Thrift stores are my favorite places to shop for finding the detail items needed to make my home MY home! These stores always help me stay within my budget and their inventory is ever changing with continuous surprises! They offer pieces of decor that are stylish and interesting and artistic. Furniture, lighting, housewares, knick knacks and pillows and throws can all be found with prices far below those of department stores. Original artwork, collectible pottery, interesting sculpture and fine china are found regularly on thrift store shelves. Vinyl records, CDs and a variety of books are a collector’s dream. Over all of the years of supporting thrift stores of all kinds, I have found that there are certain routines that evolve for successfully finding exactly what I am looking for. The following are some of the Thrift Store Practices that have become my routine.
First, I look for all of the thrift stores in town. I recently traveled to a community that I had never visited before and stopped in the first shop I saw. After meandering around for a bit and picking up a couple of things that were excellent buys, I went to check out. I engaged the lady at the desk and within minutes she gave me the name of every store in town, their exact location, a hand drawn map to get to each one and a definition as to whether they were related to a non profit organization or not! She literally gave me the itinerary for the rest of my day!
Although this was a lucky experience, she also gave me a booklet listing all of the shops in the entire region. And just like thrift stores everywhere, each one will carry certain types of items because of their established purpose. Many thrift stores are connected to charities and will take in donations of furniture and appliances and large items. Others will offer mostly clothing and most are a combination of items. Then, there are the for profit shops that are privately owned and they sell items that more of a theme and often these are the best places to find genuine antiques and vintage pieces. It may take a while, but you will eventually get to know the characteristics of each and when you need a particular item, you will know which thrift store to go to.
Next, you will need a little satchel of mini tools. I stash a measuring tape, a phillips head and a straight screwdriver and a mat cutter. You never know when you will have to unscrew something to get it to fit in your car or cut off a piece of tape or the covering over the base of a piece of furniture to see the condition of the piece. I also carry fabric and color samples if I am looking for something specific.
The very best tool in shopping thrift stores is not found in my purse! It is my smile! I have gotten to know the people who work at my various thrift stores and they know exactly what I am looking for! They have often set something aside waiting for my return because they know I have been looking for it. I have also found that these people will also lower the price on things just for me and without any haggling. So often I have been shocked at the checkout lane to find my total to be $10 less than I thought! At one point, I had such a great relationship with a shop that I got a phone call at home from the very excited cashier who wanted me to “come over right now!”. So I dashed over to the shop out of curiosity and she had waiting for me a huge pile of wedding dresses! I was doing the costuming for a theatrical event and needed special party dresses. A local shop had gone out of business and these dresses were left over so they dropped them off at the thrift store stuffed in plastic bags. When the cashier opened the bags, she thought of me and my need of dresses. I bought the whole pile for pennies on a dollar and only had to do alterations for the actors. This wonderful cashier saved me a fortune and she became an incredible resource for all future events! It pays to be friendly to the staff at the thrift stores!
Many thrift stores are run by volunteers and by non profit organizations that have other purposes, so they often are not run like a regular department store. They may not have regular sales or even signage that announces the sales when they do happen. So you may have to ask not only if anything is on sale but where the sale items are located. Some stores will offer “Senior Days” with a percentage off for people over a certain age. And then there are special coded items that indicate sales because the merchandise has been on the rack for a certain amount of time.
You can be the first to get into the new merchandise by finding out what days of the week new items arrive. Most thrift stores have one or two restock days a week. This allows them to have a schedule that their volunteers use to wash and clean donations, sort items and put price tags on everything. If you know what days the restock happens, you can be the first to get the really good stuff before things have been picked over!
Because most items in thrift stores are donations, the merchandise is always changing and selections are unpredictable. Sometimes they will have lots of dishes and other times they will be loaded up with just furniture. You have to stop at your thrift stores often not only to support them but also to see the different types of items that appear.
Just because teapots are a dollar each in one store doesn’t mean that another is going to charge $5. You will eventually know and understand the price points for each of your favorite thrifts. Thrift store pricing is usually set higher than a yard sale but lower than retail. Expect to pay more if the store advertises itself as an antique or vintage shop. And if you find your perfect used teapot at an art gallery, you can expect to pay above even retail. It is all in the branding and purpose of the store.
Probably the biggest part of buying from thrift stores is donating to thrift stores. If you like their purpose and cause, then support them. I have a large plastic bag in a closet that I throw the things I no longer wear or are just not to my liking. When the bag gets filled, I take it to the donation bin outside the back door of my favorite thrifts. When I move, I call the store and they send over a truck that picks up the old couch and chest of drawers and the kitchen table that isn’t big enough any longer. I found a chair in an art gallery one time that I just loved. It made me look twice because there was something oddly familiar with it. I turned this incredible painted piece of artwork upside down and there on the bottom was the name of my child scrawled in crayon! It was my chair I had donated years before! It was now a beautiful piece of Art! A very nice circle of Life!