5 Tips for a Beginner Home Thrifter

Decor & thrifting

Once upon a time you couldn’t have paid me to pick up a thrifted couch. It’s true! Why would I want to pay for something that’s covered in another person’s “life dirt”? It’s funny to look back at different seasons of life and just think “man, if only you knew what your future held!”

The truth is, new furniture is expensive. A lot of new furniture is also poorly constructed! Things just aren’t made the way they used to be and if I’m going to invest in a piece of furniture, I sure expect it to last.

I have expensive taste but I do not have an expensive budget. I admire those who do! What an amazing position to be in to buy whatever your heart desires and not blink an eye. I never turn down a challenge and just because I can’t afford the pieces I want, doesn’t mean I can’t invest a little bit of my precious time into finding second hand pieces that check the same boxes.

In fact, shopping second hand has really started to define my style; a style that offers so many possibilities and perpetually inspires me. As I’ve grown through the trendy rustic farmhouse look and cheaply made big box furniture I’ve learned that the only way I can create a timeless look is to surround myself with pieces I love – regardless of style or time period or pattern – and embrace the uniqueness that comes out of that. If you constantly chase the latest trend you will always find yourself falling short and falling behind. It’s practically impossible to keep up. The best way to design is to follow your gut and disregard the rules (to a certain extent).

Your home should be a reflection of YOU and the people who dwell in those spaces with you.

Thrifting and shopping second hand can be a little intimidating. How do I know if it’s worth what it costs? How do I know if it’s in good condition? What if I get it and I don’t like it at all? All great questions, so here are a few tips to help you along on your thrifting journey!

  1. Investing time will pay off. I’ll tell you right now, you’re probably not going to find your unicorn pieces on day one. It’s likely not going to happen. Do you even know what your unicorn pieces are? This is the marathon of all marathons. There is no finish line. Spend the time to train your eye. Research patterns and furniture styles. Follow designers and watch tours of homes that you aspire to. Join groups of fellow thrifters. Keep lists of items, brands, styles, materials and prices for reference. Most importantly, don’t stop looking. The more you stretch those muscles, the more effortless and rewarding it becomes.
  2. Don’t be afraid to negotiate. You’d be surprised how often you can shave 10–20% or more off a price tag just by inquiring kindly. “Hi, I’m really interested in this piece. Are you flexible at all on the price?” It’s okay if they say no. It’s not personal! At the end of the day you still get to decide if it’s worth it to you to purchase. There will always be something else if it’s not just right.
  3. Ask questions. Within reason, of course. It’s all about reading the room. If you’re purchasing online, you may only have the opportunity for a handful of exchanges before they move on to the next buyer. Consider asking for critical information like dimensions, whether there is any structural damage not seen in photographs or if it comes from a pet-free home. If you’re buying in person, you may have the opportunity to strike up more of a conversation. Sometimes pieces have incredible stories that are fun to carry on. Are they the sole owner? Do they know the history?
  4. Look everywhere. There are endless places to shop second hand. Some of my favorites are Facebook Marketplace, Goodwill, local thrift shops and antique malls, used book stores, estate sales, Etsy, Ebay and, of course, markets! Remember what I said before – don’t stop looking! You never know what you’ll find. That’s part of the thrill of it. I even look when I travel near and far to see what pops up in areas where I wouldn’t normally be able to pick something up. Take advantage of the opportunity!
  5. Nothing is permanent. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes or change your mind. Sometimes I buy a piece, live with it for a little while, find something I like better and sell the old piece. Sometimes I buy something I might like in a space, but know is worth more, decide I don’t love it and sell it for a profit. Sometimes I buy things with a particular space in mind, but end up moving it around from room to room as the spaces evolve. That’s one of the things I love MOST about this journey. Done will never be because it is ever changing.

One of the greatest realizations I’ve had in thrifting is that things can be cleaned, repaired and altered. So yeah, you don’t have to live with someone else’s “life dirt” or questionable fabric choices. Imagine that!

Let this be the spark of motivation you need to express yourself outside the lines. Your home doesn’t have to match. It doesn’t have to be perfect. The things in your spaces don’t have to have purpose. They just have to light you up. I hope this inspires you to hunt for treasures and fill your home with pieces that make you smile. Let your style be what you love and not what the latest trends tell you to be. Happy treasure hunting!

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