My Top Tips for Thrifting Home Decor

Interiors & Decor

My Top Tips for Thrifting Home Decor | Wit & Delight
Photo by Colleen Eversman at 2ndtruth Photography

I often say to people that I’m not as interested in thrifting home decor as I am in thrifting other items like clothing for myself and my kids, and yet, as I look around my living room, 90% of the decor I see was purchased at a thrift store. The decor in my kids’ rooms is fully thrifted. When I got married, I thrifted all the table settings for the reception. (I was very proud of this! We had mismatched china, painted tin trays, vintage salt and pepper shakers, vintage juice glasses for wine, cutlery, milk glass vases, and a wild array of napkins on every table.) But, somehow, I don’t consider myself a thrifter-designer-y person.

I haven’t previously considered myself a designer because I never stopped to recognize that my home decor is unique to me and my aesthetic is my own. Since I don’t quite fit into a style mold, I didn’t consider my style to be a style at all.

Writing about thrifting home decor has made me realize I actually love design! And I have a lot to say about it! And I have a personal style I can embrace!

Maybe this is you, too. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a “high design” person. Perhaps you don’t see your aesthetic featured on Pinterest or Instagram so you think, well, decor isn’t really my game.

I’m here to tell you, it might be! You just have to allow yourself to be you in this new arena! And thrifting home decor is the perfect way to get into it. Today I’m sharing my top tips for finding home decor at thrift stores.

Before you go

To begin, keep a running list of home decor items you’re looking for on your phone (or on paper!). Whenever a need or design idea arises, get it on the list.

For instance, I’m currently looking for:

  • A cute lamp for my daughter’s room (I already have the most adorable shade)
  • Long, vintage floral curtains
  • Frames for kids’ art and an old portrait a friend made for me many years ago
  • A huge basket for kids’ shoes to set by our front entry

Items that are always on my list are paint-by-numbers paintings and other vintage art that speaks to me, cute flower pots, enamelware, small, colorful Pyrex bowls for containing things, and big art books.

Paint-by-numbers.
Lots of thrift store art and picture frames with family heirlooms tucked in.

On your way in

When the time comes to thrift (yay!), run through your list and try to strike a mental balance between sticking to the list and keeping an open mind as you walk through the store.

After all, thrifting is a treasure hunt! You never know what you’ll come across! You’ll get the most out of your thrifting experience if you are open to whatever you might find inside. However, it’s also helpful to keep an eye out for the specific items you’re looking for. That’s why I read my list over first, to keep those items front of mind, and then put the list away, as a reminder to stay open to other treasures as I walk through the store.

Thrifting is a treasure hunt! You never know what you’ll come across! You’ll get the most out of your thrifting experience if you are open to whatever you might find inside.

A few other helpful tips? Before heading inside, you might want to eat a quick snack and drink some water, because thrifting on an empty stomach is not that fun. I’d also recommend setting a timer on your phone for the amount of time you have to shop. (Trust me—time flies when you thrift.)

While you’re in the store

Once inside, head straight to the home goods. You have the most mental clarity and energy when you begin shopping, so start with your highest priorities. In this instance, you’re all over home decor!

Take note of the separate sections throughout the decor area and as you walk through each of the aisles, remember that there’s no harm in filling your cart with the items you’re considering. Here are some specific things to consider as you make your way through a few of the sections.

Art and Frames

Walk the art aisles and put whatever grabs your attention into your cart. Don’t be afraid to separate frames and get all up in the art section. Oftentimes, pictures are stacked a couple deep, and you won’t want to miss any hidden treasures in the middle of the display.

Another tip: Frames can be repurposed. If you find a lovely frame with not so lovely art inside, look at how the back is attached and how difficult it might be to swap out the art for something else.

Art and tchotchkes found at various thrifts. I like to reorganize the mantel often because it’s a fun, small way to play with decorating in my home.

Nicknacks

Walk the nicknack aisles. Take your time! The shelves might be laden or there might be a sparse array of tchotchkes. Either way, these little items can easily be glossed over.

As you go, pick items up to get a sense of the materials they’re made with and how substantial they are. If you allow yourself a little time to hunt here, you might find some lovely brass animals to populate a shelf, or a hand-painted wooden loon, or some heavy bookends to hold up your pretty, thrifted art books.

Kitchen Goods

The kitchen goods area can be a true treasure trove. And as with every section, it’s important to keep an open mind while browsing here! Below are a few suggestions of what you might look for as you browse this area:

  • Find the section with mixing bowls for fun, useful Pyrex options.
  • Kitchen goods will also include crystal and cut glass, which can come in handy when entertaining.
  • Using trays and bowls on countertops is one way I like to contain and organize small clutter throughout my home and it allows me to use fun, thrifted pieces in a practical way. Sometimes a glass tray is just what you need beside your bed for your reading glasses and vitamins. I also love a heavy bowl for keys and sunglasses near the door.
  • Thrifting is also a great place to purchase wine glasses, mugs, and juice glasses. I *love* finding a vintage mug to spruce up an everyday activity, like brewing coffee or tea. Sometimes your juice glasses are so cute, they’re worth displaying in a hutch or setting on a tray on top of your sideboard. Thrift shopping in this way reminds me that anything can be decorative if it looks appealing and special to you.

