Thrifting 101

I heart GoodwillI love thrift stores.  A dangerous amount of love. Like, it could hurt my marriage amount of love. Just kidding. Not that much. A tiny fraction below that amount is how much I love them. They are like garage sales, except you don’t have to get out of bed early on a Saturday. And random strangers price the items rather than the person who originally purchased them. (Your junk is not worth what you think it is!)

I can honestly say I have three decades of experience in this area, even though I am not nearly old enough to make that claim. 😉 I feel like I could write volumes on successful thrifting, but that would take forever and I’m typing this in the middle of the night. In a nutshell: go often and learn the pricing system.

If you have not been inside a thrift store in six months and decide that you will run out this Saturday to The Salvation Army and buy a super cute dresser for your daughter’s nursery like your friend/neighbor/church lady/that one blogger did, you are delusional. It won’t happen, but if it does happen, it is some sort of freak accident and won’t happen that way again.

It’s like the one lady you know who always has the most adorable outfits and she *always* got a great deal. She didn’t score that fabulous bubble necklace off the clearance rack at JC Penney’s for ninety-seven cents by going to the clearance rack and looking for bubble necklaces.

If you want to be That Lady who always finds great deals, you have to be That Lady who is always looking for great deals. No, I’m not encouraging shopping. No way. Never. I am telling you that if you want to find the best deals, it will be hard work. Or at least a fun hobby, depending on your personality.

Are there decent deals and probably a dresser at The Salvation Army every day? Yes. Will you find amazing pieces worth writing home about for a tiny amount of money by going thrifting a couple of random Saturdays a year? No.

While I have been known to buy clothing from thrift stores, I usually find it to be ridiculously expensive. I can buy brand new jeans off the clearance rack at Children’s Place for what Goodwill wants for a pair of grungy used boy jeans. Most thrift stores have a color coding system based on when they received an item and how long it has been on the rack. Clothes are “worth” buying when they are the color of the week. Or, The Salvation Army puts all clothing half-off on Wednesdays, and then it is worth buying.  Unless you are looking for a specific item that you’d be willing to pay an extreme amount for (I’m OCD, and have hosted period costume parties. I get it!), learn to shop the off season and clearance racks at the mall. Or go to Ross. Both offer much better deals than thrift stores.

Furniture is another story. There are great deals to be had! Especially if you get lucky and find an item about which the pricer was clueless. They sometimes think a filthy old chest from Florence Knoll is as equally worthless as a black lacquered nightstand circa 1980. I love those pricers!! I want to kiss them.  Others have apparently taken some sort of class and get the price so right. Argh. I want to smack them. This is a thrift store, dangit! Not 1stdibs.com.

It is a good idea to have several projects in mind while thrifting. You don’t want to pass up the perfect twin bed for your son’s room just because you are looking for dining room chairs. Next month when you get around to moving your son from his crib to his new big-boy bed, you might just kick yourself.

Likewise, the best deals are usually found with no project in mind. You’ll need to be in agreement with your husband/roommate/whomever shares your garage about this issue. It can get out of hand. Just like clothes shopping, you don’t need every item that is a great deal just because it is a great deal. But be open. You’ll likely regret it later if you are not. The one that got away might just haunt you for the next ten years until you find another one. Trust me. I’m speaking from experience.

Thankfully, someone invented Craigslist. I’m guessing Craig did. If you buy too many items that you just couldn’t pass up or your hubby can’t get to the table saw any longer or you change design direction, you can usually list them on Craigslist. If a year has gone by and that amazing dresser (or three) is still sitting unused in your garage, just get rid of it. No harm no foul. You might even make money. And you enjoyed the hunt as a hobby. No losses here.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not encouraging hoarding. I am not encouraging a shopping problem. I am not encouraging an addiction to thrifting. I am not telling you to buy everything you see “just in case.” I am talking about things you truly love and think you’ll use. This is about making your home a warm, inviting place you enjoy, not more chaotic.

I’ve got some thrift projects coming up in the following weeks. I promise to get some fun eye candy on this blog eventually. What is a DIY/design blog without yummy pictures? But I’ve still got boxes sitting everywhere, Christmas needs to be put away, and the kids aren’t going to educate themselves. Hang tight. I’m working as fast as I can! Thanks for sticking around.

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