As my daughters and I entered our local Goodwill last week, the oldest took a big whiff and sighed, ” I love the smell of Goodwill.”
I practically snorted my last gulp of coffee, and just began to chuckle. Contemplating how she could possibly enjoy that distinct thrift smell, I realized that she embraces thrift store shopping as an experience, just like her mommy.
- When most can’t get past the musty smell, I embrace the smell of potential.
- When most walk in, look around, and feel overwhelmed, I see it as a challenge of creativity.
- When most look at an outdated tacky barely brass lamp, I envision it spray painted with amazing butter cream yellow.
- When most think they don’t have any good thrift stores around, I may challenge that – are you looking hard enough?
Yes, thrift store shopping is not for everyone, but for me...it’s part of who I am – the beauty and the bedlam. 🙂
So here are some small ways in how I navigate a thrift store.
In every Frugal Fashionista and Trash to Treasure post that I write, multiple commentors state that there aren’t any good thrift stores where they live. I obviously can’t speak to every single state, but I have been through most of the continental U.S. and I always sniff out thrift stores.
The ironic thing is that most of the people in my own home town would claim the same thing.
Do you know how often I hear, “Jen, I just can’t find anything like you do. I only find junk.”
The problem centers around the fact that thrift stores do not advertise, are typically situated in lower rent, fairly junky looking buildings (except for the revamped Good Wills with a Starbucks – whoot whoot), and people only find out about them by world of mouth.
Start asking around. Find a classy lady that shops thrift and find her secret locations. I can’t tell you how many people from our little city have now frequented “my” thrift stores. They just didn’t know what they didn’t know and never asked.
Living in the country, I do have to travel thirty minutes one way for most of my life in general. You may need to drive…a bit.
Thrift stores are NOT created equal, and some are…well…nasty. A few that I frequent necessitate two bottles of hand sanitizer. If you’re new to the whole second hand thing, you may want to leave those stores for the veterans, but I have found amazing pieces of furniture to repurpose/paint from some questionable establishments. 🙂
Prices will vary dramatically. Many stores have special days throughout the month where they discount specific items. Some days clothes may be 50% off, other days it might be housewares that are on sale. Our local Goodwill has set prices on clothes, and does not have any discount days throughout the year. But when our family went on our “no spend vacation“ to Pigeon Forge, their Goodwill had discount days every week. The prices were higher to begin with, but you could still find great deals on the marked down merchandise.
Stores are often open to negotiation on larger ticket items such as furniture, so it never hurts to ask. (Remember to ask really nicely with gratitude in your heart. The “I deserve it/this item is a rip off” approach never works) :).
Thrift store shopping is not for the faint of heart. You may go in and not find one single thing, but then week later, you hit the treasure jackpot. During the summer, I stick to yard sale-ing, but as winter approaches, I pop my head in at least once a week for a quick look see. I have it down to a science and I can spend as little as ten minutes so it doesn’t feel overwhelming any more. If I am doing a big clothes shopping trip, then I do take longer.
Most Sunday evenings right before children’s choir begins, you can find me scanning “The Boutique.”
Oh, this place keeps me grounded. It’s probably the only “boutique” I’ll ever shop.
If my rich college prep high school friends could see me now…they would never believe that the girl whose dad owned a ritsy country club would ever shop here. And guess what I’d tell them…what I do tell them…I love every minute of it.
And yes, I realize my boutique looks something like a crime scene, but it doesn’t bother these cutie pies one bit.
Yikes, this is becoming a novel. How do I navigate the overwhelming amounts of clothes? I’ve begun to cover that topic in “Finding Great Clothes at a Thrift Store.
Now onto a “thinking out of the box mentality.”
Typically, when I first enter a store, I head straight to the housewares, glassware, and furniture sections. (Browsing through clothes takes more time.)
I look for quality glassware, frames, pictures, trays…anything that I can reuse and repurpose. Yard sales are where steals can be had, but thrift stores have a broader selection.
This was a large quality wood frame. These old, ugly frames become gorgeous fabric art for dollars or painted white, they become the centerpiece of a gallery wall. Check out more ideas for these old frames – DIY Cheap Wall Art.
Covering over the ugly picture, putting some gorgeous scrapbook paper or fabric as a background, and then hanging a pretty decorative plate in the center would be beautiful with this picture. Or maybe I may paint over it with some chalkboard paint, and use it as my kitchen command center. I love that thought.
Or How about attempting a larger version of what I did for my daughters’ room?
This mirror screams 80’s decor, but loving it up with a quick coat of black paint would scream class. So many possibilities for only $10.
