If you want to get an extreme reaction from someone, mention thrift shopping. You'll either get a "I would never do that!" or an "OMG! I love thrifting!" There seems to be very little in-between.
Case in point: That article we ran a few weeks ago about upholstery expert Shelly Leer's studio, which was primarily furnished using finds from Goodwill. Half of you expressed, shall we say, hesitation at shopping secondhand, while the other half expounded on the great deals they've found over the years.
If you're in the former group, we'd like to (attempt to) change your mind about thrift shopping. The fact is, we all would like to save money, especially when it comes to home items. Furniture, tableware and accessories can be staggeringly overpriced and/or shoddily constructed. Visiting a thrift store can yield genuinely high-quality items that have withstood the test of time for far, far less than you'd get retail, on ebay and especially on etsy.
The catch? You'll have to go to a thrift store to find those bargains. To make the search easier, here are some tried-and-true tips that we use when shopping secondhand to great results.
Thrifting secret #1: Shop in the suburbs. Actually, shop near "Grandma neighborhoods." You know, the places that were happening for families in 1970. City thrift stores are little more than IKEA outlets. By shopping in "Grandma neighborhoods," you're more likely to come across genuine old-school furniture of a higher caliber. Plus, there's less competition for the goods.
Thrifting secret #2: Watch for discount days. Goodwill stores usually have a "color of the day" deal, where certain price tags automatically get a 50% discount.
Thrifting secret #3: Don't go near anything upholstered. It's tempting, but it's too risky in the era of bed bugs. Stick to wood furniture, which can be thoroughly cleaned and more easily scrutinized. Disinfect everything. Plus, wood furniture can be refinished or repainted.
Thrifting secret #3a: Look for dovetailing. This is an easy way to tell if the wood dresser you're considering is of a higher quality. Simply take out a drawer and see if it has dovetailing. This type of joinery is hard to replicate on a mass scale, indicating that some level of craftsmanship was involved in the production.
Thrifting secret #4: Go early. This is doubly true on weekends, when bargain hunters are out in full force. While most thrift stores restock during the day, you're guaranteed a fresh selection of merchandise when you arrive right when the shop opens.
Thrifting secret #5: Look in the kitchen section. This is, hands-down, my favorite tip. There are more genuine vintage sets of china lingering in the aisles of thrift stores than there are bridal registries in America. They usually cost less than what you'd pay for a single tea cup in a new set.
Thrifting secret #6: Be realistic. This is coming from an editor who is practically steeped in DIY: You probably won't restore a seriously down-at-its-heels piece of furniture. Similarly, you definitely won't sell that ugly but vintage midcentury modern decorative vase on eBay. Who has the time?
With these tips, you'll be ready to compete with, well…me…over the best that your thrift stores can offer. And if you're still turned off to the idea, what can I say? More for the rest of us.
Have you found any gems from your local thrift store? Share all the details in the comments.