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Top10 things to look for when thrift shopping!

Shopping at thrift stores can be fun or frustrating - depends on the mindset. It really does. If you head out with expectations of finding specific pieces, but leave empty handed - it's no wonder you you don't like to shop at thrift stores. I don't know anyone who enjoys bing repeatedly disappointed and frustrated. Try this instead...lower your expectations and prepare to be surprised. The lower your expectations are when you walk into a thrift store, the greater the reward. Will you find that elusive unicorn every time? Probably not, but you might find its centaur brother.

Lowering your expectations doesn't mean you walk in with no plan, though that could be an approach if you have all the time in the world. Having in mind the types of things you're looking for will be helpful because it will guide your search a bit. Just think of them in large generalities rather than specifics.

Because I thrift often I’ve learned how to be efficient in the hunt. I look for these same things every time I thrift. Your list may be different, but if you make a list, keep it in generalities like mine.

1. Brass:

It’s a good day if I find brass items! Especially if they’re brass figurines that would look adorable on a bookshelf. Throw in a brass planter and my heart beats pitter patter. :) Seriously, what do I look for: figurines (like birds), candlesticks (especially tapers), planters, bowls, maybe even dishes with the appearance of brass rings around the edges. Swoon!

2. White service/dish ware:

White dish ware is the perfect base layer for setting a luxurious party table, holiday table, special occasion table, any table that you want to have that little extra something…start with white.

3. Baskets (and straw-like bags):

Baskets are so versatile. Their composition and color can instantly add warmth to any room. New baskets can be cost prohibitive, so I always look for used. Handles, handle-less, big, small, covered, cover-less, you get the idea. Look for ones with a little special something: maybe a leather detail or fun handles. Avoid the dusty ones - those babies can be hard to clean.

4. Planters/vases:

Here’s the deal with planters and vases. When looking for these, expectations need to be LOW. Like if expectations were measured on a scale from 1-10, these expectations would be a negative 5. The potential almost always relies on the possibility of the original structural shape and the scope of the imagination. In other words - look for non-traditional vessels that could make a potential planter (a cup, a floral china bowl, etc.) or that can be modified by painting or texturizing (like I did with this Pottery Barn knock off here)?

5. Books:

What a great way to grow a library or decorate a home. Really truly. There’s so much potential in books. They tell a story, can compliment decor and can be used to add height, texture and personality to a space. One tip: look under the dust jacket. What color is it and how good of shape is it in? Could that color compliment the color story in your house?

6. Wooden service ware:

Wooden napkin rings are my current favorite, but wooden bowls run a close second. Mind you, if you find a bowl you like there’s no rule that says you HAVE to serve salad in it. Can you use it as a planter, a towel holder, a dropping space for keys, a tray for catch-alls on your coffee table…the options are endless. Why wood? Wood tones naturally warm up a space. You don’t need to have a boho or flea market style to enjoy a bit of wood. BUT…caution…too many wood tones in one room can be a no-no.

7. Glassware:

I’m a sucker for vintage glassware. It can be so pretty. Remember that luxurious table setting we talked about with the white dishware? And the wooden service ware, like napkin rings? And the brass cnadlesticks? Now imagine some vintage style glassware nestled in among the brass candlesticks, the wooden napkin rings and a runner of eucalyptus leaves…can you see it? Ahhh…heavenly.

8. Trending color/design elements:

Thrifting can be a great way to try out trends in colors or design elements. Trends, by their very nature are fleeting, so spending a lot of money on these items, for me, is a non-starter. But I’ll definitely try it if I can find it used. Read more about how to try trends here. Try looking in the textiles (found a curtain in this year’s color of the year…make a pillowcase!) and dishes remembering that with a white foundation, any color can be added!

9. Party supplies:

This is a new category for me and honestly, I wish I would have thought about the potential sooner. I love myself a good party! I love decorating the table, the house, making it thematic - the whole kit and caboodle. Often times at thrift stores you’ll find brand new, in the package, party supplies. It’s easy to add paper flamingos to your pool party when you’re spending $1.00 on each one instead of $15.00.

10. Seasonal:

Like anything in a thrift store, this category is hit or miss. Sometimes it’s all junk, other times there are so many treasures to be had. Shopping here for seasonal celebrations and decor can infuse so much personality to your space. Remember that white foundational dish ware advice - here’s where it comes in really handy. Seasonal dish ware sprinkled on your holiday table looks phenomenal with a white background. Those green leafy plates you passed up the other day? Remember those? Envision them sandwiched between your white dinner plate and your white salad plate. Adorable. All alone, maybe not so cute. Layered and dressed appropriately for the season…perfect and ready for Easter!

Remember…the lower the expectations you have, the more rewarding the finds will be! Keep an open mind, have fun and share your favorites!


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