Tips to Successful Thrifting

How does one become an expert thrifter? Is there even such a thing as an expert in thrifting? Well, yes and no. Thrifting, like anything else, needs to serve the person that is the thrifter. But, there are hints that can help you in your thrifting experience and help you save time and money as you explore you local Goodwill, Salvation Army, garage sales and any other place where you are trying to get a lot for a little.

Following are a couple of “rules” of thrifting that serve us in our quest to find wonderful items that can be upcycled to become pieces of art.

The first and most important rule of thrifting….Go often! We stop at various thrift stores at least once a week, usually more. Thrift stores have a much higher turnover rate that most retail stores so the chance that you will find something that you want is raised by the frequency that you go thrifting. It doesn’t need to be a full-blown shopping trip but can be a quick run through the store to make sure you aren’t missing some hidden gem. We will often pull the car in front of the thrift store and one of us will literally run through the store as the other one waits in the car…quick quick quick.


Next rule, be prepared to walk out empty handed. Most of the time our thrift store stops do not result in a purchase. It is easy to get caught up in “retail therapy” and buy stuff that we don’t need, can’t sell and that will take up space in our homes. Be selective and resist the urge to buy to just buy or else your storage space will look like this.

pass through

Study the layout of the thrift stores that you frequent so that you can move through them fairly quickly. We can move through a store in minutes and spot a potential purchase without hardly having to stop. Anyone that goes to the same store a lot knows exactly what I’m talking about. My sister-in-law, Pam, should have a degree in thrift store shopping as she is truly an expert. The other day I heard her telling someone that she can walk down a clothing aisle at her local Goodwill and spot a “great buy” without having to go through each item of clothing. When it comes to buying clothing I certainly don’t have that kind of skill but Pam does because she knows material, clothing and trends. She also knows the layout of her particular thrift stores and can shop very quickly.

Picture from iReuse

Everyone looks for different things when they thrift, but we do upcycling as a business so I thought it might be helpful to talk our readers through our typical thrifting experience.

The first thing I do is make a quick trip to the furniture section. If something catches my eye I pull it out of the section and take a closer look. I do not buy anything unless I can picture a way to upcycle it and sell it. I have seen some nice furniture that I have passed up because it didn’t suit my needs at the time. I also inspect each piece for general condition. If the piece requires a lot of repairs, I expect to see that reflected in the price. Which brings us to the most important point, price. This one is tricky as we must buy things inexpensively enough that we can work on it and resell it for a profit. Of course we are going to do a lot of work on the pieces before they go out of our shop but we have to be able to buy fairly low so we can make something.


After the furniture section I head to the frames. We are always buying frames so we look at frames every time we go thrifting.

Frames must be solid, inexpensive and have some interesting detail that can be brought out through upcycling. I have found some AMAZING frames in my travels.

Next, we head to the glassware. We look for things that have unusual shapes and would make interesting Mercury Glass pieces or painted pieces.

Lastly, I head to the section with lamps and lighting. We are always looking for good lamps that we can upcycle. Occasionally, we head home with arms full of stuff and sometimes we leave with nothing. But, there are always treasures to be uncovered and pieces that we can imagine into art. Thrifting is not only fun but it makes financial sense and is green because we are reusing items and repurposing them to make them better. In the end, your wallet will thank you, the planet will thank you and the recipient of your upcycled item will certainly thank you. Especially when you are able to take someone’s trash and turn it back into treasure like this.


Hand Painted Roses on Table pic 2


Heirloom Trunk with Signage and Flowers





Sunflower Projects

Enjoy your own thrifting experience. Good luck and happy hunting.

Until next time,


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