Written By: Amanda Holmes
Dwell House is a full service staging and design company located in the heart of downtown Grants Pass. We believe good design in real estate has the power to create an emotional connection between people and spaces. Part of our styling process is finding pre-loved furniture and home decor through Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, and antique markets. As a home stager and inventory buyer, I am fortunate I get to apply my thrifty know-how to my job.
As a teen in the mid 90’s, I can wholeheartedly admit that the grunge era fueled my first thrift store ventures. My first memorable quest was for the ubiquitous “perfect flannel.” Three thrift stores into the hunt, I finally found the one – a men’s small, red plaid button down that was obviously more than slightly used. It had
probably been some dude’s work shirt for a few years until it came into my life, but now it was mine! I beamed with unfettered satisfaction and first-day-of-school fashionista daydreams. Pairing this flannel with my size 8 Docs, I could easily channel Aerosmith’s “Cryin’” video and give Ms. Silverstone a run for her money. I left the store, head held high, took a sip from my blackberry Clearly Canadian and popped Vitology into the CD player as I sped off with my new found friends in tow.
And I have been a thrift-store junky for ever after.
Fast forward to present day and I can tell you that thrifting has come a long way since my high school days. The images of crunchy, picked-over items are fading and thrifting is now considered a savvy way to shop for trendy and vintage items. So if you’re looking for new items for your own home or you’re needing to find some inexpensive items to stage your home for sale, I am offering ten tips on setting your mindset to purchase some sweet finds!
1) Avoid the notion that thrifting = used up and beaten down. Remember that people give away things for different reasons. It could be that there’s something wrong with it OR that it’s just seen better days OR it just wasn’t their style or the right size. Fingers crossed, these last scenarios are what you’re hoping for because that means it was barely used, if at all. Think about that decor piece your coworker/MIL/neighbor gave you that — while well intentioned — just didn’t flow with your decor vibe. What did you do with it? Say it with me…”I took it to Goodwill!,” right? And for someone else, that item that you literally never used became a score for a fraction of the original price. Those diamonds in the rough are the stars of the show and, honestly, the fuel to my thrifting fire. They keep me coming back for more!
2) Make a list of items you are looking for. You can keep this list on a notepad or on your phone for easy access. Remember to record any specific measurements of frames sizes, spaces to fill, space limitations, etc. You get the picture.
It’s also a good idea to take some pictures of your space that you’re decorating so that you don’t have to rely entirely on memory for your visualization practice. Even professional designers can’t keep all the visual details of space solely and completely in their minds. Make your shopping easier by making a list and it will be more enjoyable.
Also, keeping some photos of inspirational items handy is a good idea, kind of like an instant mood board, when you’re in the store bewildered by the bevy of choices. They will give you solid guidance when caught in the throes of a thrifting conundrum when you don’t know if an item will work just right.
Lastly, keep a measuring tape (preferably retractable or foldable) in your car or purse. Don’t miss out on the perfect piece because you just didn’t know if it would fit – a true thrift blunder.
3) Take a look at what’s on trend, especially if you are staging your home to sell. Before heading out to shop, peruse store websites that line up with your decor inspiration. These days we love getting ideas from West Elm, Urban Outfitters, Serena and Lilly, Lulu and Georgia, Homegoods and Potterybarn just to name a few. Get those images fresh in your mind so that when you’re out, you’ll recognize the current style when you see it.
4) Look (and smell) everything over several times. I usually look at something up and down, back and forth and all over, and if I like it, I put it in my cart. Before going up to the register though, I go through everything AGAIN to make sure I didn’t miss any imperfections that will prevent the sale. For furniture, open and close drawers and cabinets to check for proper functioning and imperfections inside. Anything on wheels should be pushed around to check those out too. Sit on it, open it, plug it in….try it out no matter what. And don’t forget to smell test anything covered in fabric. (Explanation not needed!) This is particularly of importance if picking an item for home staging. Many people will tour the home and any hint of unpleasant odor may offend and ultimately dissuade them from showing interest in your home.
5) Give yourself time to do a little digging. I don’t bring my husband thrifting with me for two reasons. #1 He gets bored and antsy #2 I feel rushed and ultimately annoyed. Digging is where the real gems can be found and where hard core thrifters like myself have moments of Earthly zen. Ommmmmmmmmm….
6) Go as often as possible. Even if you just pop in to see what’s new, most bigger or popular thrift stores are constantly bringing in new merch. While I was shopping the other day, they kept bringing stuff on to the sales floor non-stop. Find your favorite stores and stop in when passing by, even if you have only a few minutes. You just might find your bargain item (and at half price to boot!)
7) Decide what needs to be pristine and what can have a few “love blemishes”. For home staging purposes, sometimes a little blemish is okay. Sometimes it’s not. For tchotchke items like accessories for bookcases, a small blemish can be placed out of view or even fixed with some paint or a marker and no one would ever know. Even thrifted tables don’t have to be absolutely perfect because you will probably be putting things on top of them anyways. However, the exception is fabrics because they can hold smells for a loooong time and often become integral to the piece. (Refer back to rule #4).
8) Find out the store’s refund policy and save your receipts. At the Goodwill (GW) in our town of Grants Pass, Oregon you can return items you purchased within 7 days (check with your local GW to see if the policies are
the same). If you paid with debit or credit card you can get a full refund to the card. If you paid cash, you can only get store credit. Check in to these options wherever you are if it will make a big difference to you.
9) Scope out yard sales and estate sales in your local classifieds, Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist have specific categories for Garage/Yard sale ads. Map them out, check out the start times noting that estate sales often start on Thursday and sometimes on Wednesday. The early bird gets the most selection: The late bird gets the half-off deals.
**BONUS** – at yard and estate sales YOU CAN HAGGLE!! Tip – If it’s the last day of a sale, go low with your offers. By this time, most people’s first priority is to just get rid of stuff with making money a distant second. They don’t want to haul all of this back inside or to the secondhand store. Gather all the things you want first and then make a low, one price offer for everything in your lot. You’ll usually kick yourself for not offering lower because they will usually take your first offer – and happily at that!
10) Keep an open mind and expand your creativity After all of the accolades of thrifting are bestowed, it’s still a game of sifting through items to find a good deal and sometimes that means putting a little love and work into restoring your found treasure to a more pristine state. Sometimes just a little rubbing alcohol, paint, or a good marker will fix blemishes well enough for your staging goals.
I certainly hope this article gives you some thrifting inspiration and helpful tips for wading through the vast variety of decor items you’ll be sure to find when out on your own thrift-ventures!
So, take a trip to your local second hand store and see what’s new and what’s changed since the last time you’ve been in one.
Maybe those monumental finds will have you experiencing your own thrift store nirvana. Happy Thrifting!!