Guess how long this piece of table trash sat waiting for someone to see its treasure potential?
TWO WEEKS! And every time I saw it a piece of me died because I knew it was a steal for only $12.99.
Do you know how I just knew?
This is a great post, Jen! Thanks for breaking it all down for us! Kelly
so true! i love all the points you made about thrift shops. i would not have enjoyed thrifting when i was growing up, but now i can’t bear going to “regular” stores. finding hidden potential is so much more satisfying.
love this. i love yard sales and thrift stores. i’m not as good as finding the deals as you are, but i’m improving.
I have to say that was a fabulous article. Right now, my husband is stationed in Germany. We wanted some wine glasses typical to the Bavarian region. They were about 4 euros apiece. I managed to hold the hubby off from buying a whole cabinet full. I found a second hand store here that we can get them for about 20 to 50 cent euro. Besides the color green, we can also get them in amber and red! I love a good thrift store and am so glad that even Germany can fill that longing that I have! 🙂
Heya Jen- Great post. I can believe that you only need 10 min but that is impressive. And the beautiful table- seriously 12.99??- that would have been hard not to buy, paint and sell on craigslist.
Thanks for sharing!
Great post, as usual! Funny, too, because I have a similar post sitting in my draft box…
I’ve nominated you for a blog award—keep up the good work!
Great post, as usual! Funny, too, because I have a similar post sitting in my draft box…
I’ve nominated you for a blog award—keep up the good work!
Jen, you are one classy lady. And not because your father owned a ritzy country club. The class is because of what’s inside you.
You know, I think that people like you are doing a great service to the world, because you’re showing what you really DO find at thrift stores and how you really DO use it and how it all looks great. I think that there are a lot of people who are a little too insecure ever to go into a thrift store, as if they would be judged harshly for shopping there. And so they rack up credit card debt so that they can shop at stores whose bags they are proud to carry around the mall. A high price to pay for a few minutes of counterfeit self-esteem, isn’t it?
You have true class, and it shows. And you’re the most awesome example!
Seeing treasure in trash is an art. I’ve tried for years and don’t have the skill. Though I do admire yours.
This is a great post! I have been thrifting for years, and can’t switch back now. My oldest daughter is taking after her mother, and recently introduced her new hubby to the world of thriftiness with all its possibilities. She really has the ability to look at a piece of clothing and see big possibilities.
Thanks for the reminder to browse often and browse with an eye. You know, sometimes you just need that little nudge.
Okay! I’m sold. Next week I’m going to the Goodwill. I’ll let you know how it goes for me! I may even do a blog post about it. (I’ll let you know if I do).
Thanks again for inspiring me!! YOu always do. 🙂
Jen, this is an awesome post!!!! 🙂 I think some people just have the gift (I really do think it is a gift) of being able to see potential in someone else’s cast-off. It’s hard for others to look past the crud and be creative.
I feel like I am pretty good to some extent at seeing the treasure potential in “trash.” My mom is NOT. You should have seen her face when I showed her our first home (that we still live in). Now she can’t believe that some of the changes we’ve made have created a cute, warm, happy home. 🙂
LOVED your example of the BH&G and the PB tables. 🙂 Perfect!
I love thrift store shopping! I shop at the Goodwill not only because it’s what I can afford, but also because I would rather own stuff second hand than have it go in a landfill, and lastly because they benefit the community by providing job training for the unemployed.
I am wondering how you would paint that table? My dining table is similiar and I have been wanting to paint it white but I’m worried the paint won’t stick to it. Do you sand things first? Or apply a special primer?
Thanks! I’ve been enjoying reading your blog.
I love that table! Your post was great. I can’t wait to read the tips on going through the clothes. Blessings!
You know, it wasn’t until this morning that I realized what a great thrift store I have. I went to two in a nearby city and they were AWFUL! Even though I never come home with a pile of stuff, I’ve gotten some great things at my store little by little. Thanks for the post!
Thanks for those virtual cinnamon rolls the other day!! 🙂
This post made me laugh when I saw what it was titled – a friend and I met at a large school yard sale today. It was well organized and spread out over a large area and we just looked at each other and both asked “WHERE do we start?!?!”
I was hoping your post was going to break down the answer “X is the best place to start. Then Y and then you go to the Z area.”
You are so, so, so right that yard sales have the steals and thrift stores the variety!! I love thrift stores, but after hitting amazing yard sales even thrift store prices seem high to me!! 🙂 haha.
One of todays steals was a brand -new-with price attached Steve Madden clutch for a dime… price tag had it at $55!!
