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How I Thrifted 95% of my Home

Now that our home is finished being decorated (for now), it’s great to sit back and remember all the different stories and adventures tied to how we came across each item in our home, and why we’ve kept the items that we have, and let others go over time. Over the years, a significant amount of our household goods, including dish-ware, clothes, recreational equipment, furniture, etc. have been purchased from thrift stores or yard sales. As poor college kids just starting out, it was originally a necessity to shop almost exclusively at the thrift store for everything besides groceries. However, as time passed, we both found a lot of enjoyment in continuing to thrift and find great deals on previously loved items. We love the money it saves us, and the knowledge that each time we shop at the thrift store, we’re giving back to our local community.

In relative terms, I’ve only recently learned the ways of the thrifting world. My husband Pierce was born and raised thrifting with his amazing mother, who taught him how to spot those special treasures and quality goods for a great price, and they both have passed on their wisdom to me. So, before continuing, I have to give full credit to Paige Bennett, and my husband Pierce for teaching me the tricks of the trade. I’ve only watched these masters for six years now, but in that small amount of time, I’ve learned a lot, and I want to share a few of those tricks with you all. There are several different avenues to pursue when you are thrifting. These can range from more expensive consignment and secondhand boutiques, to literal dumpster diving. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be focusing on some general rules of thumb that apply to ALL thrifting.

Thrifting Rule Number One is: If you want to find a good deal, you need to visit the thrift store (or what have you) on a consistent, frequent basis. You’ll quickly learn the lay of the land in your store, what sits on the shelves week after week, and what doesn’t. When items go on sale, and when the employees bring out brand new items for purchase. These are all key pieces of knowledge that will help you master the art of finding those treasures for the best prices.

Have a floating list in your head, all the time. For me, this means that I’m always keeping a mental note of what I’m running low on, what I’d like to wear for the new season (or next season), what the house needs, etc. If it ever gets too long, or you need to write it down, it’s probably too complicated, and it’s no longer a floating list! Thrifting should be about discovery and finding that perfect thing that you’ve been looking for. This floating list should be brought to the front of your mind when you enter the thrift store, yard sale, etc. to begin your search. The list allows you to have a soft focus on what you’d like to find, and helps you make a plan of attack for how you will navigate the endless rows of clothes, décor and knick-knacks. The floating list gives you a purpose, without restricting you to only be shopping for required items. That’s no fun. For example, I’ve had a good vintage pair of high-waisted jeans on my floating list for several months now. Every time I visit the thrift store, I make a stop in the jeans section, to see if my dream jeans have arrived yet. Often, it only takes one or two trips to find the perfect pair I’ve been looking for. If they haven’t yet arrived, I don’t spend much time in the jeans section, or I drop it completely to see what else can be found in other sections. Those are the days I often find a pair of shoes, or the perfect vintage lamp that was also on my floating list. See? It’s always a win.

When you’re thrifting, everything is priced more than fairly, but sometimes you need to know when it’s worth the buy, and when to walk away. For example, you’ve just stumbled upon what looks like an amazing leather jacket for $4.00 but wait! Before you slide that jacket casually underneath the sweaters in your cart, check the quality of the leather. No one wants a “leather” jacket that doesn’t breathe, and makes you sweat more than it keeps you warm, $4 or not. Good leather should have that subtle new car smell to it, no matter the age. It should be soft, and supple, and feel organically comfortable. If it’s quality leather it will only get better with time. If not, that jacket has already seen its best days, and you’re better off leaving him on the rack. When in doubt about the quality, trust your sense of touch. You can feel the difference between a good quality material and a cheap impression. You might as well take the time to find a good quality item, instead of jumping on something that really is only worth $4.

This last tip comes from my husband’s relative, Marie, who was a real estate expert, and throughout her life dealt very wisely with her money. It is reserved for shopping experiences where bartering is allowed, and often expected (Facebook Marketplace, Yard Sales, etc.). She said to “always make an offer that makes you blush.” In other words, don’t be afraid to really low ball someone, not to the point that the seller would take offense, but juuuuuust above that. You’ll be surprised at how often your embarrassingly low offer will be accepted! Even if the initial low offer is denied, the following slightly higher offer is often still lower than you would have dared ask in the first place. Unlike my husband, who will barter for sport, live and in person, I am much better at doing this online, through the computer screen instead of face to face. This is because I hate to barter, and I feel so uncomfortable making other people uncomfortable. So, this tip is still a work in progress for me. However, in the few cases I’ve tried, it has been surprisingly successful. Take my most recent purchase as an example: I found a set of two lamps, a floor lamp and a matching table lamp for $50. I offered $35, thinking the seller would laugh in my face, and then not even respond back to me. However, the lamps had sat on Facebook Marketplace for a full week, and the seller jumped at the offer! I was shocked, but grateful for Marie’s sage advice.

I hope these thrifting tips are helpful to those of you who are just getting started in this fun, discovery-based way of filling your home with beautiful things. Thrifting is not for everyone, but with the right guidance, and knowledge, anyone can successfully thrift.

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