thrill of the hunt and I don’t give up every time I come home empty handed.

Just keep going.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Wow! Love it all, you are an inspiration, thanks for this post! I have found a few great chairs at yard sales but I think I’m missing out on the thrift stores.

  2. I love all your finds and your great advise. I usually try to make my thrift store trips pretty short. By making my trips short, if I don’t find anything five times in a row and get discouraged, that sixth time I’ll stop anyway since it’ll only take a few minutes to walk around. And it’s usually the “I probably won’t find anything but I have a couple minutes to spare” trips when I actually find something!

  3. How do you cull through the thrift store? I tend to over buy and over clutter instead of waiting patiently for those special items. Any tips for being more choosy?

    • have less $$?

      I’m guilty of the same thing, but after having to have a yard sale because of excess “good stuff” I found at a thrift store, that has really helped me be more careful of what I buy.

      So regret is a good teacher.

      • I do try to find a good home for what I find and don’t end up using, that is a good point. I think I will take out a small amount of cash for thrifting and when that is gone I am done.

        Thanks for answering Nester!

  4. So true! Love what you are doing with your house. It looks great! Cozy and fresh. :)
    I just did a post on my recent thrift finds and one on the BEST reason to thrift shop!

    • OH I am so jealous of your rug and fan!

      Thought about you the other day when I sat on my sofa–thank you so much for helping make the slipcover!

  5. Girl – you are speaking my love language. And we all know how we feel about the people who are about to comment, “But I never find anything or we just don’t have good stuff where I live.” lol….ok, now I have offended my online sisters that I have never met, but it’s all about persistence. I have thrifted in 35 states and about 10 countries….it’s there, if you have an eye for possibility and a perceive perseverance as a wonderful character quality. :)

    • True, good things can be found just about anywhere.

      My favorite thrift stores were in Daytona Beach, Florida,
      Estate sales were the best in Farmington Hills, Michigan,
      I think yard sales are better in the south? I have no idea why
      and thrift stores seem better in more affluent parts of town

  6. Thanks for the motivation. I get discouraged when I visit stores over and over again and never set my eyes on a “great find”. At least now I know it is a long process that is hit and miss. I guess I already knew that, but to hear you say it and post your finds is motivation enough.

  7. Thanks for the encouragement!! I’m one that is kind of overwhelmed in thrift stores. Probably because I go in looking for something specific. I will keep trying, though.. ;0)

  8. Lauren@SimplyLKJ says:

    I love all of my thrift finds! I love turning them into something new that I can use around my home, and I don’t worry if something happens to them…unlike newer more expensive pieces I’ve purchased. We just recently moved our oldest into her 1st apartment and she took SEVERAL of my older thrift store finds. They got yet another coat of paint to suit her taste. She loves that she doesn’t have to worry about the little nicks and scratches that might happen…after all she is a college student!

  9. This was a fun read, I do so love thrifting. Oh and ps: I need you to whip up a new post about bookshelves if you don’t mind, thank you for very much. I have a new one in my bedroom, and oh the dread of putting together a bookshelf. They are either too perfect and not real (hate that), or two messy and thrown together looking (hate that). Maybe i just hate bookshelves…why am I rambling???
    Have a great day ;)

  10. awesome table!! great paint job!! you are so inspriring!!!! now if i could figure out how to thrift shop without my boys who hate shopping i’d be good! i’m going to be in big trouble when school starts! :)

  11. Oh, thank you, Nester! I recently moved to CO from HI and TODAY I am headed to the Salvation Army…so excited! My thrifting options in HI were very limited (although garage sales are da bomb there because no one wants to pay to ship their things when they move.) Anyway, so excited to head out armed with your thrifty thrifting tips!

    Take care girl and Happy Monday!

  12. You are right, it is all about the hunt. Which is so much fun. :o) I enjoy sifting through the not so good stuff, hoping to find that one good item. And I love how you painted your table! Swoooon! :o)
    Blogging has been a fantastic way to get ideas for re furbishing old stuff we have and thrifting items we find. So glad you post when you find that good buy! :o) It is such a great inspiration.
    I found this huge frame (posted here and it makes the best chalk board – after the paint and fiber board, it was under $20.00!
    Hoping your week is off to a good start. :o)
    Sincerely ~ Trish

  13. Love all your finds and agree with you completely! Thrifting takes a lot of patience and persistance. So often we see all the great finds but don’t realize how much time and effort goes into finding a few really great pieces.