Sometimes your juice glasses are so cute, they’re worth displaying in a hutch or setting on a tray on top of your sideboard. Thrift shopping in this way reminds me that anything can be decorative if it looks appealing and special to you.

Miscellaneous Decor Items

Find the wooden section for ‘70s items to hang on your wall. There’s normally a basket aisle as well. Lord knows we use all the baskets in the house for containing kid stuff. Picnic baskets are generally also easy to find at thrift stores and they’re excellent for storing items and organizing closets.

Another great thing about picnic baskets is this: Since they have a flat top, they’re great for stacking. All the pieces of our hand-me-down train set have been hidden away in two cute picnic baskets, stacked in a corner. Voila!

Linens

Don’t forget the linens section for things like curtains or crocheted blankets or colorful vintage bedspreads. It can sometimes be easy to overlook the linens area, but this is also a great place to find things to spruce up your home, so don’t turn past it so quickly!

Pro tip: Sometimes, there are wall hangings tucked in with the linens. Don’t forget to dig!

The important thing is to have fun with your finds. If something is cute, aesthetically pleasing, funny, or interesting to you, that’s what matters most!

What to keep and what to leave

When your cart is full and your time is winding down, take a moment to go through your items. The process of deciding what to buy and what to leave can be a bit mentally exhausting, so find a quiet corner, take a deep breath, crack your knuckles, and get into it.

Look over the quality of your items. Some things look great with a little patina and others don’t. For instance, scratches on a brightly colored vintage bowl don’t bother me at all, but a basket with a broken handle or side is most likely unusable. I don’t need my things to be perfect—in fact, I like items with some story to them—but I’m not super handy, so I’m not one to bring things home that need repair. 

In Georgie’s room we use a thrifted basket on her dresser to contain all her thrifted wooden puzzles.
A shelf scene with an example of a thrifted lamp shade and lamp. Those two pieces make me smile every time I look at them.

A note on the crafting trap

I’m not one to buy things for later projects. It is *very* tempting to fall down a craft rabbit hole and convince yourself of all the wonderful and unique things you could do to decorate your home. I don’t want to squash your dreams. You can do all the crafts if you want! However, if you haven’t completed a craft in, say, the last year or a couple of years, I’d take a realistic approach and avoid the craft section for now.

Speaking as a gal who bought all the things to tie-dye, all the cool vessels to paint a terra cotta color, some amazing floral stencils in frames that she wanted to paint gold and never did, and even a quilt to make into a quilted coat without actually knowing how to sew (!!), I ask that you learn from my mistakes and leave the crafts for the crafters.

And if you really want to craft, approach your crafts with an action plan. Attack a craft with a friend to help ensure it gets done. Or have an end goal in mind, like a party or an event before which you need to finish the project. 

Once you’re at home

Once you’ve culled your cart and separated the items you’d like to keep from items you’re leaving, check out and get home.

Get those items on your shelves. Hang your pictures. See how they fit and feel. (Editor’s note: You can find Meggie’s detailed tips on leaning thrift store finds here!) It might take a bit to get everything organized, but feel free to be playful. This is your space, so have fun with it. And enjoy the moment of a friend asking, “I love this little collection of brass figurines over here! Where did you get them?”

Isn’t thrifting the best?

BY Meggie Maas - July 24, 2020

13
Leave a Reply

Mika

I used to be a multiple-times-a-month thrifter, but the pandemic has made me nervous, and I never go anymore. Could you do a piece about how to stay safe when thrifting? There are so many germs everywhere with the clothing and items being touched by multiple people and who knows what kind of bacteria!

Emily

I share these concerns! Or what about a piece on how to thrift online? I always feel so overwhelmed trying to find things on etsy/ebay/etc.

Heidi

I just got goosebumps when I saw your thrifted lamp! I had that same lamp in my childhood bedroom in the late seventies.

Lovely decoration and painting also.

https://swarnaz.com/

Great frames! Quick question. Do you have any suggestions on where to buy frames? Any suggestion would be appreciated.

jes

Keeping a running list is so smart! Such great tips here.

xo Jessica
My Style Vita

Inspiring!!!! Thank you for sharing this valuable information…..

Most-read posts:

Did you know W&D now has a resource library of  Printable Art, Templates, Freebies, and more?

take me there 

Arrow Alone

Get Our Best W&D Resources

for designing a life well-lived

MORE STORIES

Arrow Alone

the latest

Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.

Hi, I'm Kate. Welcome to my happy place.

follow  @WITANDDELIGHT

ELSEWHERE

PINTEREST

FACEBOOK

342k

3m

12.5k

INSTAGRAM