From Trash to Treasure: Thrifting Tips

Remember all of this? And all of this?
It's been a long...
and messy process...
but I lived through it and am here to tell you all about it.
Thrift store, garbage pickup dining room

With a little creativity and a lot of luck, your home can be delightful on a VERY thrifty budget.

Vintage postcards jazz up a bathroom frame

When I first posted some before pictures, so many of you said,

I wish I had a thrift store that was not just a pretty name for a garbage dump so I could find some fabulous goodies, but I don't. So I look at your pile and drool.

You have really good taste! I don't know that I would have the artistic eye to pick up all that great stuff!

I haven't been lucky enough to find a thrift store worthy of more than one visit in my area, I will keep searching though!

You truly have a gift for thrift. I can never seem to find anything!!

Ladies, it is your lucky day...I am here to tell you my tips, secrets, and junk finding ways...

Candle chandelier in backyard

1. Yes, some thrift stores are secretly doubles for a junk yard...or a high end boutique.

I hear ya, and you are right. Give them a couple chances and if they do not prove themselves worthy, don't waste your time. Whether it is junky or waaaayyy overpriced (like I can find the same thing at Ross for a better price), there are a handful of places I go to in hopes of finding something great only to be disappointed in the end. I don't even bother.

2. Because of #1, search for a good thrift store.

This takes time. Sometimes things are picked over. Keep on going back, find when they get new shipments, etc etc. Stop at thrift shops you see on the side of the road. One of my favorite stores is about 20 minutes away from my house but right off the freeway when I drive downtown. I do not drive by much, but when I do, I make sure to stop (even if I am about to be late to a meeting!). Sometimes you have to go out of your way for good finds.

Wall hanging birdcage turned picture memo board

Another thing to keep in mind is where the junk comes from. This particular store that I love has a religious affiliation where I think all the great home decor comes from. Middle class families with women who decorate their home...donating goooood stuff. Something to keep in mind. Another store I like does not take donations. I have no idea where the stuff comes from but it is not from the same people (me) who dump their junk at donation sites. Just being honest. ;)

Love these keys!

3. Once you have found a gem, get to know it.

Some stores price down their items to circulate items out quickly. For example, there is this darling quilt I have found that is a little pricey. Right now it is yellow tag priced at 25% off. Next week it will be 50% and the following 75%. I am waiting on 75% and am crossing my fingers it will still be there! I know all of this because I watch when the certain colored tags get reduced and the employees will tell me orange tags are new and just came in this week. What are there hours? When do new shipments come in? Do they ever have any type of clearance or sales? All good things to know, so you are one up on the crazy thrifters (cough, me).

Plate holder? How about trivet holder!

It is also beneficial to know where things are in the store. I just found out that there is furniture hidden in the back corner of one of my favorite stores. I also did not realize that the bedding area also includes aprons, table linens, and window treatments. A new world of shopping has been discovered! The kitchen and table wear stuff is also divided into two sections. One is a much pricier "antique" display. Over time I have found that this stuff is a little over my price range so I don't even bother to look there any more...I go right to the cheap stuff! ;)

Garbage day gem

4. Don't buy it just because it is cheap.

It may be junk for a reason. Do you really need it? Do you have room for it? If this was higher priced, would you still buy it? I have to constantly keep this in mind...almost anything can have potential but just because it is cheap does not make it always worth it. Things at a small price add up quickly so be wise in what you buy. If you are unsure, make sure to put it in your basket to think about it. That way it is in your hands so no one else can grab it but you can still put it back if you change your mind.

5. See the potential.

Now for those of you without problem #4, this is for you. Look for things with good shapes, designs, and condition. Try to not focus so much on color. Most home decor items can easily be spray painted for cheap to match your decor. Probably everything but like three things in this post were spray painted...

Please excuse the spackling...

6. Make a list of things you are on the look for.

Do you need candle holders, frames, plates, art for the walls? Have at least a mental list of things and places in your home where you would like to add some thrifty finds. This will help you focus and not get lost amongst all the glorious things they have to offer. The more you shop, your eye will become trained to look for certain things. And if you don't find what you are looking for, come back another time. This is a mental hopeful list, not a "I need this now" list. You never know what you might find thrifting so it is good to keep these things open for whatever you might find.

Slip covered free couch

7. Get a second opinion...or stalk someone.

Do you have a creative or design savvy friend? Invite them with you. Sometimes another eye can help you see new potential. Don't have a friend with you? Find a fashionista right there in the store. One time the girl in front of me in line had really cute pink shabby stuff. I was like, "where did she find that?" Convinced I missed something, I went back around and found some other cute stuff. Just seeing the lady's stuff inspired me to look with a different eye and I was able to spot out a few more fun things!