  14. Thrifting is such a wonderful thing! I love the treasure hunt! I have a tendency to buy too much because I want to rescue pieces and give them a new life. I just spent a whole week in Augusta, ga and just yesterday I found a $1 thrift store! So sad.

  15. My problem is I go thrifting and often have trouble seeing what it could be. Like your table on casters – you created a beautiful piece of furniture that I would have had trouble seeing. Also I think I have a fear of what if I get it and I can’t do what I want with it….so I pass it up instead. You inspire me to try to see that find and take the risk.

    Right now our business is doing so badly and fixing up the house and making it a home is our last thought. But with your thrift finds I could do some similar things. Thank you!

  16. i couldn’t agree more! i get so many emails asking which thrift stores i frequent, but the truth is, i frequent A LOT, and often, because that’s the only way you find the good stuff! you have to go consistently, because you never know when you’ll find gold. i just blogged about a faux bamboo mirror i found a few days ago, and i found it at a store that NEVER has anything–i just took a chance and stopped in!

  17. Love this post! I moved back to the states from the UK a few years ago and had to kit out a house from scratch! And I mean I had NOTHING! I spent a few months going to thrift shops, yard sales, tag sales, auctions, etc. and managed to do quite well. I can not imagine just going to a furniture store and buying up a suite of furniture. Each piece I have has some interesting story or a great memory associated with it.

    We have a Goodwill about 4 minutes from my office that sells by the lb! I have gotten some marvelous things there for pennies!

  18. I so agree – persistence is key! And, while I have a list of things I’m ALWAYS looking for, you have to just go with what you can find on any certain day. Most of my home has been furnished through thrift & discount stores, and it’s beautiful to me!

  19. Great Finds!! I love it all! The coffee table and the lamp are awesome!! I agree, you have to go and go and go!! And then you hit it at the right time! I love those days!

    Lou Cinda :)

  20. I’m lovin’ all your new decor, and the best and most inspiring thing about it is you are doing it economically! Thanks for sharing w/ us.

  21. When I was young, I used to loathe going into second hand stores. I hated the smell, and I hated the fact that we had to shop there due to incredibly tight financial constraints. I never thought I’d get over that. It’s not that I don’t love a great second hand find, in fact, much of my house is furnished in them and they are the best pieces I have. My mom still finds amazing things there and I buy them off of her (when she’s willing to part with them!). I now, however, am forcing myself out of my silly mental block thanks to inspiring blogs like yours. I realize that the treasure you find is only half the story. The thrill of the hunt is the other half….one that I’ve missed all these years.

  22. I used to have two end tables that matched that coffee table, with the woven insets and everything–although mine were minus the glass when I got them. The funny thing about them was that I bought them seperately–I had one for awhile, and when I found a matching one I snatched it up. We used them for years, my sister used them, and then I gave them away to someone from our church! They served many people for years!

    These days the pickin’s are fewer and farther between, but you’re right that you have to go early and often to find the good stuff. (I used to be one of those people who complained that I never found anything worthwhile, but all it took was one good “score” and I was hooked!)

    The nicest thrifting I’ve ever found was in Colorado Springs–they had the nicest, cleanest Salvation Army thrift stores!

  23. Christie says:

    You can’t go wrong with thrifting! This was my last purchase and I am so proud!

  24. My problem is that I just LOVE the thrill of the hunt (and I love getting bargains more than just about anything in the world) — which doesn’t sound like a bad thing until I admit that I have a hard time driving by Goodwill/Habitat ReStore/ValueVillage without stopping to look. Even if I don’t really have time to stop! I know, it’s all about self control. But somehow I convince myself that (whatever it is that I absolutely HAVE to have but don’t yet know I need it) is in there, and I’ll miss my one chance to get it if I don’t stop! ;-)

  25. I think your Goodwill is better than mine! ;)

    Well, pricing wise, that is. They WAY over-price things. I wanted to buy a dresser there last week, but what they were asking was way too much considering that I’d have to buy 8 new knobs because 1 of the 8 were missing! I even asked the manager, & he stood by his price. :(

    • I agree, certain stores seem to think their junk deserves higher prices, I figure someone must buy it at that price or else eventually they’ll mark it down. However, at that same store there was an old 1970’s dresser for $249! Are you kidding?! crazieness.

