9 Things I Always Look For in Thrift Stores

9 Things I Always Look For In Thrift Stores

I can’t recall when my affinity for thrifting first began.

The irony is that I generally don’t enjoy in-store shopping – not for groceries, not for clothes, not for baby items – not even at Target. I know, I know; it’s basically blasphemous for a mother to utter such words.

But thrifting? Now, that’s a whole other story. It’s become a favorite Sunday tradition around here; while the babies nap after church, I sneak away for an hour or two to search for treasures, coffee in hand. I rarely come home empty-handed.

When I share about my finds with friends, a reoccurring responses is, “But how do you know what to look for?”

Thrift stores can be overwhelming. Not only are there unorganized piles of (mostly terrible) things to sort through and often a not-so-pleasant accompanying smell, but there are typically hoards of people trying to do the very same thing as you. If you’re like me, that particular combination can be anxiety-inducing.

Over time, I’ve developed a sort of strategy to thrifting. Now, when I walk into the store, I know exactly which sections to peruse and which to skip. Here’s what I usually look for:

No. 1 | Baskets

Very soon I will need a separate room just to house all of my thrifted baskets. Oh wait – I already have that. It’s called the playroom, ha!

But seriously, baskets are ridiculously versatile and great for storage of all kinds. From a design perspective, they add texture and visual interest to any space.

Bigger baskets are a bit harder to come by in thrift stores; small and medium-sized are far more frequent. I almost always pick up one or two (or five) for the girls’ playroom. It’s such a lovely way of organizing and displaying their toys!

A tip on cleaning baskets: simply run them through the dishwasher (separately from actual dishes, of course). I’ve never had a single one fall apart or come out ruined.

No. 2 | Wooden Wall Shelves and Racks

You’ve likely seen your share of shaker-style peg racks floating around Instagram and Pinterest. I too have succumbed to this trend, as seen in our playroom. Once this particular style of wall decor was on my radar, I began spotting it at every thrift store.

Equally adorable: accordion racks, which I also frequently find. I’m certain the recent popularity of these two decor items is largely due to the increase in popularity of thrift stores in general.

No. 3 | Wooden Toys

The toy section of a thrift store is usually exploding with colorful plastic, but if you dig long enough, you can almost always find a quality wooden toy. Look for wooden trains and cars and blocks and play kitchen accessories and puzzles, as they seem to be more common.

I’ve bought some of the girls’ favorite toys in thrift stores, like a wooden baking mixer in perfect condition for $0.75. Brand new it would’ve cost at least $20-30.

On the topic of toys: I also like perusing the kitchen accessories section for cute little finds for Mila’s play kitchen. I unintentionally chose a copper theme for her play kitchen and have been able to find many copper items that are perfect for little hands, like a miniature lidded pot and mini baking pans.

No. 4 | Crafting Supplies

If you’re a DIYer, make sure to check the crafting section at your local thrift store. Look for yarn and embroidery hoops and twine and fabric and faux flowers and sequins and oh my! The list is endless. I always find a handful of supplies – if not for my own DIY projects, then for my toddler’s arts & crafts.

No. 5 | Serveware and Kitchen Accessories

For a long time after getting married (five years, to be exact), we had only the basic kitchen necessities. Knowing that I would use a particular item once in a blue moon discouraged me from buying it.

“It will just sit in the cupboard, gathering dust,” I would rationalize.

Then I developed a love for thrifting. Can you guess where this story is going?

While I’m still very adamant on keeping kitchen goods to a minimum – or at the very least, restrained to a particular aesthetic – over the years I’ve scored so many great serving trays and storage jars and pie plates and glass decanters and cake stands at thrift stores. My collection is definitely growing. The key to finding a treasure is to opt for classic pieces; I prefer plain white ceramics, clear glass or wood.

If you’re preparing to host an event and don’t have the necessary serveware, I highly suggest perusing thrift stores. I once bought 2 dozen teacups for a tea party baby shower – for a whopping $8.00. Although they weren’t from the same set, they where all white and gold, which was perfect for the vintage aesthetic I had planned.

No. 6 | Candle Holders

My candle holder collection is even bigger than my basket collection, if you can believe it.

For a while there, it was my husband’s favorite way to poke fun at my newfound hobby. As much as it pains me to say it, the man has a point. No one will ever need the massive number of candle holders that I own. I could start a candle holder rental business with my collection, no joke.

No. 7 | Clothing

I have found some of the most loveliest children’s pieces thrifting. Vintage dresses and rompers from European brands and handmade knitwear  – if you browse regularly, you’re bound to find unique treasures that are of value and not available anywhere else. I do not exaggerate when I tell you that when someone compliments my children’s clothing, 95 of the time the outfit is secondhand.

Thrift stores are also a wonderful choice if you have, say, a maternity photoshoot coming up. I’ve found the pretties vintage dresses thrifting – even for my own maternity shoots – and when you consider that you’ll likely only wear it once, maybe twice, then it only makes sense to buy secondhand.

No. 8 | Vinyl Records

Out of our entire record collection, only a handful were bought brand new. All others are previously-owned and most are in mint condition.

What’s even better, we’ve been able to find so many Russian records here in the States by shopping secondhand.

Shopping for vinyl records at thrift stores also gives you a chance to discover music you otherwise may never have found. That said, you better have patience for looking through endless dusty Christmas records and easy listening music from the 70’s, as that is 95 percent of what you’ll find.

No. 9 | Vases

The majority of vases at thrift stores are those generic, glass, florist vase – don’t buy those; they’re terrible.

But every now and then I’ll come across one that is a real statement piece and cannot be passed up – like this tall ceramic beauty. Sometimes it’s very obviously a trendy item; other times, a total classic. Either way, it’s coming home with me, because like candle holders, you can never own too many vases.

Do you enjoy thrift stores as much as I do? What do you usually search for? Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Would you want to see some of my favorite pieces I’ve picked up over the years? Let me know, and maybe I’ll do a haul on Insta stories this weekend! Or maybe I’ll even take you along (virtually, of course) on my treasure hunt this upcoming Sunday!

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