I am in love with these gloriously long window panels

8. You can clean it.

Is it washable, hose-able, or at least febreeze-able? Thrifting is may have to clean it. But it is most definitely worth it...and with a little elbow grease, can feel like new.

9. Get ideas for what is "in."

Isn't this why we blog? Isn't this why we look at magazines? Now, I am not saying you need to conform to the latest trends. But things I may not think are that cute, actually are really cute when I see someone else put it together. Can you believe I used to not like how plates looked hung on walls? I know! Now, we have to take them off the wall just to eat! I also am afraid of the color green...and yellow. It didn't look right with all my white, blues, and pinks. But thanks to Spring and blogging, I saw so many inspiring ideas of how to add subtle hints of these colors. Those green moss balls? Would have never picked those up had I not seen them all over blogland the week before. And now I am not so afraid of green... ;)

10. Know how much things cost retail (or if you are like me, Ross).

You cannot know if it is a deal until you know how much things cost in "real life." And it will help you determine if buying a new one is maybe a better choice depending on what it is. It is also good to know how things compare to other thrift stores as to how to find the best price.

Make your own wall art

11. Stock up on goods.

Binders, Wilton pans, glass jars, frames. Things I can always use. When I see them at a good price, I grab them up.

Clusters make a big statement on a bare wall
12. If nothing else, have fun.

The more you do it, the better you will get at finding gems. Plus the more often you go the more likely you are able to find things before they get picked over. Go into it light hearted. Some days are successes and some I leave with nothing. It all depends. But for me, that is the part of the hunt I love! Finding something spectacular at an extraordinary price will keep you just have to find that one item that will ring you in. And once you are there, I am sorry, the obsession has just begun!

Don't worry...taxes are done ;)

Do you have thrifting secrets?


  1. Those are some REALLY good tips! I agree on every single one of them!

    I also have to add 2 things:

    1} Employees are only able to buy things once they have been there for a certain amount of time, so in order to ensure it's still there, a lot of them HIDE things!! So make sure you dig around. Fun!!

    2} Get your spray paint goggles on at all times {meaning learn to see the potential instead of 'what is'}

    Um, I actually forgot my original thought for #2, so if I remember, I'll come back. :)

    LOVE how everything turned out!!

  2. Your post today is fantastic. I totally agree with eveything you shared. One store in my area I had given up on because there was rarely any thing there that was useful to me. Then one morning last week on my way home from the gym I stopped by and there it was- a perfect find! I won't share now because I hope to blog about it later when it gets it's "facelift"!

  3. i saw these gorgeous dishes at goodwill a few weeks ago. they were toile, blue, and a full place setting for $60. i thought that was too much and now i regret not getting them. boo.

  4. Look at all your beautiful treasures! You my dear, are a miracle worker! Love the post!

  5. Great post on thrifting, Ashley! Good tips. I live in a small town with only one thrift store... it took me awhile to figure out how to shop it and that I needed to dig to find the goodies. I checked out the closest Goodwill a few weeks ago (45 min away) and it was a bust. Boo!

  6. Everything looks fabulous Ashley! Jen

  7. Wow, you've been busy!! Everything looks fantastic.

    And the thrift store ideas were great. You took a lot of time to show and share. Very fun browse.

    Have a great day.

  8. Lovely! Great stuff! Have a nice day!

  9. Oh my friend,
    you know this is one of my favorite posts of yours of ALL TIMES!! Love every single find (especially since we both love the shabby chic look). I have almost the same post written...hee hee...for all my frugal fashionista people asking questions.

  10. Ashley! (You cannot know if it is a deal until you know how much things cost in "real life." I love this, I got a big kick out of "real life") Yes us thrifty creative people live in a different world and isn't it the best! I know where you shop.... and it is my favorite too! Hope to run into you there again. The fence & heart look great, your home & displays are very cute.~Jacque

  11. Great job Ashley, your home is beautiful, and your tips are right on!!

  12. ooo! Thanks for posting this!!! I'm always curious how you find things!! I love that cluster on your wall, it's fabulous!

  13. Great post- lots of ideas and tips for me to keep in mind. I always try to see things in a "New light" but it doesn't always work... I think I need someone like you to come along with me!

  14. Hi Ashley!

    Thank you for stopping by my swedish blog. Im happy you think I should wright in English aswell. I will try it for a while and see how it works.

    Thank you for all your great and smart tips.
    I try to really think, do I really need this but it doesn't always work!

    Hugs Bodil.