I finally have something comment-worthy to share!!! I have that table – the man we bought our first house from gave it to us. And I saw that BHG years ago, too. We’ve discussed painting “Bert’s table” black for a loooooooong time. Today, hubby bought the paint! Yeah!
But I’m still waiting for you to come to SD and take me thrifting.
Oh I love this treasure map for how to make your way through a thrift store to the real golden find! Consignment sales and yard sales have been my forte up to now, but you have inspired me to give thrift stores another chance!
That’s the same table that I have! We got ours new (plus 4 chairs), though our local Goodwill DID have the same table not long before we got ours.
The only thing stopping me from buying the thing was the price tag: $169. It was very obviously used. At the time all I could think was that I would have to sand it down and refinish it. I never thought of painting the thing. But it wasn’t worth it to me anyway for that price. Our brand new one with 4 chairs and a leaf cost around $300.
I need to scout out some more stores around my area!
Hey, thrifting sista, you know how I feel about all of this too. What a steal on that table, yes black or white would totally transform it. Can’t beleive no one bought it.
I looked at the picture, looked at my table, looked back at the picture and back to my table and started laughing. My table is just like that one, except it’s oval. LOL!!! I certainly didn’t pay $12.99 for it either! It was over $500, so I know you’re getting a great deal. I also got 6 matching chairs. Do you get the chairs too?
That’s an amazing price for the table! At our local thrift stores, it would run about $75-100. Country auctions are the place around here for good prices on furniture. I am sitting right now at an antique oak table similar to the one you just bought–we got it at auction for $65, and it has served us well for ten years.
I buy almost all of my family’s clothes at a Salvation Army–not the local one, but a town over, where the “rich” people live! A well-managed thrift store is worth the drive and the time. I try to visit once or twice a week. I actually avoid the store’s sale day–it is mayhem!–and instead go first thing in the morning on Tuesday (the weekend’s new donations go on the floor Monday night) and/or Friday (when they restock for the upcoming weekend). I often get half-price, but the selection is more important to me. I am picky!
Last Tuesday, I got a wonderful NWOT A-line skirt, a cashmere sweater in my favorite shade of green, a paisley shawl, and a pair of shorts for exercise: $13.50. Not rock-bottom prices, but I am very pleased and grateful! 🙂
Blessings, Jen–please keep these Friday fashion posts coming.
I had a question for you I thought of during the night (inspired by your post and the “Start asking around” comment).
This weekend I am going to be in Columbia, SC. It’s a much larger city than where I live and I am hoping to go to some thrift stores while I am there. I was wondering if you could maybe ask if any of your readers are from that area/have been there and could let me know where some good thrift stores are in that area?
Oh, I wish we had a thrift store that even resembled that one.
I am going to have to try your bread recipe below. I grind my grain and make my own but we have never found a recipe that we are truly happy with. Yours looks great. Have a great week.
yeah, you are on WP! are you loving it? I am!
OK, can you tell me your secret boutique location?????
You were awesome this morning at church!
I love your thrift store posts! It really does take some patience and a certain eye to find treasures at a thrift store or yard sale. I think I’m always in too much of a hurry, just because of where I am in life (8 young kids, homeschooling 5 of them–always so much to do!) But when I do get some ‘guilt-free’ time to just look, I always come home with a couple of things I love. Thanks for the reminder!
Oh, I know that smell of thrift stores! That’s so funny! I get this rush of excitement and curiosity when I step into a thrift store, it’s incredibly addicting. In fact, reading this post caused that rush and now I want to run over to Goodwill and see what they have.
First timer here, and bookmarking you now!
Just re-subscribed to the new feed 🙂 And this post makes me happy. Your photos make me feel right at home! I’m getting the thrifting bug!
This is one of my favorite posts ever!! I’m heading to my local Goodwill with new inspiration. AND, we just recently found THE best Goodwill in our town. Very high end clothing for 2.50.
I love going to thrift stores! It is a riot that your daughter loves the smell…that’s not something I love about thrift stores. There are some that are so bad I feel like I need to take a shower when I get home. But, it’s all worth it. Thanks for all of the tips.
Great post – loved it! And now I want to go thrifting 🙂
I love thrifting (just not my Goodwill – their prices are WAY too high!). GREAT job!!
These are really great tips. I think people think that thrift finds come tap you on the shoulder! You have to dig for it, it’s the thrill of the hunt!
Great post! I was just thinking about this the other day, because I’ve gotten much better at spotting the potential in things. I really do think its something that you can learn.
I’ve found that two of the keys for me are (1) checking out lots of other people’s makeovers (because it helps stretch my imagination) and (2) taking my time. I find much more at a thrift store when I take the time to browse slowly.
