Friday, April 12, 2013

Thrift Shopping Tips

Thank you for taking the time to vote for Joys of Home at the JDR Industry Awards. The voting closes today 4pm PST so if you haven't voted yet I would be honored if you took a moment to go HERE to cast your vote. (Voting is now closed.) I am grateful for you! Now lets discuss another fun topic....

I often get questions while thrifting and on my blog about how I find such great treasures. I thought it might be fun to have you come along with me to the thrift shop and I'll share my treasure hunting strategies.
My thrift store is fairly clean and organized so the first thing I do when I enter the store is go directly to the aisle that contains metals, holiday decorations and knick-nacks. I search for silver trays and bowls, interesting brass objects, or fun accessories. I hit this aisle first because those are the things that interest me right now. A few years ago when I was collecting white ironstone pieces I would look at dishes first.
TIP #1: Get to know the layout of the store and look for your favorite items first.
TIP #2: Go down the aisles more than once. You'll be amazed at the items you didn't notice the first time.
I also keep an eye out as I walk along the domestics. Yes, I'm the woman squeezing the pillows to check if they're down-filled. I have also been known to smell them as well as other domestic items for unusual smells like mothballs or smoke, those odors that are not easily removed with washing. I know some people have an aversion to buying used pillows or sheets but I have no problem with these items as long as I throw them into the washing machine before I use them. 
TIP #3: Don't just buy a used pillow for it's looks. If you find a fluffy down-filled pillow you can remove the ugly cover, wash the insert and sew or buy a new cover. I never pay more than $4 for a thrifted pillow and compared to new store prices that's an incredible savings for a down-filled insert. Down pillows can be washed and dried but they generally take a few days to fully dry and get fluffy again. 

My thrift store has an outdoor area that houses miscellaneous items such as furniture, building supplies, frames, lamps, and larger items that don't fit on the shelves inside. On this day I spotted a table for ten dollars. 
TIP #4: Always keep an open mind and look at the piece for what it can become. A well built dining chair could easily be updated with new fabric. An ugly mirror might turn into a beauty if the frame is spray painted a fun color. With the table in the photo, for instance, I wouldn't buy it to use as a table but I may buy it because of the top. I have a building project in mind that I may want to use the butcher block and at ten dollars that's a great buy! 
TIP #5: Bring along a few tools. I always carry a measuring tape and a multi-screwdriver. The measuring tape helps me figure out if an item will work in the spot I need. With the screwdriver I can see if an item just needs a little tightening or if there is a bigger problem that might require more work than I'm willing to spend money and energy repairing.
TIP #6: Find out when the "new" items come out. Most thrift stores in my area bring out the newly donated items from the time they open until about 4:30 with a break for lunch. The items come out on large rolling carts. But I must warn you, you need to have some serious ninja skills in order to snatch an awesome item off these carts. When they're rolled out it becomes a piranha feeding frenzy! 
TIP #7: Grab a shopping cart. A cart holds all of your treasures and frees up your hands for finding more. I strongly advise putting EVERYTHING in the cart that catches your eye. If it catches your eye it will likely catch someone else's eye which means if you leave that wonderful item on the shelf while you think about it, it may not be there when you decide you want it.
TIP #8: Now that you found your treasures, ask yourself questions: Do I really love it? Will it look good in my home? Am I attracted to this merely because it's a good deal? Answering these questions can save you money and help you avoid becoming a full-out thrifting hoarder. This is also a good time to pare down and put back the items that don't make the cut. But PLEASE put the items back in the proper place. I see too many people put their unwanted items in piles leaving the store employees to clean up after them.
TIP #9: Many thrift shoppers do the pare down technique so if you see something in someone's cart that you like, say something to them. Be polite. Tell them how lucky they are to find that item. Tell them you admire it and then tell them that if, by chance, they decide they don't want it you may be interested. Sometimes these comments work and the person will give you the item, in which case you then thank them immensely. If it doesn't work, your comments have just made the person feel happy about their treasure and it always feels good to make someone happy. If you don't feel comfortable talking to strangers who have a thrift treasure you admire you can always stalk them.....from a distance. 
TIP #10: Use the cart to style your finds. This strategy helps me figure out if the items I'm buying really will fit my home. It's so tempting to pick up all sorts of lovely items because of the incredible prices but even if you only pay fifty cents for something that you won't love when you bring it home, that's fifty cents too much!

Here's my cart full of the treasures I was drawn to on this shopping trip (before paring down):
*Candles-I usually pay $2 or less. I look for white or cream colored as well as ones with a lovely scent.
*Fabric-I've found all sorts of fabric for great prices; anything from lace to upholstery fabric.
*Pictures-I look at the picture and the frame. If I like the picture I can always paint the frame. If I like the frame I can always lose the picture.
*Baskets-They are always great for storage or to give filled with small gifts.
*Silver, Gold, or Brass accessories-Useful, pretty and versatile.
*Holiday Items-The best prices on these are usually when they are out of season.
*Domestics-Pillows, tablecloths and runners, throws, and curtains all can be found for great prices.
*Accessories-Many of my home accessories come from the thrift store (The barometer in the photo would look cute on a shelf and the wood slice could be great topped with a nest and a cloche).
*Faux grasses, plants and flowers-These often come with a little dust from the previous owner. They just need a little shower in the sink or the tub to look new again.
*Dishes-Useful for their intended use, but can also be used to accessorize a coffee table, hang on a wall, or for holding keys, the tv remote, or jewelry.

Thanks for coming along with me thrift shopping. I hope you find these tips helpful. Happy Thrifting!


Gayle said...

Great tips Joy! I was looking at the pictures trying to figure out which DI you shop at, but they all look pretty much the same anymore so I had no luck with that! LOL I voted for you and checked out the competition - your blog is definitely the best and most down-to-earth! Hope you win!

Angie said...

Great advice and ideas...thanks!

collegekim said...

This is a great article and helped making my thrift store visits a little less chaotic. Love the tip about filling the cart with things you love and then paring down.

Syndi said...

Thanks for sharing these great tips. You've inspired me to check some thrift stores on Thurs rather than a trip to the branded home decor store I was planning.

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