  15. What thrifty tips do you have for curtains? And how did you do your chalkboard thing?

  16. Awesome post!! :) The neatest part is that no one would have ever known your beautiful home is decorated with thrift store treasures! You are right about not bothering with the shops that you know are junkie...I need to remember to stick with the ones I know have the good stuff. ;) I LOVE the arrangement you have with the "Paris" plate!!!

  17. I love the room makeover. It looks Great! Thank You for sharing your tips. I knew some, but some of your tips hadn't crossed my mind. Thank you for giving good information. It is nice to get helpful tips for making a house better on a budget!

    Have A Great Day!

  18. wHAT AWESOME tips! Our town only has the Salvation Army, which is not worth the gas to drive all the way over there. But, just the other day I spotted a junk store that I'm dying to go back to. In fact, hubby just got home from work early so Imight just drop everything and go right now!

    BTw, thanks for entering my giveaway Ashley. I am so blessed to have made such treasured friends through blogging.

    Hugs ~ Amanda

  19. So, so pretty! You did a marvelous job!

    I think the main thing is that you really do need to take your time. You cannot fill up a room in one trip to a store -- and that goes for ANY store. Thrift stores just take longer. I've been planning/shopping/working/tweaking my kitchen for nearly six months and I am still not finished...but it's getting there!

  20. Very good post. What I find hard is envisioning what something *could* look like--hoping to get better at that!

  21. Ashley, thanks for all the great tips. I know that I am a little bit more picky about what I buy. I love stuff, but my house is very small and I don't want it to looked packed just full. so I take longer to look, pick up things that really inspire me and shop with a keen eye. You really touched on all basis of thrifting and decorating. Great Job and Inspriational post.

  22. whew girl, that's quite the post!
    great tips.

  23. Great tips! Love your "free" room. It looks awesome and shows that you can have a cute living space even on a tiny budget. You just have to have time.

  24. No great thrifty ideas for now but I am wondering if you have any plans to visit Southwestern PA. I need decorating help!!!!!!!!
    I love all your pixs then when I look around my place my mind goes B*L*A*N*K

  25. Good tips, Ashley! YOu know I'm a thrifter & I say just get out there & look. My fave is still yardsales, I score great stuff ALL the time. Go early & often!

  26. I find things I know will work if they just get that coat of paint... my problem is, I never get around to applying that coat of paint! I am on a thrift store fast until I finish all of my unfinished projects!

  27. Great from Like Merchant Ships. For cleaning thrift store items I am ever so grateful for my front-loading washing machine: kids plastic toys, stuffed pillows, pretty much anything that isn't metal or wood goes in mine on handwash cycle and a little detergent and/or oxyclean. Otherwise it's the garden hose or my husband's pressure washer (before it broke, boo hoo).

  28. I'm a huge thrifter--I even scout out locations of thrift stores when I am on vacation. I went to thrift stores in 3 different states on spring break.
    I have so many friends who envy me my finds, but say they can never find anything. Thrifting takes a very open mind, and the ability to look ahead and take the chance that the perfect piece may come along. Nearly all of my wardrobe comes from thrift stores. If I find the perfect piece, I buy it, even if I have nothing to go with it. Sooner or later, the perfect matches show up. Patience is a huge key to thrifting. Nearly everything in my house is from thrift stores or garage sales. You have to imagine your house as a work in progress--if you build it, the perfect items will come to you in time.

  29. I absolutely loved seeing photos of your home. Like large photos of where you live. Sometimes I like to see close up photos on peoples blogs but more often I'm longing to see big shots of their rooms. Your home looks incredibly cozy. You've done so well and are so inspiring with your thrifty ways. Tuesday is garbage night at my mum-n-laws neck of town and we all pile in the van and go garbage shopping. We've been doing it since last fall and have found some awesome things. It's funny to see others who are out hunting too. We've learned we have to get things right away bc if we leave it for even half an hour, nine times out of ten it is gone!

  30. I have fond that in my area the Goodwill store is not so good, but it is good in the next neighborhood. So sometime, it's just a matter of driving a bit further for the best buys.

    Of course yard sales are also a great opportunity for deals.

  31. Thanks for taking the time to post about your secrets!

    I 100% agree with the one about taking someone else along for fresh eyes!

  32. Great post! You should write a book with photos and hints. I love thrift places. I am sitting here right now looking at several I bought this spring.

    Thanks as always for sharing with all of us.


  33. Wow! Excellent tips! So enjoyable reading and viewing the pics too! Loved my visit. Come see me sometime!

  34. I too love thrifting. Thanks for sharing that!
    Here are my 2 cents worth:
    Soemtimes yard sales are better than thrift shops because the prices are often lower. And, I look for used furniture that is solid wood (not formica) because it can always be painted. You have to be able to ignore the current finish or color on it. Paint is a decorators best friend.
    Great post!


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