We’ve all been there– walking in a thrift or antique store and having no idea where to start.
There are mountains of trinkets: old books, creepy dolls, musty clothes. It’s a lot.
But truth be told, some of my best accent pieces and DIY projects began in the aisles of a thrift store. You just have to be willing to dig.
Let’s talk about some tips and tricks to feeling right at home in secondhand stores.
Have a general idea of what you're looking for
This can be (and usually is) extremely broad.
For example, I will usually decide if I’m looking for:
- small decor pieces
- the bones of a DIY project
Another place to start is deciding which room you’re shopping for. This allows you to be able to skip over certain booths (or not spend as much focused time in each booth).
Personally, I could roam the aisles of antique stores for hours, but I know that’s not always reality. If you go in with a plan, you’re likely to find what you’re looking for!
Bring a second pair of eyes
Shopping is always more fun with a buddy!
And when it comes to thrifting and antiquing, you’re able to cover a lot more ground with two people. Bring someone who knows your style and has enough stamina to not drop while they shop! 😉
This also applies to the owners of antique shops. Often times, if you simply ask, they can help you find specifically what you’re looking for. If you’re in the market for coffee table decor for spring, they could probably show you ten options from all different booths!
Have a price point in mind and stick to it
This one seems obvious, but straying from your budget can sometimes make you doubt your purchases once you bring them home, leading you to feel less satisfied with them.
It’s different from store to store, but prices are not always set in stone. If an item is $35, you could offer $30. Some stickers will say “firm,” but it wouldn’t hurt to ask about the ones that don’t!
Don't be afraid to make a short drive
The Goodwill and antique stores in my area are generally pretty good. But if I want to kick it up a notch, I drive about 30 minutes outside of the city to a more “uptown” area.
I’m just gonna come out and say it. Rich people give their nice things to secondhand shops, and I WANT THEM.
You can make a fun day trip out of it, and even try a new restaurant in the “uppity” part of town 😉 Often times, I will go to a different city’s stores anyway if I’m in an antique/thrifting rut.
Here’s the catch though: these places can also upcharge their items. If you’re on a tight budget, be aware of this before making the drive.
Take in the whole picture, THEN look at specifics
Here’s what I mean by that.
Stand at the entrance to a booth and take everything in. This may be a little easier if you’re on the hunt for furniture, because you’ll see the big pieces right away.
Then, once you’ve taken in the whole picture, walk in and look at what caught your eye specifically. Doing this makes me feel like I’m walking in with a purpose, not just wandering each booth aimlessly.
Bonus tip: if you have the time, walk through the store twice. More often than not, you’ll see something beautiful that you missed the first time! Also, I find that I’m less overwhelmed the second time because I have an idea of what the store has in…. store!
Don't judge a book by its cover
Recently, my mom and I walked inside a thrift store that was an absolute dump. The floors were old and stained, the shelves weren’t organized in any way, and the lightbulbs were way too dim for my liking.
I perused several aisles, and absolutely nothing was grabbing my attention.
“Mom, let’s just go ahead and leave. This place doesn’t look promising.”
But she convinced me to travel down a few more aisles.
And when we did, I found REAL Hearth and Hand floor cushions in perfect condition for 50% off what they’re selling them for at Target. There was also a Hearth and Hand metal lantern for $1.50. Yep, one dollar and fifty cents.
A couple moments of doubt on the front end paid off BIG!
As a footnote, there ARE more thrift stores than Goodwill!
Here are some you probably have in your area that you can do a quick Google search for:
- Salvation Army
- Habitat for Humanity
- Yard Sale stores
- look for the word “consignment”
I hope these tips helped you feel a little bit more encouraged about hitting your local thrift stores. There really are some gems out there waiting to come home with you!