      • Dang! That IS pricey. What I wanted was only $24.99, but was filthy, wobbly, & missing knobs.

        They probably think their poo doesn’t stink, too! ;)

      • I just went back today & looked at the same dresser- not only did it not drop in price, but they raised the price by $15!!!! Aaaak! I knew I had to come report this awfulness to you! :)

    • We have a Goodwill “clearance” center and to me their prices are way higher than the normal Goodwills around town…I don’t even stop there anymore because if I do find something…it’s not at a price I’m willing to pay! I figure that whoever runs it is just out of line with the other stores…drives me crazy, because it’s the closest to where we live!

  26. I had given up on thrifting. I just can never find anything. I just may try again after that post. You really have found some great things. Love that table, it is perfect for your room. That makes thrifting so exciting when you find something like that for a great price. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Your room is gorgeous, I love all of your finds. I especially “want” that wonderful brown chair. Just what I need for my living room. lol I so agree with you about GW. I go several times a week and only find something occassionally, but when I do it is worth the trip, and it really is fun. I love your coffee table too. Just wonderful in it’s new coat of white paint. Hugs, Marty

  28. Love your posts about thrifting! I’m in love with my local GW even though half the time I don’t find anything when I go in. I agree – persistence is key. And keeping an open mind. So FUN!

  29. Well said! I have to drag a 4 year old and a 2 year old in with my every time, but sometimes I really hit the jackpot. :) You really do have to be persistent, and it helps if you have a list or general idea of what you’re looking for. I’m looking for a decorative metal shelf for my deck and a fixer upper buffet for my dining room. No luck at the Goodwill (our is way overpriced 80% of the time!) or the Salvation Army (much better prices on knick knacks/accessories, but hit or miss with furniture), but we’ll keep looking. :)

    It does help if I promise my girls we can get a book. They’re only like ten cents. :)

  30. Oooh, I just love that table. And the lamp. I am willing to put up with the not-so-great thrifting days because oh, do I love the rush of a super great find on those days that are oh so very fruitful! I LOVE thrifting. LOVE LOVE LOVE IT! :)

  31. I love your design!!

    The way you find things and decorate them has inspired me to look at the stuff I have in new ways! :) I love seeing what I can find at our local GoodWill.


  32. Oh my gosh I LOVE that lamp! I’ve been searching for one just like it! Im jealous :)

  33. I seriously have decided I’m never buying anything at retail prices again! I went to three thrift stores Saturday and found the best stuff at a quarter of the price? Of course, I didn’t buy anything yet because I still haven’t decided on the look of a new room I’m working on, but I will be going back!

  34. Hi Nester,

    I am having a hard time paying retail now for anything for my house as the finds are out there. I have an advantage as to the fact that being an almost empty nester and I don’t work outside the home anymore I have a lot of time to peruse the thrift stores. I have never enjoyed decorating more since I started doing secondhand. I looked around my room the other day and told my husband that almost everything in this room is “secondhand”.

    Although I too am a HUGE fan of Homegoods for their lamps are amazing but I recently bought a pair of retro vintage lamps at a sale for $10.00 for the pair and I love them.

    If you have time, stop by sometime.

    By the way, your home is lovely. You have a great eye!


    • I work outside the home full-time and one of my fav times to get some thrifting in is during my lunch hour. There is a Goodwill close by to my work, that is in an affluent area (which does seem to have the best stuff). I can peacefully look over the aisles and racks without keeping up with my very active 3 kids. Who are not that into browsing thrift stores – well the 5yo kinda is! Anyway, I’m sure my coworkers would think I was crazy if they found out!

      Mary Ellen

  35. I love the new table, what a great find, you sound like me and I always say my car automatically turns in to those places it’s not me, swear , for some reason my husband doesn’t believe me (;

  36. Lauren Bretz says:

    Nester, I have been persistently thrifting for a couple months now. I have found a few things here and there (I’m super grateful for them), but sometimes have wondered if I’ll ever come upon a gem. This post totally blessed my heart. Thanks for the encouragement to persevere. I’m so grateful for you.