What a great post! How many of my friends say the same thing- they can’t fin dstuff like me- I say it takes having ‘it’ to get it! lol I will pass this one on!
Really great info! I’m new to thrift stores and do feel like “there’s nothing here”. I finally bought some cool glass containers today and felt like a pirate finding treasure!
Am I to late to comment here? I just discovered you thru blog land. You discribed my thrifting life to a tee! I have the same ways you do for thrifting. Sometimes I feel alone because nobody gets me. But that doesn’t stop me. Thanks for the support in what I do!
So, did you buy the $12.99 table and replicate the BHG cover?
I am not good at “seeing” things as anything other than what they are (well, I can imagine a coat of paint, but that’s about as far as it goes), but even I can see that table is a steal! $12.99?! (The furniture here is usually hundreds. Is that a typical price for your thrift store?) And that mirror? Drool.
I am looking forward to hearing how you get in an out of the thrift store so quickly. None of the ones here have colored tag days, etc., which is what I’m accustomed to from my thrift shopping as a teen. But I can’t get in and out that quickly, so my children dread having to go in regularly (and, as a result, so do I).
I’m curious, too – what do you consider good prices for frames? I always feel like art at the thrift stores is horribly overpriced, but maybe my expectations are just too high.
Oh! And please point out to your readers to use size tags when they’re helpful for narrowing things down, but not to worry so much about them that they miss out.
I saw a skirt at our Goodwill last time I was in there. The tag said XL. It looked so small that I thought, man, that is really scary that that’s an XL. (It was stretchy fabric and I thought that it was just a *really* long way to stretch and would be *awfully* tight.) Because it looked so small, I decided to try it on anyway, and it fit great. I normally wear anywhere from a 2 down to a 000, depending on brand! When I tried it on, I discovered that someone had taken it in on the sides (considerably, apparently). Anyway, the point is, there is no way I would normally wear an XL, so if I had just gone with the tag, I would have never even looked twice at this skirt.
So glad I found this site – I used to shop thrift years ago but hadnt since moving to this area. (I do shop consignment and sales though). So I hit GW after reading this, and was so excited to find a stool for my daughters vanity. Have been looking for a while and found nothing under $40. This little bench is the perfect size, but the paint on the legs is chipped up and the fabric on top is dirty and ugly. But we got it for FIVE DOLLARS! Yes! Woohoo! We’ll fix it up, take that nasty fabric off, recover it, and whala – she’ll FINALLY have a bench for her vanity! Thanks for the inspiration!
I know this post is a month old but I just found it today and had to show my husband. We own that 12:99 table and have eaten on it for twenty years. We bought it at Sam’s Club for 199.00.It has a leaf that makes it a large oval table that would fit a large family. Ours is looking worn but I never thought about painting it.Thanks for the great idea!
Thanks for the table idea! My husband got almost the same wood table from his Mom and I hate it! Now I can show him the photos and see about painting it! Thanks for the idea! If you have any advice on how to do it (I have never done anything like this before) I would greatly appreciate it!
I LOVE the table idea! We had one like that which we bought brand new with 4 junky chairs for $450. Wish I had thought about painting the horrid thing! It would’ve gone great out on our enclosed front porch. Hmm … maybe if I look around at my stores long enough, I’ll see it again. 😉
I love your blog! 🙂
I just opened a nice Thrift Shop a couple of months ago. I have advertised like crazy, but just can’t seem to get the word out to the right people. I have a very nice, clean organized store with clean items. I am also very flexible with pricing. We are even located next to a major landmark, Seminole Hard Rock Casino. Any suggestions on how to get the word out?
Thanks so much. Maverick’s Thrift, LLC
4960 SW 52 St. – Suite 408. Davie, FL 33314
You are truly my soul mate
Thrifters unite! 🙂
My husband and I both love thrift store. My husband is English and we lived across the pond for 5 years before immigrating him over here. I love the charity stores they call them there. They make the look so nice. None of them are as big as some of our Goodwill’ but you can find some great stuff. I found a beautiful set of china there. We got so well known at our local one that when something came in they thought we would want they would set it aside for us. So I have been thrift shopping all over Europe. Every time we would go to another country we would find the thrift store. We just love it
How do you keep yourself from constantly buying and occasionally creating? Storage has become a problem… I am a painter, so anything that just needs to be painted I have purchased, but there are things that I say “that is just too good” to repurpose. Need to be able to say no to the inner voice.
oh Leah – yes, that has been a problem for me too, so now I have to be SO very careful. I am not buying things anymore until I get a project done or if I’m willing to donate because clutter (even gorgeous clutter) adds up. 🙂