  37. Love your thrift treasures! Our home is a mix of thrift store and yard sales finds mixed with a few nice antique pieces and lots of hand-me-downs. I just posted about our dining room makeover that is practically all CRAIGSLIST! It’s like my own little online thrift store! :)

  38. You nailed it with me!! Its the hunt and the thrill of finding something.. thats my high!! Every thrift store I pass I have to go in, if my kids are sleeping in the car I carry them one on one hip and one on the other sleeping! Yep I’m a lunatic most of the time AND I LOVE IT!!!!!!

  39. I just have to know if the base opens on that lamp. It reminds me of the cloches so popular around the bloggy world. It would be adorable with some little pretty in it.

    • YEP, I’ve got shells in it right now but, it reminds me of a cloche and I think a plant would be very happy in there!

  40. Amen!! Love the cofee table too!

  41. I love thrifting and looking for that treasure. My latest find was a Green Life juicer (retail $400) with all the parts included for $20. I was ecstatic.

    I love the glass lamp!

  42. When I saw the title to your blog I answered, “Never giving up!” So true! I stop at Goodwill whenever I can and I don’t always leave with something. But when I do? That’s a natural high, my friend :-)

  43. I call myself The Thrift Store Queen. Everything in my home except for my couch and rugs came from the thrift store. I go every week, hit them all in a couple of surrounding cities. I should blog about it more often. I’ve found numerous Pottery Barn pieces, a new LazyBoy club chair, my piano, all my dishes, clothing, and sooo much more. My current jackpot are 2 Fossil purses and 2 Liz Claiborne leather purses for just a few bucks each. Also, I collect original acrylic farm scene paintings collected on the cheap. Gotta love a thrift store, just gotta!

  44. That’s my table! I have loved it for years (but I paid retail…ugh) I used suction cups to lift that heavy glass off, put black and white snapshots randomly in the compartments, then lowered the glass back on. It has worked wonderfully in our family room- and it looks great in yours.

  45. that lamp is amazing!!!

    what are you going to put in it???

    sandy toe

  46. You really scored on your thrift hunting…I guess I need to take your advice and be more persistent :)

  47. I love, love, love the lamp!!! Great find!

    My fiance and I have just started “thrifting” in the last 6 months and have really enjoyed doing it together. This past weekend we found the most perfect entryway table in a store I have passed for the last 3 years and had never stopped at. Now we are wondering what treasures we have been missing! We’ll be blogging about this and other finds soon. For now we just blogged about a Cragslist buy…

    Thanks again!!!! k

  48. I love this post and agree totally. I stop in my Sal Army every other week or so as well as the Habitat for Humanity store once a month… I have little things I am always looking for like an addition to my milk glass collection but like you said, going with an mind often means you will walk out with a gem. I am fortunate to have many old and well loved pieces in my home that have ben passed down from my Grandmother but I am enjoying looking for pieces that I can make my own. I love the hunt.

  49. nester, this whole article is super. I am fairly new to thrifting, although I have always loved antiques and flea markets. In the last few years I have started seriously shopping yard sales and thrift shops and I’ve found some wonderful things. We furnished our son’s college bedroom with well made chests and a desk from a yard sale, we brought it home and my husband worked his magic with some black milk paint. We made a cool upholstered headboard and found a little nightstand (with great bones) and voila, the kid had a bedroom for under 150.00.

    I’ve also bought some decorative items that I might not have paid full price for. Most of those items were things that I thought were pretty or interesting and because they were so cheap and were too nice to leave at the thrift store, I brought them home. I’ve had such fun playing with these decorations! And in the process, I’ve learned a lot about decorating, because I got to try all kinds of ideas with my vast variety of things to choose from.
    I do think in order to have success in decorating with thrift store goods, a person has to have a knowledge of style, some good taste, a vision, and perhaps some DIY skill, along with some creativity, or it won’t work. I think you posess these qualities in abundance. Love what you do! Keep up the good work. :D I always enjoy your ideas and perspective.

  50. This was a great article!

    I feel the same way with craigslist. I looked at about 50 ugly or over priced kitchen tables before I found an excellent solid wood circular table with 4 great chairs for $100.

    Right now I have more time than money so I hunt.

Speak Your Mind